Hispanics Could Save the GOP

It wasn’t so long ago that Democrats saw America’s growing Hispanic population as their ticket to long-term majorities. But a funny thing has happened on the way to inevitability.

The national Hispanic vote has moved ten points toward Republicans just since 2018, accelerating a trend that had begun earlier. This month Republicans won all of the statewide races in heavily Hispanic Florida for the first time in a century. In Miami-Dade County the GOP swamped the Democrats. That’s significant because Hillary Clinton won the county by 30 points back in 2016.

To quote an editorial from Bloomberg News:

Democrats might be tempted to ascribe their setback to Florida’s unique demographics. But there’s growing evidence that the problem extends beyond the Sunshine State. … Although the party successfully flipped one majority-Latino South Texas district, Republicans captured a neighboring one that had been represented by Democrats for more than a century. Even as Democrats carried majority-Latino districts in California, there were notable swings in the direction of the GOP. Redistricting has certainly affected various House races this year, but it doesn’t fully explain what appears to be a national rightward shift for Latinos of about 10 percentage points between 2018 and 2022.

In trying to reverse these trends, Democrats need to stop taking Latinos for granted and start focusing on what they actually care about. A good example is the au courant term “Latinx,” which is ubiquitous among party professionals but which only 3% of Hispanics adopt for themselves. Indeed, some 40% are bothered or offended by the term. Such pandering too often takes the place of actual policies. Democrats must learn to speak to Latinos’ real concerns — inflation, schools, crime, housing — and the solutions the party is offering.

Florida’s Hispanic voters didn’t vote for Ron DeSantis because they though he was like Trump; they voted for him because he was more like Reagan.

The problem is that Democrats have allowed their brand to be shaped by their relatively tiny number of hard-left elites (people who say “Latinx”) for whom socialism is fashionable these days. The Bloomberg editorial goes on:

Republicans undertook voter registration drives focused on naturalized citizens from countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela — groups particularly receptive to the charge that Democratic policies amounted to “socialism.” A postmortem of the 2020 election by Equis Research zeroed in on why that accusation tends to stick: “While the socialism attack rings various bells, the through-line among those concerned is a worry over people becoming ‘lazy and dependent on government’ by those who highly value ‘hard work.’”

There’s little doubt now that the demographic wave that the Democrats thought would save them has been cancelled. They might still get a wavelet among young people who turned out in bigger numbers than expected this month probably because of abortion. But the trouble with young people is that they just refuse to stay young. As they acquire mortgages and children they tend to grow more practical, cautious and, dare I say it, conservative.

While this is bad news for Democrats, it might wind up being great news for American democracy. That’s because Hispanic voters are not voting for Republicans because of bizarre conspiracy theories, enthusiasm for lies about the 2020 election or a desire for authoritarian rule. They’re moving to the GOP because they perceive that party as being more in tune with their value of reward for hard work. It’s not Donald Trump’s party that attracts them; it’s Ronald Reagan’s.

Democrats once thought that a big Hispanic demographic wave would simply confirm and strengthen their emphasis on identity politics. Instead, it looks like it might sweep away Trumpian politics and restore the GOP to its traditional values and traditions. I might remain a moderate Democrat, but wouldn’t it be nice to again have two parties that agreed on democratic norms?

And on another matter… don’t look to me for your venison steaks. Once again this year, deer were no safer anywhere in Wisconsin than in the neighborhood of my deer stand. But it was another wonderful season. I was able to use every piece of cold weather gear I own and to test creative deployment of those charcoal hand warmers.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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