Donald Trump made such shocking inroads on Democratic support among Hispanics that some Hispanic vote experts are declaring, “there’s no such thing as a Latino vote” after 2020.
It’s not just the Hispanic counties where Trump came close or won. Even in the counties where he lost badly, he still reduced Joe Biden’s vote compared to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote among Hispanics by a double-digit margin.
Santa Cruz County in Arizona is 80 percent Hispanic. Hillary Clinton won the county in 2016 by 47 points. Trump was able to shave Biden’s victory in the county to 35 percent. In anti-Trump California, Hillary Clinton won the 80 percent majority Hispanic Imperial County by 42 points in 2016. Biden could only manage to win Imperial by 24 points.
Part of Trump’s relative success with Latinos may be due to his being the incumbent. But incumbency doesn’t explain Trump’s huge gains in Texas and Florida where both states went easily for the president. What may partially explain Trump’s strong support in those states might be the split developing between urban and rural Hispanics.
You can start out in Texas. A lot of articles have been written about how Trump did historically well for a Republican in South Texas. In Starr County, for example, Trump lost by a mere 5 points. Four years ago, Trump was defeated by 60 points in this county. This isn’t just non-Hispanic voters changing their mind, as the county is over 95% Hispanic. The shift in Starr and other counties in South Texas was part of what Politico called Trump winning the “Tejano vote” in the state.
Indeed, this is a big factor to keep in mind: the Hispanic community is diverse, and voters from different backgrounds and ancestry (e.g. Mexico vs. the Dominican Republic) offer differing levels of support to Democrats.
Yet, despite these differences, the movement toward Trump was fairly consistent across the map.
Issues played a decisive role in Florida where the threat of socialism energized both the Cuban and Venezuelan minorities.
For months, the Trump campaign portrayed Biden as a socialist in social media memes, Spanish ads comparing him to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro; and held a “Fighters Against Socialism” tour in Florida last month.
Jorge Duany, head of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, said the idea among some Latinos is that “Democrats are socialists, radicals or left wing and even if they aren’t, they would be subject to the pressures from Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
What would happen if Republicans began to approach the Hispanic vote as a diverse, multi-ethnic group united in its desire for more opportunities to succeed in America? Uniting Hispanics around issues instead of racial solidarity would peel away a sizable chunk of Hispanics from Democrats. It may even be enough to win a blue state or two.
Republicans should build on Trump’s success with Hispanics and not go back to thinking winning the Hispanic vote is a pipe dream.