Column: Lots of Latinos voted for Trump. That should not be a surprise

Column: Lots of Latinos voted for Trump. That should not be a surprise

 President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum – Phoenix, Arizona / USA- Feb 19, 2020 (Shutterstock)

By Gustavo Arellano, LA Times

No matter who ends up winning the presidential election, one thing is already clear:

It’s all the fault of Latino voters. We were supposed to be the phalanx in the war against Donald J. Trump. An immovable mass of multihued tribes hurtling like an unstoppable force to smash white supremacy in the name of democracy.

Instead, too many of us broke ranks. Too many vendidos. Sellouts.

That was the narrative pushed — at least during the programming of this crazy election when Trump seemed on the fast road to victory — by liberal pundits, Democratic operatives and leftists aghast that Latinos didn’t unanimously go for Joe Biden. Never mind that he will end up winning the Latino vote in every state.

The problem was that we didn’t vote enough against a president who caged Central American children, referred to Mexicans as rapists, tossed paper towels to Puerto Ricans when they needed electricity and cavalierly dismisses the coronavirus as insignificant even as the pandemic disproportionately affects Latinos.

How could we possibly side with someone who despises us so, the Trump haters howl.

Very easily, it turns out.

Preliminary exit polls show that Trump didn’t just hold his Latino support from 2016; he built on it. Some have him winning 32% of Latino voters. Others peg the number at 27%. That’s still a Biden wipeout. But those Latino Trumpers delivered Florida to their caudillo, saved Texas and damped Biden’s chances in swing states like Georgia and North Carolina.

This happened even though Trump barely lifted a little finger to try to court Latinos outside of Miami-Dade County. He really didn’t need to do anything: His tax cuts, strongman persona and — yes — scorched-earth immigration policy appealed to enough Latinos under the spell of the rancho libertarianism streak that runs among many of us. It was more than Biden’s efforts, whose weak-salsa outreach was criticized by Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on election night.

In other words, Dems, you should’ve had the Biden campaign do more than use a song by reggaeton megastar Bad Bunny for a YouTube commercial.

I’m already seeing Democrats, like a “Scooby-Doo” villain, make excuses for why more Latinos didn’t go for Scranton Joe. It’s the fault of those pesky Cuban exiles. It’s because too many Latinos assimilate. Last-minute misinformation campaigns by Russians. Voter fraud.

The rancor is especially real among the Latino left, who have spent the Trump years gleefully mocking their conservative cousins and now want to break up the concept of “Latino” altogether so they never have to be grouped together again.

This silliness needs to stop. Anyone surprised that a good chunk of Latinos would vote for Trump needs to realize once and for all those people are, well, Latinos.

It’s a truism that we’re not a monolith, but that’s a political cliche trotted out under the assumption that Latinos are nevertheless mostly liberal, with only a few regional anomalies. But that’s not the case.

They’re not just the much-maligned Cubans of the Sunshine State. They’re the recent South American immigrants who arrive with hatred of anything that reeks of liberalism because it reminds them of the socialist tendencies in their native countries. They’re the Mexican Americans of Zapata County, Texas, which sits right on the U.S.-Mexico border and just voted for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time since Warren G. Harding.

The retired Chicano police officer who moved to Idaho. The Maywood construction worker who never heard about white privilege until Joe Rogan mocked it. The God-fearing abuelita who worried Sen. Kamala Harris would unleash a wave of abortions upon this land.

They are not outcasts; they are us. Yet Democrats didn’t do enough to try to win them over, instead just hoping that Latino Trumpers would eventually see themselves for the joke that they are.

None of this is new, and I’m frankly getting bored of having to explain Latino conservatives every election cycle. I sure hope Biden pulls off the victory over Trump. But I do take glee in seeing the Democratic establishment flap around for answers when it comes to Latinos.

If ever there was a group that needed a stone-cold reckoning with us, it’s them.

This is an ossified institution that continuously banks on Latinos running to it for protection from the mean GOP, then does little to keep us. It’s one that didn’t learn anything from the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, who actually listened to young Latinos, built a campaign that was more than just never-Trump and created an electoral powerhouse that the Biden campaign largely ignored and definitely never energized.

Instead, Democrats have become too spoiled with the promise of Proposition 187. That was the 1994 California ballot initiative that proposed to make life miserable for immigrants in the U.S. illegally and instead radicalized a generation of Latino voters and turned the Golden State into the deep blue it is today.

Ever since, Democrats have waited to see the phenomenon spread. It did this year in Arizona, where a generation of Latinos who grew up in the shadow of Senate Bill 1070 — that state’s take on Proposition 187 — is being credited for taking Arizona to the brink of blue.

But even there, Trump still got sizable Latino support.

Even in California, where 77% of Latinos voted for Biden, not enough of them favored propositions that would bring back affirmative action, enact more rent control and roll back tax breaks — all liberal dreams, all seemingly headed for defeat because Latinos will never be as progressive as everyone insists they ought to be.

Trump, in many ways, is a quintessential Latin American leader. Too many of them in the region’s tortured history have held on to power with personality cults built on fear. But as the rebels who eventually toppled those tin-pot dictators knew, the best way to victory is to inspire in Latinos an emotion just as visceral, and one that Democrats have seemed to forget: hope.

Then again, Biden might eke out the presidency and every Democrat will go back to patting Latinos on the back for a job done well enough.

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