Adios, Democratic Latinos (And Many Others)
Long Tim Alberta piece in The Atlantic about why Latinos are abandoning the Democratic Party. The piece interviews Latino Democrats from around the country. What Alberta finds is that "Democrats are insufficiently patriotic; they are elitist in their cultural sensibilities; and they are oblivious to the struggles and priorities of working people."
So what's driving them away? Here's one reason:
Democrats like Teixeira believe that the party has become culturally detached from Hispanic voters, moving too far left on issues such as immigration, policing, and transgender rights. Democrats like Odio say the real problem is a “class disconnect” in which Democrats are catering to the cultural concerns of economically secure whites at the expense of the pocketbook priorities of working-class Hispanics.
A Democrat named Juan Cuba, who lives and works in Miami, said that the Democratic message of "fear and victimhood" puts Latinos off:
“I’m an immigrant myself, and when I think back to what worked on those Obama campaigns, it was really that he spoke to the aspirations of Hispanics. He talked about the American dream. He gave people a sense of how the Democratic Party was about social mobility through hard work,” Cuba said. “But by 2016, we’d become less the party of the American dream, and more the party of anti-Trump.”
It worked, at least initially: Clinton carried Miami-Dade by nearly 30 points against Trump—an unprecedented margin in Florida’s biggest county. But Cuba, who rose to the position of county party chair in 2017, recalls how quickly the anti-Trump message began losing potency. The economy was roaring to life after eight sluggish years of post-recession recovery at the same time that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, emboldened by Bernie Sanders’s insurgency in 2016, was espousing an open distrust of capitalism and questioning the existence of opportunity and upward mobility in America.
“I’ll never forget, we did a focus group with Hispanic voters in 2019,” Cuba said. “It was clear that a lot of these Hispanics voted against Trump in 2016 because they were scared of him. And by 2019, they weren’t scared anymore.”
María-Elena López, who held a variety of positions under Cuba in the county party, saw this shift taking place in real time. She believes that there is no real mystery to it: While Trump successfully portrayed himself as a populist achieving hard-won economic growth—signing tax cuts into law, touting a record-shattering stock market, boasting the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate in history—Democrats came across as a bunch of out-of-touch ideologues. Promises of shared social progress, she told me, offend the sensibilities of many first- and second-generation immigrants who hate the idea of government handouts.
“We’re not a political party; we’re a charity. And you know what? These people don’t want charity,” López said. “These immigrants come here to make money and keep their families safe. They are not here because the sea levels are rising, or because of social justice, or anything else. We’re out there talking about racism and the Green New Deal and defunding the police, and we’re freaking them out.”
Lopez says most Latinos would be okay with legalized abortion, even though they're morally opposed to it. But the Democrats today rub voters' noses in abortion, which makes some Latinos decide they're better off voting Republican:
To some extent, López said, the same principle applies to other issues she feels Democrats are enamored of—green energy and racial justice, individual pronouns and group identities. “What the hell is a ‘Latinx’?” she said, throwing up her arms. “Now we’re inventing language?” (This was but one of the many unsolicited rants I heard against the term Latinx.)
The most pungent part of the story comes when Alberta travels to Del Rio, Texas, right on the border, and finds Latinos who are FURIOUS at the Democratic Party over the open border:
Technically, the border is not open. But you wouldn’t know it from spending a few days in Del Rio. People I spoke with down there said they’d never seen anything like the mass of humanity moving across the border since Biden became president. In fairness, apprehensions at the southern border began to rise in the spring of 2020 and continued to climb throughout Trump’s final year as president. But the numbers spiked much higher after Biden took office. It’s difficult to examine the policies of his administration—which, according to the left-leaning Migration Policy Institute, “narrowed the scope of immigration enforcement in the U.S. interior” and “adopted something of a new approach to border enforcement”—and dispute the conclusion that Democrats have made it easier for migrants to attempt and complete an unlawful crossing into the U.S., making a historically bad problem much worse.
This is exactly what Perales, a mother of four, feared would happen. Born in Mexico, Perales came to the U.S. legally when she was 7 years old and became a naturalized citizen in 2017. Her first opportunity to vote in a presidential election was in 2020, and she felt “so disappointed with my choices.” Perales grew up in Del Rio, a place with deep Democratic roots. She has progressive sensibilities on many social issues. She hated some of the hard-line policies of the Trump administration, including the forced separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. But the more she listened to activists and elected officials on the left, the more worried she became that Democrats would embrace the other extreme—refusing to secure the border at all.
Perales ended up voting for Trump. Despite disagreeing with him and the Republican Party on a host of issues, she told me, she plans to vote a straight-GOP ticket in 2022, because of the chaos Democrats have brought to her community.
“Where is our respect for laws? Where is our respect for the people already here?” Perales said. “I’m an immigrant; I’m also an American. We are allowing our country to be overrun.”
In Lozano’s truck, as we drove on a narrow road that runs parallel to a stretch of border fence—started by the George W. Bush administration, continued under Obama—he was still seething. Progressives exploit the suffering at the southern border to raise money or get booked on television shows, he said, but they won’t actually come see it for themselves. I asked him why.
“Because it’s a romanticized ideology,” Lozano said. “It’s easy for them to romanticize this whole situation. ‘They’re struggling! They need help! They’re coming here for a better life!’ It’s harder for them to come look at bodies of people who died in 107-degree heat. Kids who drowned. Border Patrol agents—who they’re so opposed to—trying to help pregnant mothers. None of this fits their narrative.”
I asked Lozano what he wants Democrats to do about the border crisis. He laughed.
“Democrats refuse to even call it a crisis. They’re gaslighting me,” Lozano said. He ran through a list of requests: more funding for Border Patrol; better technology to monitor movement; more support for humanitarian groups on the ground; stricter processing policies to deter would-be migrants; and, yes, in certain places, reinforced physical barriers. Above all, he wants Democrats to stop signaling that America has an open border. Throughout the 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign, he noted, the party’s aspiring leaders took a host of positions—on decriminalizing border crossings, or providing health insurance to undocumented immigrants—that broke with decades of orthodoxy, to appease the progressive base.
“I’m all about the American dream. But this is unsustainable, just totally unsustainable,” Lozano said. “Government is supposed to be about stability. But this party, my party, is inviting all this instability. I’ve had enough.”
Instability -- that is the key word. Most Latinos, like most Americans, don't want all this instability. In his Friday column, an angry Andrew Sullivan makes the point sharply:
In return for centrists’ and moderates’ support, Biden effectively told us to get lost. He championed the entire far-left agenda: the biggest expansion in government since LBJ; a massive stimulus that, in a period of supply constraints, fueled durable inflation; a second welfare stimulus was also planned — which would have made inflation even worse; record rates of mass migration, and no end in sight; a policy of almost no legal restrictions on abortion (with public funding as well!); the replacement of biological sex with postmodern “genders”; the imposition of critical race theory in high schools and critical queer theory in kindergarten; an attack on welfare reform; “equity” hiring across the federal government; plans to regulate media “disinformation”; fast-track sex-changes for minors; next-to-no due process in college sex-harassment proceedings; and on and on it went. Even the policy most popular with the center — the infrastructure bill — was instantly conditioned on an attempt to massively expand the welfare state. What on earth in this agenda was there for anyone in the center?
It therefore doesn’t surprise me that in his final pitch to voters this week, Biden barely mentioned his record. He didn’t talk about inflation, the looming recession, crime, immigration, Covid. He mentioned nothing that would motivate anyone beyond his own base.
He returned instead to his previous 2020 electoral blackmail: you have no choice but to vote for Democrats because the far right is so hostile to democracy. To which my answer would be: Well, I did that already. And I was treated like an easy mark by the Dems — who pocketed my vote and ignored all of my concerns. Voting for an actual election denier would remain a dealbreaker for me. But otherwise, when Trump is not on the ballot, why would I be suckered by the woke left again?
Worse than this bait-and-switch is the condescension that came with it. Think of the absolute assertions by the Biden administration and their media flunkies: The border is secure. Covid vaccines prevent infection. There is no CRT in high schools. The lab-leak theory and Hunter Biden’s corruption were disinformation. There is no medical debate about fast-track, affirmation-only, sex changes for minors. Inflation is caused by corporate greed. Women in college always tell the truth; and men always lie. A president can forgive student loans by fiat. Debt doesn’t matter. A woman can have a penis. The people who attack Asian-Americans are all white supremacists. The idea of individual merit is racist. Can you think of any social issue where the Biden administration hasn’t taken the position of the illiberal “social justice” left?
Sullivan cites David Brooks's latest column, headlined "Why Aren't The Democrats Trouncing These Guys?", as an example of a pundit not getting what is bleeding obvious. Brooks writes:
Back in those days I didn’t find a lot of class-war consciousness in my trips through red America. I compared the country to a high school cafeteria. Jocks over here, nerds over there, punks somewhere else. Live and let live.
Now people don’t just see difference, they see menace. People have put up barricades and perceive the other class as a threat to what is beautiful, true and good. I don’t completely understand why this animosity has risen over the past couple of decades, but it makes it very hard to shift the ever more entrenched socio-economic-cultural-political coalitions.
David! David! We live in a country now where people are told they are bigots if they worry about their public schools educating their children in radical gender theory, or a theory of race that compels them to hate white people and to believe their country was conceived in iniquity. People are living in a world in which the ruling class in every institution -- including corporate America and even the US military -- is committed to an illiberal identity politics that runs smack into what most people think of as fair. People can't even speak their concerns without fear that it's going to cost them their jobs! David (and every other pundit), I strongly urge you to go find people in America who immigrated from Communist countries in Europe, Latin America, or Asia, and ask them what they see happening here. There you will find your answer as to why the Democrats aren't "trouncing" these guys.
Sullivan writes, about the Brooks column:
David doesn’t mention issues like inflation, crime, immigration, the border, abortion, race and affirmative action. In these areas, which will define the election, the Dems have, in fact, made heroic efforts to affront and insult working-class voters. On abortion post-Roe, they have adopted the most extreme position possible, making even Republicans look like moderates.
And look, we can debate all these questions. There are many nuances. But Biden precisely denies those nuances. He never even gives a hint that he respects his critics at all. He sees his moderate supporters not as people to be persuaded or engaged, let alone listened to, but as bigots or victims of disinformation he can simply dismiss.
This quote, from the Tim Alberta story, says a lot. It's from Joe Garcia, a former Democratic US Congressman from Miami-Dade:
“Look, I’m a big fan of Barack Obama. But he turned our party into a religious order,” he said. “When you think you’re right—no, when you know you’re right—everybody should just get it. You stop making the argument.”
There it is. Everybody who doesn't agree with the far left can be dismissed as bigots on the Wrong Side of History. This is the Democratic Party in 2022. I don't have a lot of good things to say about the Republican Party, and I have never been a fan of Donald Trump, but if I were voting on Tuesday, I'd vote Republican, just to limit the power of those who hate normality and ordinary people. You can argue with most Republicans, except the Trumpiest. You can't argue with a Democrat; they'll just call you a bigot, and think about how they can punish you.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
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I think you missed a major cause of the Hispanic voting pattern changes, one I’ve seen up close in my own life. When the vast majority of Hispanics were recent immigrants, they were largely at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid and were easy pickings for the ‘Free Stuff’ portion of the Democratic Party elections strategy. But a predictable thing has been happening as time goes on: Hispanics are superb entrepreneurs and they’ve been building successful businesses for a long time now. I will never forget the reaction of a Mexican immigrant-owned landscaping company that I helped to get a public bid contract for the first time ever. He got the job and then was HORRIFED at the amount of time and money he had to spend on compliance paperwork, union stuff, permits, certified payroll, etc. He was used to running his business in a manner where he worked hard, charged a fair price, got things done and got paid. When he began to encounter just how many obstacles the government placed in front of his business success, the appeal of voting republican dawned on him in a blazing fury. How many Hispanics out there have been having the same eye-opening experience as they move steadily up the income scale only to begin to see just how much of their work is seized by the government and carted off in taxes, fees, regulations and such? Presto! Republicans.