BIPOC voters played a significant role in delivering the victory to the Democratic party in many states during this election. The Latinx community, however, had some of the highest nationwide representation of Trump supporters among other marginalized community voter groups.
According to the American Election Eve Poll, 27% of Latinx voters supported Donald Trump. As a Latinx person of color myself — I was quite surprised to see such a significant amount of Latinx people supporting Trump, especially given his well-known discriminatory rhetoric against Latinx immigrants, which has resulted in a rise of anti-Latinx hate crimes by over 21% in 2018, according to FBI hate crime statistics.
The idea of being Latinx and supporting Trump seems illogical, kind of like “slugs for salt.” Even so, it is important to take into account who we define as Latinx. Most non-Latinx Americans picture brown-skinned Mexican people when they think of Latinx people, which can be explained by the fact that they are the most represented nationality in the United States. Of 60.6 million Latinx people, about 37.19 million people are of Mexican descent. The term “Latinx” refers to an ethnicity, and this group comprises people from many different racial backgrounds and national origins.
As specified in the aforementioned American Election Eve Poll study, the vast majority of Latinx groups of different national origins favored the Democratic party, with more than 70% of both Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans preferring Joe Biden. Trump received less than 26% of votes from these groups and received significant support from South and Central American voters, amounting to 40 and 29% respectively. Still, the most salient group of Latinx voters supporting Trump was Cuban-Americans, of which about 52% voted for him.
Many Latinx people with national origins from Central American countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua, and also those from Cuba, have the strongest alignment to the Republican party, according to Nicaragüan-American writer Karina Castrillo. This is because the majority of Latinx people from these backgrounds migrated to the U.S. as refugees to flee the socialist dictatorships in these countries.
“Their trauma makes them doubt progressivism, and they therefore become more susceptible to right-wing extremism,” Castrillo wrote in a post on her social media platform.
Many of the Latinx groups have been staunch Republicans since the ‘70s, as reported by historian Geraldo Cadava, a guest in the Latino USA podcast by PRX. During that time, Republican politician Ronald Reagan was running for president. Reagan’s campaign included a strong anti-Communist agenda, which attracted many Central American, and especially Cuban voters.
Indeed, Latinx voters’ support of economic conservatism is one of the main reasons why they vote Republican. Many are attracted to policies such as tax cuts and financial deregulation, which the Republican party strongly abides to. This is also one of the reasons why — despite not agreeing with Donald Trump’s views — many Latinx Republicans stay Republican.
“I don’t love everything Donald Trump says, but I’m gonna vote for him anyway,” a Republican leader who is Hispanic said, interviewed by Cadava before the 2016 elections.
Like this leader, many Latinx and Hispanic Republicans vote for Trump, not necessarily because they agree with him, but because they value the ideological uniformity of the Republican party.
“I’m not gonna let one man ruin the movement I have spent decades building,” the Hispanic Republican also added.
This consistency with economic policy is something that the ever-fluctuating Democratic party has struggled to maintain.
There are numerous other reasons besides consistent economic policy, why Latinx groups vote Republican. One of the most prominent motivations for Latinx voters is the Republican party’s support of religious conservatism and the considerable amount of conservative Latinx evangelicals. About 83% of the Latinx population in the U.S. claims to have a religious affiliation, with about 62% identifying as Catholic and the remaining 19% identifying as Protestant. It makes sense, therefore, that they would support a party that pushes for the incorporation of religion in public life.
And, surprising to many, immigration is not one of the most important issues for the present Latinx population in the U.S. This is because the Latinx — and especially Mexican — population of undocumented immigrants has actually dropped. According to a study made by Ana Gonzalez-Barrera from the Pew Research Center, as of 2014, only about 48% of the undocumented population consists of Mexican immigrants, a 54% drop since 2007. Many Latinx people, who reside in the U.S., prioritize issues such as healthcare and jobs over immigration. They still support Trump because they believe “he is anti-undocumented immigrant, rather than anti-immigrant,” Linda Chavez, another Latina Republican, said quoted in the Latino USA podcast.
Speculating that Latinx will support the Democratic party just because the majority of the Latinx population are people of color and have immigrant backgrounds is a dangerous assumption to make. As seen in the past decade, the Democratic party has framed their narrative around issues such as racial justice, support for immigrants, and other socially progressive values, but their policies have not actually been consistent with these values.
Let’s not forget that former president Barack Obama deported more immigrants than any other U.S. president. Let’s also keep in mind that president-elect Joe Biden supported tough-on-crime bills that affected Black and Latinx communities disproportionately, recognizing that someone can be Black and Latinx.
If the Democratic party wants to maintain support from the Latinx community and other marginalized communities, they must listen, prioritize, and act on the concerns of these communities.
Last updated 11/20/20
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