Talking recently with my friends, we realized that even though we were all Latinas, not a single one of us had received any sort of phone call or visit from anyone running in the midterm elections. Now, if this had just been in Los Angeles or New York City, it wouldn’t be that surprising. We do, after all, have the luxury of living in solidly blur states. But this was women who lives in the south too, where there are a quite a few hotly contested races happening this year.
Turns out, we weren’t necessarily wrong in our assessment that Latinos are being ignored by both Republicans (who likely assume that dislike of Trump makes it unlikely that many of us will vote for him) and Democrats (who likely, and incorrectly, assume that they have the Latinx vote in the bag). A poll conducted by Latino Decisions for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) noted that 60 percent of all Latino voters had not even been contacted to register to vote. Though there IS a healthy disdain of Trump among Latinos due to his abysmal handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and his insistence on building walls and separating families at the border, it’s not really as strong as you’d guess it would be. A Quinnipiac poll recently found that 58 percent of Hispanic voters said they did not consider Trump fit to be president, which though a majority, paled in comparison to the numbers from women (50%) and those who identify as Democrat (96%).
Basically, Latinos are polling much more like Independents than card-carrying Democrats who will vote in a block down the blue line. And that is something more politicians need to be paying attention to. Shockingly, a full 33 percent of Latinos polled said they approved of Trump. While that might feel icky, the fact of the matter is that for conservative Latinos, a lot of Trump xenophobic and homophobic rhetoric strikes a chord.
Still, we have a solid 58 percent out here ready to be convinced about who we should vote for and who don’t think Trump is president. Why aren’t there more groups, politicians and PACs out here trying to court us? It’s tied in part to historically low turnout rates for Latinos in the U.S. but that doesn’t mean that civic groups, campaigns, and candidates can just sit on their laurels and expect anger to turn into votes. For a community that has been as oppressed as Latinos have been for as long as we have been, it’s takes some convincing that voting can actually make a difference.
“Latino voters are still being ignored by the nation’s major campaigns, political parties and funders,” Arturo Vargas, chief executive of NALEO said in a statement. “We are once again witnessing an overall lack of investment in Latino outreach efforts across the country in Election 2018, with the little funding that is available being diverted toward partisan outcomes.”
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy where candidates and organization assume Latinos won’t vote so they don’t put in the effort to get us to register and become invested in politics and so then… we don’t vote. But the Latino population is reaching a critical mass, and there is just too much at risk and we’ve been stepped on enough by the administration that it’s imperative we take a stand. Ironically enough, Trump’s dog whistle (or howl at this point) politics of racism are more for his alt-right base of white supremacists than a real warning to Latinos here in the U.S. A full 85 percent of U.S. Latinos are legal citizens and we care about jobs, education and healthcare. We’re young and we NEED to get fired up, or we are going to be paying the price for our apathy for generations to come. If no one is going to lead us to the voting booths, let’s lead ourselves. Register, vote, and bring your whole family along with you, even the young ones who can’t vote yet, so that they understand it’s a right and more importantly a duty and responsibility that has grave consequences. If nothing else, the 2016 election taught us what happens when we take that for granted.