Just a few weeks after Latino democrat supporters felt snubbed due to the underrepresentation at the Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden hosted an event in Florida to regain Latino support. The stakes were high—he was polling much lower with Latinos in Florida than Hillary Clinton had in 2016. Latinos waited everywhere with bated breath; what would Joe do to win them back? He had just one thing to say: ♩des-pa-cito♩.
Well, he had other things to say. Some of it was sort of neat, such as a promise to provide amnesty to illegal immigrants. However, it was very telling that the headline-grabbing moment of the event was Biden playing a three-year-old song off his cellphone. To Latino voters, it was just another reminder that in this election, no one is pushing hard for us.
Latinos are not a monolith, and they do not necessarily have the same views on all policies. Some are strongly aligned with the left, and historically have made up an important chunk of Democratic voters, especially in the West. Some Latino voters, however, can be quite conservative, meaning both parties can find Latino supporters if they seek them out. Since Latinos make up the second-largest socioeconomic racial/ethnic group in the United States, this group holds the power to change policies and ultimately determine the 2020 election.
With that being said, where is the direct messaging towards what Latinos want? Why has it been so rare for any of the candidates to make a direct plea to such an important voting bloc?
Simply put, what the nation and specifically politicians need to do is to TALK TO US! It takes a lot more than just learning a line of broken-down Spanish or playing Spanish music at a rally. This means Latino outreach needs to go beyond aesthetics and platitudes and be issue-focused.
People could say that any issue could be a Latino issue. Yes, they could, but there has to be talks to gain the understanding on how it affects our communities. For example, COVID-19 is disproportionately wreaking havoc on Latino communities. As such, it is no surprise that Latino voters rank healthcare as a top issue in the 2020 election. Effective outreach will mean making concessions on policy in order to offer a reason for Latinos to consider increasing their support. For example, one way the Democrats could do this is by putting forward a more expansive healthcare plan. Early in the primary, many Latino voters enthusiastically supported Bernie Sanders because of policies like his expansive “Medicare for All” plan. If Biden wanted to establish the strong base amongst Latinos that he is lacking, this is one of the options he could consider. What he should NOT consider is the “nothing-at-all” style of campaigning that makes no attempts to offer different voting groups within the Latino bloc any of the things they are looking for.
Speaking of what Latinos are looking for, there needs to be increased cultural competence as it relates to Latinos in the U.S. It’s not as simple as acknowledging that a large portion of the community works frontline jobs, or are immigrants. No, it is about understanding our history, language and acknowledging our contributions to this country. Speak to us about the role Latinos and our culture are going to play in the next stage of America. What concrete policies are you going to enact with the designed goal of making sure we belong? Speak to us about education, healthcare and the economy. We have deep understanding on how we are disproportionately affected in these categories, yet no candidate has made the effort to speak to us about them.
We are tired of being treated as a monolithic group that only cares about immigration. The economy, healthcare, COVID-19, racial and ethnic equality, crime, the Supreme Court and climate change are all issues that rank more important to us. If your best plea to us is, “well hey, at least I am not the other guy!” then you are not going to get enthusiastic support. You risk a late swing in either direction the second the opponent offers anything targeted directly at what Latinos want. The Latino voting bloc has been so thoroughly ignored that it is basically just sitting there, like a sword in stone, waiting for anyone to put in just the slightest effort to wield it and turn the tide of battle.
If the second largest voting bloc is ignored, can candidates truly say they are here representing and fighting for the people of the U.S.?
Learn to speak to us. Learn to understand us. Learn to care for us.