The Los Angeles Times highlights the importance of Latino voters in the impending midterm election.
Latino voters strongly support Democrats’ policy priorities: letting Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices (91%), canceling student debt (74%) and protecting abortion rights (77%), according to a weekly tracking poll by the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. But Biden’s approval rating with Latinos is just 58%...
It's good to see the paper trying to dig into the issues that seem to be depressing Latino enthusiasm for Democrats, but as a person working in a campaign many of whose primary target voters are working class Latinos, I have some observations.
Most importantly, this was written as if all "Latino" voters are similar to each other. Nonsense -- people broadly labelled "Latinos" may have many common concerns. But they also have particular concerns that vary widely based on many variables including class status, language preferences, gender, immigration status, U.S. region, countries of family origin, etc. This is a wildly diverse population and can't be lumped together. I've pulled out below some themes touched upon by the LA Times.• Representation
This writer found many prominent spokespersons for the idea that the Biden administration had appointed too few Latinos.
Although Biden appointed a historic four Latinos to his Cabinet, there have been no Latinos appointed as assistant attorneys general at the Justice Department, no Latinos named to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that addresses workplace discrimination, and no Latino leadership at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“Appointments send a message,” said [Thomas] Saenz of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and a former counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “This goes far beyond the notion of progress. We have actually seen some regression in comparison to the Obama administration.”
The Biden administration naturally has a Latina White House aide who says this ain't so. It's hard for me not to think that perhaps these advocates were the easiest quotes for a reporter to get -- a commentary on the sources readily available to the LA Times.
• Communication about Kitchen Table Issues
Another theme in the article is that Latinos are being hit particularly hard by the post-pandemic disruptions in our economy.
Sending working families $1,400 pandemic relief checks, canceling as much as $20,000 of student loan debt and enacting the first gun safety reforms in 30 years after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, this year are “overwhelming policy successes,” said Chuck Rocha, a Democratic consultant and advisor on Latino outreach to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “The problem is the Latino voters don’t know about it. You don’t see ads talking about the litany of successes this White House has delivered for the Latino community.”
... “One of the first things that comes out of people’s mouths when I talk to them in the district is gas prices,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Pacoima). “If gas prices weren’t where they were, then people would be talking more about what we have done.” In those conversations, Cárdenas said he looks to focus constituents on all the things Democrats have done to help working families, as well as last year’s bipartisan infrastructure overhaul. “Biden has a lot to brag about. But something people don’t realize is that over 50% of construction workers are Latinos,” he said. “That infrastructure bill is a tremendous boost to millions of Latino households.”
This agrees profoundly with our experience here in Reno, Nevada, where the hospitality workers' union, UniteHERE/Culinary, is campaigning to activate working class voters, many Latino. Even though there are many more jobs advertised here than workers to fill them, people are weighed down by a rising cost of living, particularly the cost of rental housing. And they have very little idea that their Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak and their Latina U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto have been working to ease their economic burdens. We enjoy talking with the people we meet about these efforts. Join us on the campaign and see for yourselves.• Abortion/Women's Rights
The number two issue we hear from voters is fear that abortion rights will be restricted or women's rights undercut by Republicans.
In last week’s National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials tracking poll, abortion rights were a top-three issue for 28% of respondents — a huge jump from 2018, when only 4% listed it as such.
These people have reason to worry; both of our Republican opponents have
pandered to extreme anti-abortiionists, though they are now trying to walk this back. Sisolak and Cortez Masto won't let them. • Immigration
The LA Times makes the assumption that immigration injustices are high among Latino priorities. This is not what we are hearing at the doors. I almost think there's stereotyping going on, though in other states the miseries of a broken immigration system may be central concerns. Those issues don't seem top of mind among voters here. This may not be so true in border states, but the folks here who are immigration obsessives seem to be white Republicans.
Here in the Southwest (and I'd include southern California in this) it's almost an anachronism to think of "Latinos" as a separate constituency group. Sure, people have their own history and traditions which they honor, but they are also building, alongside other ethnicities, an inclusive, and new, Southwestern American society. For a sensitive discussion of this development on the occasion of the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, see this article in the Nevada Independent
When Latinos complain that no one talked with them, as they often do, they are not alone. National Democrats are too often behind the curve on the novel adaptation of U.S. culture being birthed throughout the Southwest.