People carry posters in support of Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden during an event to promote the importance of the Latino vote in the majority Hispanic neighbourhood of Maryvale in Phoenix, Arizona.
Germania Rodriguez Poleo, The independent
In Florida, it was a death foretold for Democrats. The biggest swing state went for Donald Trump by more than three points relatively early on Tuesday night. Some in the party were shocked; others, less so.
Democrats on the ground had been sounding the alarm for weeks, as early voting turnout numbers showed less enthusiasm for Biden than for Clinton in the state’s biggest county, Miami-Dade. Miami-Dade is a solid-blue, majority-minority county that Democratic presidential candidates need a landslide win in to make up for losses in the rest of the state. Those worries should have been taken much more seriously.
Back in September, polls showed not only that Biden was trailing behind Clinton’s numbers with Latinos, but that Trump was gaining ground with these voters.
The Biden campaign did try to avert the crisis, with Mike Bloomberg injecting $100 million. Most of that was spent on ads to counter the GOP’s rhetoric about the Democratic Party being ran by left-wing extremists who cozy up to Latin American dictators and want to “defund the police.”
But the final count still showed an impressive showing in the county for President Trump, who narrowed his losing difference from 30 points in 2016 to a mere seven in 2020.
Indeed, the big story nationally was the Latino vote in Florida: Biden got 52 percent of this vote, a whole ten points less than Clinton’s showing in 2016. Around 55 percent of Cubans voted for Trump, so did 30 percent of Puerto Ricans and 48 percent of “other Latinos,” per NBC News.
Democrats saw losses down the ballot too, with incumbent congresswomen Debbie Mucarsell-Powell and Donna Shalala unseated by their Republican opponents in Dade County.
This is a testament to the effective, aggressive campaigning Republicans did among Florida Latinos, and yes, particularly among Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans.
Many Democrats have come to see Cubans as a lost cause, painting them as too traumatized by communism to make rational voting decisions. However, this theory doesn’t hold up when we consider that the Cuban-American vote was turning blue, voting in record numbers for Obama twice and then for Clinton in 2016, who surpassed Obama’s numbers in heavily Cuban areas.
But much has changed over the last four years that has made the Democratic Party less compatible with Miami Latinos. While ten years ago the party would not have come close to nominating a presidential candidate who called himself socialist, the increasing prominence of figures such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez make many Latinos nervous.
Then there are Venezuelans, who are quickly increasing their numbers in the state as their country experiences the second-worst refugee crisis in the world.
The “my opponent will turn this country into the next Venezuela” rhetoric has not only been successful in South Florida; it has precedent across Central and South America. Such scaremongering helped conservatives such as Colombia’s Ivan Duque, Brazil’s Jail Bolsonaro, and Argentina’s ex-president Macri into power. There is no better anti-socialism campaign than being around people who have fled it.
No, Biden is not a socialist, but many increasingly prominent figures in his coalition are — and for a lot of Latino voters, it’s guilt by association.
But it’s not just the fear of socialism that is at the core of Democrats’ failure to inspire Latino voters — it’s a general cultural disconnect with non-Mexican Latinos and their culture. The insistence by white liberals to use the term “Latinx,” which most Latinos haven’t heard of (and a lot of people who have heard it are offended by it) are seen as part of a pattern of trying to force progressive American culture on Latin Americans, who are by far more socially conservative than North Americans. That’s not an isolated problem with Cubans and Venezuelans, either: It would be a mistake for Democrats to see the losses with Florida Latinos as such.
Trump did twice as good in the heavily Puerto Rican Osceola county as he did in 2016, and his gains with minorities are across the board — he is on a path to getting the highest share of non-white votes for a Republican since Nixon in 1960, according to exit polls.
Despite this, not all is lost for Democrats.
South Florida Latinos have shown they will vote for progressives policies — they voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 on Tuesday. But if the Democratic Party doesn’t stand firmly against their socialist factions and “woke” white liberal culture, they will continue seeing losses with not only Florida Latinos but across the board with minorities.
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