By A.B. Stoddard for RealClearPolitics
These days the Democratic Party is like a sad addict whose life has fallen apart, with too much to resolve and repair all at once. Sure, the aching hip and broken relationships can be put off for another day, but the lost job, wrecked car, and empty bank account require immediate attention. President Biden and the Democrats are — simultaneously — working to stave off the failure of his economic agenda, control a once-again rampaging pandemic, mitigate the effects of the worst inflation since 1982, and rescue democracy from new laws that permit the GOP to nullify the next election, all before they likely lose both chambers of Congress next year.
There are too many liabilities to count. But there is one new and glaring problem that has nothing to do with bickering factions in Congress, and cannot be explained away by global trends or the potency of election conspiracies and propaganda. A distinct group of their supporters is leaving them. Many Hispanic voters, long a reliable part of the Democratic coalition, have walked away. It is not — yet — a majority of them, but the numbers are dramatic. Biden won 750,000 fewer Hispanic voters in 2020 than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 — in an Electoral College victory he nearly lost by fewer than 45,000 votes in three states. Donald Trump improved his margin with these voters by eight percentage points in four years, according to an analysis by the Democratic firm Catalist — a larger swing than any among white, black or Asian voters.
It gets worse. Biden’s approval ratings are awful across the board, but his support has eroded more among Hispanic voters than with any other racial group. A Pew/Marist poll from December showed his approve/disapprove numbers with Hispanic voters were 33/65, a net -32, while they were 40/56 with whites, a net of -16.
A recent Wall Street Journal poll showed Hispanic voters splitting their support between both parties, with just 37% of them backing Democrats in the House of Representatives if the midterm elections were held today, compared to the 60% they gave Democrats last November. Republicans would also garner 37% if the election were today. While Biden won 63% of Hispanic voters in 2020, this poll showed they would split their support in a 2024 rematch, with 44% for Biden and 43% for Trump.
Hispanic men are more supportive of Republicans than Hispanic women, and following the 2020 election some Democrats dismissed this as a temporary loss, an attraction to Trump’s strongman persona. But Democrats are wrong to delude themselves with such a fiction. The data shows Hispanic voters not only rejected the left’s embrace of socialism, but that they prioritized the issue of jobs and the economy over all else, even if they were critical of Trump’s stand on immigration and the border wall. Their focus remained the same a year later — Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin won the Hispanic vote when he defeated Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, and Hispanic voters strongly disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy. The WSJ poll findings showed that a negative outlook on the economy was seven points higher among Hispanic voters than it was for voters overall.
So it isn’t surprising that, like most other voters, Hispanics do not see the American Rescue Plan as good policy, let alone the boon Democrats thought Americans would now be thanking them for. And like many voters, Hispanics too blame rising inflation on the Democrats’ spending bills.
Amy Walter, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Cook Political Report, recently quoted an older Latina swing voter from a focus group she attended in November who said that while “there were people who need the stimulus, like those who were unemployed,” Democrats “gave money to everyone, including those who didn’t need it. And now we are all paying for it because everything is going up.”
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Layered on those differences, and the fact that many Hispanics are pro-life Catholics, is that the Democrats’ culture-war messaging is turning these voters off. Ruy Teixeira, a political scientist who has studied emerging trends in the Hispanic electorate, wrote in “The Liberal Patriot” that these voters do “not harbor particularly radical views on the nature of American society and its supposed intrinsic racism and white supremacy. They are instead a patriotic, upwardly mobile, working class group with quite practical and down to earth concerns.”
Have Democrats managed to miss all of this, or do they not care? Is it possible Republicans figured out Hispanic Americans are not woke, and many do not consider themselves non-white, but Democrats did not?
Democrats traditionally focus much of their election-time messaging on black voters, but in the first year of the Biden administration the party has sought to continue that outreach. Officials from the president on down have repeatedly highlighted the disenfranchisement of blacks by new Republican voting restrictions, especially in places like Georgia, calling those efforts a new era of Jim Crow, and Vice President Kamala Harris recently held an event on maternal morbidity rates, at which the White House issued a presidential proclamation marking “Black Maternal Health Week.”
There is not an explicit message or agenda that speaks to Hispanics, despite the math. While the black vote is expected to stay stable, the Hispanic vote will increase as their population grows, and was 30% larger in 2020 than it was in 2016.
It turns out that while Democrats were ignoring this demographic reality, even as Trump bellowed about the wall or Mexican rapists, Republicans deployed a strategy to address the growth of this voting bloc.
The swing against Democrats last year — though it amounted to an eight-point gain for Republicans nationally — was much larger in some places like the Rio Grande Valley in Texas (12 points) and Miami-Dade County in Florida (20 points), according to EquisLabs in an analysis of the 2020 Latino electorate.
In both of those places, Democrats, it turns out, were asleep at the wheel. Passed out actually.
The Equis assessment described a unilateral disarmament by Democrats that bolstered Republicans with Hispanic voters in Florida and Texas. In those states, on the issues of socialism and control of the border, Republicans were communicating their message to these voters clearly and repeatedly while Democrats were absent.
“Both are seemingly cases of neglect — where one side completely owns a highly salient issue without meaningful competition. We aren’t talking about ad spending in the last months of the election; we mean multiple years of attention — appearances, photo ops, press conferences, policy rollouts … boosted by local media that echo it,” stated an Equis Research report on the findings posted on Medium in December.
Unless Democrats want to cede the Hispanic vote to Republicans, it’s high time they sober up.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
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