Very often in Democratic politics in AZ you hear a common assumption: that the Hispanic vote is another liberal voting block that we just need to mobilize to win. That is a faulty and dangerous assumption. We also need to persuade many Hispanic voters to come back to the Democratic Party.
Ruy Teixeira of the Liberal Patriot points out some of these flaws in his latest substack:
1. In the 2020 election, Hispanic voters moved sharply away from the Democrats. Both Catalist and States of Change (forthcoming) data agree that it was around a 16 point pro-GOP margin shift (two party vote). States of Change data indicate this shift was heavily driven by Hispanic working class voters, whose support for the Democrats declined by 18 points. This pattern could be seen all over the country, not just in states like Florida (working class Hispanic support down 18 margin points) where they fell short but also in states they narrowly won (Arizona down 22 points; Nevada down 15 points).
This shift in Hispanic voters away from Democrats is pronounced and it is not temporary. It is based on deep discontent with the Democratic Party that we have to address to reverse this trend among working-class voters, both white and Hispanic, who should be part of our coalition based on our goals and economic policies. We must identify and rectify this failure to connect with all working-class citizens.
2. Hispanic voters are overwhelmingly working class, around three-quarters in the States of Change data—higher than among blacks and much higher than among Asians. The working class character of Hispanic voters is even higher in key states like Nevada and Arizona.
We in Arizona are a bellwether for Democratic performance among working-class Hispanic voters. We’ve recently seen some losses in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley that shocked politicos on the left. We don’t want our wake-up call to be lost elections that should have been victories.
3. Indications are that Hispanic support for Democrats, especially Hispanic working class support, has continued to decline since 2020. That can be seen in election results since then and also in polling data. Civiqs tracking data shows Biden’s approval rating among Hispanic noncollge voters down to 38 percent, which is substantially lower than his rating among college Hispanics. And Biden’s rating among working class Hispanics is the same or worse in three states where the Democrats are defending Senate seats: Nevada (38 percent); Arizona (36 percent); and Georgia (17 percent).
Getting this right is a key to getting Mark Kelly reelected. I like the messaging I’m seeing from the Kelly campaign, but we need to be reinforcing and amplifying those messages of a practical focus on delivery of outcomes, open and honest governance, and engagement with people’s everyday basic concerns up and down the ticket. The Kelly teams seems quite aware of these trends and have recently launched Latinos for Kelly to focus on this potential vulnerability.
4. Also in Civiqs data, just 13 percent of Hispanic working class voters say their family financial situation has gotten better in the last year, compared to 49 percent who say it’s gotten worse and 37 percent who say it’s remained the same.
Fascist movements take advantage of economic hardship and income disparities to drive their propaganda, and the GOP is certainly doing so with their relentless message that “out of control” spending by Washington is to blame for inflationary trends. The world-wide inflationary trend is one of Democrats’ biggest vulnerabilities in this Mid-Term. The current inflation is caused by the on-going pandemic, resultant supply chain issues, and soaring energy prices as a result of the Ukraine invasion -also essentially a supply chain problem. Fair or not, we are responsible for the issue of inflation – despite being a global condition and not a problem caused by any policies we have pursued – as Republican messaging explicitly charges.
We have to push back with a consistent and simple messages – the current inflation trend is a global problem, not one caused by Democratic policies, and the Republicans have no policy to fix those global problems. At the same time, we have to fight for and advocate common-sense solutions to address the cost of living for working families – child care and elder care costs, medical insurance cost, prescription drug costs, the cost of energy and housing, the cost of higher education, medical and educational debt, and higher wages, are all policies Democrats have practical solutions for – the GOP has none. When we engage on this level, they haven’t any rational response.
5. In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, Hispanic voters give Republicans a 9 point lead over Democrats on the generic Congressional ballot. While the poll doesn’t break down Hispanics by education (hardly any polls do), it’s a reasonable supposition, given data summarized above, that Republicans’ lead among working class Hispanics would be even larger. (Some polls show Democrats still retaining a lead among Hispanics on this measure, but even those are down drastically from Democratic performance in 2020.)
That generic Congressional ballot is improving across the board due to SCOTUS overturning Roe/Casey in Dobbs. And Hispanic voters are with Democrats on this issue among the most strongly. We need to lean in on this with Hispanic voters, who strongly want abortion to be the province of family and faith community decisions – not government control.
Hispanic voters are also with us on patriotism and love of democracy. The #Jan6 hearings are exposing how terribly the GOP has reacted – or rather failed to react- to Trump’s treason. This issue, too, is one we should lean into with Hispanic voters. We have Republicans on the ropes for their love of power over fealty to the core principles of our civic institutions.
6. Some of these findings might seem startling but in truth, they were foreshadowed by results coming out of the 2020 election. Some of those results were noted above but here’s another one that provides food for thought. The Pew validated voter surveyasked respondents to rate each party by how well they thought that party represented the interests of “people like you”. Among working class Hispanics, the rating for Democrats was 51 percent very well or somewhat well. But Republicans were very close behind: 48 percent of working class Hispanics thought the Republican party represented the interests of people like them very or somewhat well.
Startling numbers that we have to work on. Long term, we have to ensure that education is accessible and affordable because the biggest predictor of Hispanic voter support for the GOP is educational attainment. Lower education and lower information voters favor the Republicans across the board and Hispanic voters are naturally part of that pattern.
Immediately, the prospects for clawing back those less educated voters are more problematic. One thing we cannot do is engage in the GOP’s kulturkampf politics – at least not get stuck defending our values on their terms as opposed to ours. We must consistently reframe these issues in terms of our shared American values – inclusiveness vs. exclusion, equal rights before the law vs. white supremacy and sexual bigotry, an open society vs. censorship in our educational system, personal freedom and autonomy vs. legislating sectarian morals into our criminal law.
7. The same survey also showed something that provides a key to understanding these trends among working class Hispanics. Democrats often seem to act like Hispanics are basically a liberal voting bloc that just needs to be mobilized. This is not true about Hispanics in general and is very far from the truth among working class Hispanics. In the Pew survey, just 20 percent of these voters described themselves as liberal, while 45 percent said they were moderate and 35 percent said they were conservative.
8. These distinctions matter, as careful data analysis always shows. One area where these non-liberal attitudes show up most clearly is on sociocultural issues. From race and gender to crime, immigration and schools, the Democratic move toward the leftis quite clear and has made it much easier for Republicans to pry moderate to conservative Hispanics, especially in the working class, away from the Democrats. If anything, this problem has simply intensified since the 2020 election.
As I said above, we lose Hispanic votes when we engage in a liberal vs. conservative frame on these cultural issues. We have to stick to reframing these issues as American values vs. fascist attempts to divide us as Americans. And, for Christ’s sake, don’t deny these frictions in our culture exist – as Democrats often do with the bullshit Critical Race Theory in schools issue – face them head-on by asserting that we should be guided by our shared American values. In CRT for instance, it is NOT effective to say “Actually, CRT isn’t a real thing taught in our schools.” Much more effective is to invoke American values: democratic local control of schools, abhorrence of censorship, honesty about the history of our nation warts and all.
9. Combine this with discontent about economic trends, trends which negatively impact working class more than college Hispanics, and perhaps it is not so hard to see why working class Hispanics might be moving away from the Democratic party. Moreover, the working class Hispanic trend could just be the tip of the spear as other nonwhite working class voters also appear to be increasingly in play.
10. Along these lines, consider these data from Catalist. Between the 2012 and 2020 elections—which Democrats won by similar popular vote margins—Democrats’ advantage among nonwhite working class voters was trimmed by 18 margin points. Over the same period, Democrats’ performance among white college-educated voters improved by 16 margin points. For a party that has already sustained drastic losses among white working class voters and has been clinging to its dominance of nonwhite working class voters as proof that it is still a working class party, these are very uncomfortable facts.
But facts they are. Here’s another fact: Hispanic working class voters are overwhelmingly upwardly mobile, patriotic, culturally moderate to conservative citizens with practical and down to earth concerns focused on jobs, the economy, health care, effective schools and public safety. Democrats will either learn to hit that target or they will continue to lose ground with this vital group of voters—and in the process invalidate their increasingly tenuous claim to represent the American working class.
Excellent advice that we need to learn to message on. We can do better, and here in Arizona, we must. The future of our state depends on winning Hispanic voters strongly and consistently all the way down the ballot. We have a great well of untapped power in Arizona with the Hispanic vote. Hispanics vote at consistently lower rates than other demographics: if we can motivate those voters by focusing on economic fundamentals, reframe cultural frictions toward our shared American values, and continue to recruit and cultivate Latino candidates to give those voters the representation they deserve, we can and will turn Arizona blue.