Ruben Navarrette: Latinos have the right to support either party they want — though neither treats them well
From the commentary: From all the reporting I've done about the Latino vote over the past three decades, along with the experience I've had for nearly 40 years as a Latino voter, there are a handful of factors that determine whether Latinos — who tend to register Democratic by 2 to 1— are at least open to voting for a Republican.
SAN DIEGO — As a result of our toxic politics, the United States is a country on edge. Too many Americans are easily triggered.
Recently, I upset some liberal Democrats with a column noting that a substantial number of Latinos appear to be drifting away from the Democratic Party.
Irate readers demanded to know: Why would any Latino vote for a Republican?
One wrote: "I would like to know the real benefits of the Republican Party for Latinos."
Another chimed in: "I formerly admired your direct and independently minded journalistic approach but now I wonder if something snapped in Ruben's head. I hope you at least write or reply what is so good for Latinos that Republicans are providing."
Another wrote: "Your article appears to sound like you are a Democrat. But you are a Republican which really amazes me since you are a Latino as I am. … Latino Republicans must like being hit on the head and then ask for more. That's stupidity."
These responses don't seem to have been born of curiosity. They sound like attacks and accusations. What's wrong with you people?
The word "stupidity" took me back to the 2012 presidential election. Back then, I was a CNN contributor, and I found myself at one point being interviewed by then-CNN host Ashleigh Banfield. We were discussing a column I'd written suggesting that Latinos could be so disappointed in former president Barack Obama's deportation juggernaut that they might vote for Mitt Romney. The host seemed offended.
"Latinos aren't stupid," Banfield protested.
When White people come at you like that, it reminds you that there must be a bunch of folks out there who got an "A" in social studies but flunked social skills. It also suggests that many liberal Democrats see Latinos as their own private property, and they get protective when they think someone is pilfering it.
Is this exodus really happening? In a word, yes. Just not to the degree that some loud voices in conservative media proclaim.
From all the reporting I've done about the Latino vote over the past three decades, along with the experience I've had for nearly 40 years as a Latino voter, there are a handful of factors that determine whether Latinos — who tend to register Democratic by 2 to 1— are at least open to voting for a Republican.
- Age. Young Latinos are less likely to be loyal to the Democratic Party than their parents and grandparents are, and thus more willing to experiment with voting for the Republican Party.
- Geography. Latinos in small towns, rural areas and red states are more likely to vote Republican than big-city urbanites in blue states, who tend to vote Democratic.
- Time in the United States. I've found that recently naturalized immigrants have less loyalty to the Democratic Party than do Latinos who have been voting for Democrats for generations, so they're willing to vote Republican.
- Country of origin. While Puerto Ricans and Dominicans tend to be Democrats, Cubans and Colombians are usually Republican. Mexicans and Mexican Americans, who according to the Pew Research Center account for nearly 60% of the nation's 62 million Latinos, are swing voters.
Fellow Latinos don't ask me for advice before voting. Sometimes they support people — in both parties — whom I find loathsome.
For instance, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who may soon be known in all the land as the Trump Slayer — is not my cup of tequila. In my book, DeSantis is a bully and a louse who used desperate Venezuelan refugees as a political prop, shipping them off on private jets C.O.D. to Martha's Vineyard to torment White liberals.
But a lot of Latinos in Florida like the governor mucho. According to an analysis of data from the Florida Division of Elections, conducted by the Miami Herald, DeSantis won about 65% of the vote in majority-Latino precincts in his reelection. In the overwhelmingly Latino Miami suburb of Hialeah, he took more than 78% of the vote.
I'm not part of this Latino flirtation with the GOP. I continue to be disgusted by both parties and largely unable to tell them apart.
But I get it. Democrats overpromise and underdeliver, and then they make you feel like there is something wrong with you when you demand more and try to hold them accountable. They think we Latinos owe them, when it's the other way around. They didn't vote for us in 16 consecutive presidential elections dating back to 1960.
Besides, Democrats have never learned that condescension is a more effective repellent than bug spray. I ought to know. That's what triggers me.
This commentary is Ruben Navarrette's opinion. He can be reached at email@example.com.
© 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group
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