For decades, the Latino vote has been thought of as a reliable voting bloc for the Democratic Party, except for the astonishing performance by Bush in 2004, Democrats have managed to consistently gain more than 60% of the vote among Latinos. In fact, it was a common trope in political punditry that the Democratic Party would inexorably become the majority party, due to its effectiveness at creating a multicultural coalition.
However, as is usual with the common knowledge in politics, the foundations sustaining this argument began to turn in their head during the 2020 election. The Republican Party made significant inroads in heavily Latino populations across the board (most notably in South Texas and South Florida) with the GOP almost flipping counties that have been considered reliably Democratic for decades.
The shift does not appear to be a one-time thing. In 2021, the Republican John Lujan flipped a seat that is more than 70% Hispanic and Biden won by 14 points in 2020. Poll after poll shows that Latinos have grown increasingly critical of the performance of the President, and a Quinnipiac poll has a majority of Latinos disapproving of Biden.
The Republicans are taking note of this potentially earth-shattering political shift, and have increased their presence in Hispanic communities across the country. We talked to Jaime Florez, the Hispanic Communications Director of the Republican National Committee, about the issues that concern Hispanics the most and what is the Republican Party doing to gain their trust and votes in 2022.
Economics and conseravtive values are shifting the Latino vote towards the GOP
Democrats have thought of Latinos as safe voters for decades, in 2020 we saw a shift towards the GOP. Why do you think this is happening? What are voters telling you on the ground? And how will this change American politics?
Well, Daniel, I think that the reason why Hispanics are changing from Democrats to Republicans is that they identify themselves much more with Republican values and principles: freedom, faith, family, opportunities, things of that sort that are very important and close to Latinos hearts.
And also the fact that they have been taken for granted by Democrats for so many years. They had been promised a lot of things. And that is one of the reasons why Hispanics are moving in large numbers from the Democratic Party to the GOP.
South Texas and South Florida saw immense turnout for the GOP in 2020. In both of these States, grassroot work was really important. How do you think this success can be replicated across the country, not only in Texas and Florida?
Well, one of the reasons those grassroots efforts were successful is because we were able to let people know of the good things that happened during the Trump administration and the Republican leadership for Hispanics.
For example, we have three very important facts. One of them is Hispanic unemployment rates were the lowest in many years during the Trump years. As a matter of fact, in 2019, unemployment was lower than 4% for Hispanics for the first time.
Second, the income for Hispanics was larger than before during the Trump administration—about $1,800. And the other thing that is important for Hispanics is that never before Hispanics were able to live in their own homes. Homeownership increased for Hispanics during the Trump administration more than ever before.
So when you take that into consideration, people say hey “let’s vote for Republicans; let’s become Republicans. Republicans are working more for us or doing more things for us, and more than anything, they’re not taking us for granted. They’re delivering whatever they promised, even things that they did not promise they were delivering.”
That’s one of the reasons why we think that we did very well with Hispanic voters. Republican voters in Texas and other states in the country.
You asked me why do we think that in 2022 will this happen again?
First, they remember what happened during Republican presidencies. Second, if you compare states that are governed by Republicans with states governed by Democrats the results are much better in the red states than in the blue ones, in terms of unemployment and economic growth.
When you take that into the equation, the fact that the Biden administration has been a disaster for Hispanics. The border crisis has hurt many Hispanics, particularly in the border states. Well, we think that we’re in very good shape.
Senator Marco Rubio has said for a while that the GOP needs to form a new coalition, one that is both working-class and multi-ethnical. Do you think the Senator is right? If so, how is the Republican Party actively working towards this type of new coalition in American politics?
Definitely, and we can demonstrate that with the fact that we’re opening community centers all over the country aimed at the Hispanic, African American, Asian Pacific American, and Native American populations.
It is important to highlight that these community centers are not just campaign office centers. These are places where people can have a conversation about what they think the GOP can do for them and what they think that the GOP is doing well, and where they think that maybe the Republican Party can improve.
It’s not just a place where we train volunteers, make calls, and have contact with voters. It is a place where we can have a two-way conversation with our communities.
So would you say that our program party listens to communities more than just telling them what to think? Do you think Democrats fail in this?
Definitely. If Democrats have listened to Hispanics about border and immigration, the Vice-President would not have had to go to Central American countries.
They can find information about the root causes of immigration if they speak with anyone in any city of Texas, Arizona, or California. We can tell them what we feel about immigration—particularly illegal immigration into the U.S.
They don’t have to go anywhere. All they have to do is listen to the American people. We can tell them a lot of things about inflation and the border crisis. They don’t listen to people before the election, even less after they get in power.
If, as you said, the GOP has both policies and culture that are more aligned to the interests of Latinos. Why are still many Latinos who, despite having this affinity with the GOP, still identify and vote as Democrats? What do you think the GOP needs to change or improve to change this?
Well, we know there’s always room for improvement. We’re not perfect. When we always say that we have to improve, everybody has to improve. The situation in this country is very bad for everyone, including Democrats and Republicans.
One other thing that is very important for Hispanics is that we see with a lot of concern the fact that Democrats are becoming more and more left-wingers than ever before. Most of us came to this country fleeing socialist policies and governments, and we don’t want that to happen in this country.
We don’t want the government to tell us what to do, to force us to do things that we don’t want to do. We don’t want the government to have control over our lives.
And one thing that I never thought that I was going to see in this country and we’re seeing it, sadly, are empty shelves in supermarkets and grocery stores. We saw that in Venezuela. We’ve seen that in Cuba for six decades. We have seen those things in other countries. I never thought, however, that something like this was going to happen in this country. So for Hispanics, this is very important. We don’t want to go to the Socialist group, we already watched that movie, we don’t want to watch it again.
Polls show the majority of Latino voters disapprove of President Biden. However, disapproval of the President is not equal to a vote for the GOP. So how are you working to get Latinos from disliking the president to actively voting for Republicans from 2022 onwards?
Well, we’re telling our story, we’re trying to convey our message in the best possible way. As a matter of fact, we have a Hispanic communication scheme working together to say what we have to say to convey our messages to the Hispanic population.
But we’re all we’re also ready to listen to them. Our community centers, our emails, and our phones are always open. And we would like to hear from them.
That’s what the community centers are open for.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.