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Trump has achieved a significant increase in the Hispanic vote, in large part because he achieved historically low unemployment and poverty rates for that population, yet Democrats and most of the media continue to call him racist and insist that Latinos should vote Democratic.
We interviewed Giancarlo Sopo, a Cuban American that served as one of Trump campaign’s top Hispanic communication strategist, and who knows the Latino community very well, to talk about the benefits that Hispanics achieved during the Trump administration and the negative consequences that can come with a Biden administration.
Vanessa Vallejo: President Trump got a significant increase in the Latino vote, and he gained Florida again. Trump also launched many Latino initiatives. Why is that? There are those who simply don’t understand that a Latino can vote for Trump. You worked closely with the Latino community. How do you explain it?
Giancarlo Sopo: The election results have made it clear that people like Univision’s Jorge Ramos and liberal Latino activists have sold the country’s leading political commentators and television networks a caricature of Hispanic American voters that may flatter their personal biases but bears little resemblance to much of the electorate. The truth is that Hispanics are far more conservative than what many have been led to believe.
Since the election, liberal activists have resorted to three theories to wokesplain President Trump’s gains with Latinos:
The first has been to argue that Trump’s 2020 performance was simply average or a regression to the historical mean of how Republicans tend to do with Latinos. They do this by pointing to the national exit poll, which shows President Trump earned 32% of the national Latino vote, which would be a 4-point improvement from 2016. The problem, of course, is that it’s evident that much of the public polling regularly fails to capture Trump voters and there is no reason to believe the exit polls are an exception. In fact, the election results in heavily-Hispanic areas — such as certain precincts in Philadelphia, South Texas, Orlando, and elsewhere — are consistent with the President’s share of the Latino vote being closer to 35 to 40%.
The second tactic that Democrats and liberal media commentators use is to attribute President Trump’s gains with Hispanics to “conservative malfeasance”, such as “disinformation campaigns” or, as Beto O’Rourke said, “powerful memes.” Obviously, this is pathetic and laughable, but it allows Democratic operatives and liberal Latino activists to save face and dismiss President Trump’s inroads as ill-begotten.
Finally, when Republicans do well with Latinos, the underlying assumption from much in the media is that these votes were supposed to go to the Democrats, but they just dropped the ball. This is self-serving nonsense. It offers Latino activist groups a message to attract funding, but it doesn’t really withstand scrutiny when you consider that some of our largest gains with Hispanics occured in areas where we actually never even ran a single Spanish language ad.
The simple truth that Univision and others refuse to grapple with is that much of President Trump’s policy agenda is actually quite popular with significant shares of the Latino electorate, and no, I’m not just talking about Cuban Americans.
If any other American president had delivered the lowest poverty levels and best jobs numbers for Hispanics, they would be hailed as a hero of the republic. Yet, President Trump’s policy achievements were often suppressed, and sometimes even distorted, by networks like Univision while they simultaneously smeared him as a racist. Of course, this was absurd and many Hispanics saw right through it, which is why President Trump made significant inroads with our communities.
The President has always understood that Hispanic Americans make our country great, and we had an incredible Latinos for Trump coalition, led by my colleague Sandra Benitez, that built relationships with Hispanics across the country and amplified his message.
Vanessa Vallejo: How important are Latinos’ conservative traditions when it comes to voting?
Giancarlo Sopo: President Reagan famously said that “Hispanics are Republicans, they just don’t know it yet.” What he meant by that was that Hispanic culture is fundamentally conservative and more compatible with the Republican Party than the Democrats and that it’s the job of the GOP to make Latinos aware of this by emphasizing issues like faith and family. I think there’s some truth to this, but in 2020, if you only talk about faith and family it is unlikely to expand your share of the Latino electorate beyond the 31% that Republicans have averaged since 1980.
What we did on President Trump’s campaign was engage Hispanics on a broader range of policy issues in a manner that was culturally relevant to them. For instance, when we would talk about China stealing American jobs with Puerto Ricans in Florida, we used a different message than the manner in which we’d communicate this to rural white voters in Ohio.
I do agree that the Republican Party is a more natural home for an even greater share of the Hispanic electorate than the Democratic Party is, but making them aware of that is a significant challenge. Univision and other “gatekeepers” are well aware that the Democrats’ extremism on a variety of cultural issues — such as their instance on labeling Hispanics as “Latinx,” late-term abortions, and the destruction of Catholic monuments this summer — would alienate many Latinos, so they actively work to suppress this information from Hispanics.
Vanessa Vallejo: There is a phenomenon that I have noticed when I talk to Latinos in Republican circles and that is that a good part of them feel that the Democratic Party has become the party of the elites and that they treat many Latinos who are part of the working class of this country as brutes or ignorant. Have you perceived that? The Republican Party is getting closer to the people and the Democratic Party is getting closer to the elites?
Giancarlo Sopo: There are certainly many working-class Latino Democrats who are perfectly decent people. But when you look at the leadership of the Democratic Party, its activist allies, the celebrities they actively court, and our national commentariat, it becomes clear that there is a major disconnect between the folks you see on television and much of “the Latino community” they claim to represent.
It’s also clear that they approach Hispanics with certain condescension and lastima (pity). No matter what policy is being discussed, Latinos are always framed as helpless victims. A good example of this are the recent reports regarding “disinformation campaigns” targeting Hispanics. To be clear: I don’t like those kinds of tactics, but the baseline assumption of these articles is that Latinos are somehow vulnerable or especially susceptible to them, and I just don’t think that’s true.
No one likes being treated with pity or as a victim, and certainly not Hispanics who work incredibly hard to get ahead and provide their families with more opportunities. We’re not victims; we’re winners and we should be proud of what we have accomplished in this country.
Vanessa Vallejo: You were once a Democrat. What made you change?
Giancarlo Sopo: I became a Democrat in my early 20s because I was opposed to the Iraq War and, as the son of a social worker, I’ve always felt that there’s a role for the government to play in matters of social compassion.
I still believe there should be social programs for the poor and I still think the Iraq War was a mistake. What changed is that the Democratic Party went from being a broad coalition with progressive voices to being primarily a progressive political party, and I am not a progressive. On a philosophical level, progressives have certain underlying views about human nature, natural rights, and our proper relationship to the state that runs counter to my values.
When I was growing up, the political debates centered on whether budget surpluses should be returned to Americans in the form of tax cuts. Now we’re debating whether we should nationalize the health care industry, which is 1/6th of the U.S. economy. That’s just not what I signed up for, and when I saw that the head of the DNC referred to a socialist as “the future of our party,” it became evident to me that I was a part of its past, so I left.
Political parties are ultimately coalitions built to advance certain policy ends. They’re not religions or cults—at least they shouldn’t be. So when I saw that the Democratic Party was mainly promoting an agenda that I don’t believe in, I left and I have not looked back since.
It’s nothing personal. Most Democrats I know are perfectly nice people, but the party’s ideological direction is just not for me. Meanwhile, I grew up admiring the intellectual seriousness of William F. Buckley, Jr., and so I completed the National Review Institute’s fellowship program and found my political home in the conservative movement.
Vanessa Vallejo: Regardless of what happens in the Courts and what the Supreme Court decides about the elections of last November 3rd, Trump seems to take a lot of strength and be representing many people who got tired of political correctness. Do you think that he and MAGA can consolidate a strong movement to regain the presidency and strongly determine the future of this country?
Giancarlo Sopo: President Trump clearly tapped into voter fatigue with the Washington political establishment and our country’s cultural elites. This is not new for the Republican Party — Richard Nixon conveyed that message as well — and I suspect it is here to stay as an important force within the GOP. Clearly, we cannot return to being perceived by blue-collar America as the party of Judge Smails, the uptight country club snob from the movie Caddyshack.
I am very excited about Sen. Rubio’s vision for a multi-ethnic, multi-racial Republican Party of workers.
Vanessa Vallejo: Finally, how will Biden’s presidency impact Hispanics in the United States?
Giancarlo Sopo: Hispanics have generally been an afterthought for Joe Biden throughout his career, but from a policy standpoint, if he follows through with his attacks on charter schools and proposed tax hikes, it will seriously hurt our families and small businesses. Of course, Univision and others will look the other way, suppress the information, and gaslight their audiences that Biden is the best thing that has happened to Latinos since Wal-Mart began selling sazón merely because he pays us lip service on immigration.
One of the things that worries me is that Democrats and liberal activists have not been coy about wanting Biden to go hard left and double-down on identity politics to court Hispanics. If Biden and Kamala Harris were to do this and succeed, it will shift the focus in our communities away from upward mobility to the politics of grievance and victimhood, and this would be deleterious, especially for young people who are already being radicalized by the left.
Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editor-in-chief of El American. Economist. Podcaster. Political and economic analysis of America. Colombian exile in the United States // Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editora en jefe de El American. Economista. Podcaster. Análisis político y económico de América. Colombiana exiliada en EE. UU.