Ruben Navarrette Jr., USA Today, November 26, 2019
It’s like chickens for Colonel Sanders. Why would any self-respecting Latino vote to re-elect President Donald Trump, arguably the most anti-Latino chief executive in U.S. history?
That’s what my non-Latino friends want to know. I get that question all the time, often accompanied by a tilted head and a confused look.
In the 2020 election, Trump seems likely to get between 25%-30% of the Latino vote. A recent poll by Telemundo found that 1 in 4 American Latinos would vote to re-elect him.
In 2016, according to exit polls, Trump got 28% of the Latino vote. He did better than Sen. Bob Dole, who got 21% of the Latino vote in 1996, and Sen. Mitt Romney, who got 27% in 2012. But he couldn’t match Sen. John McCain, who got 31% of the Latino vote in 2008, or President George W. Bush, who got 40% in 2004. Anything north of 30% is a decent showing for a Republican, and anything beyond 40% will make a GOP candidate virtually unbeatable.
Why Latino votes matter
Latino voters count for a lot. Three reasons: they’re a young population that is adding new voters at a staggering rate; They’re well-represented in so-called battleground states such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida.
Latinos are now poised to be the largest racial or ethnic minority group to be eligible to vote in a presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center. By 2020, an estimated 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote, which is just slightly more than the 30 million voters who are African-Americans. According to Pew, Latinos are expected to be about 13.3% of the electorate in 2020.
Here’s what you need to know about the Latino vote: there is no such thing. That is, Latinos aren’t monolithic and we don’t vote as a bloc.
As a Mexican-American Never Trumper, I wanted to understand these people. Besides, as a journalist who is trained to talk to strangers, the idea of Latinos who support Trump sounded plenty strange to me.
So, I went out and interviewed a couple dozen Latinos for Trump.
What I found is that, in many cases, these folks are not really Latino at all. They’re “post-Latino.” They see themselves as Americans. They’re ambivalent about their heritage, relatives, ancestors. They don’t take offense when Trump insults Mexican immigrants because — even for Mexican-Americans — they see the people he’s talking about as another species.
Consider the views of Chris Salcedo, a conservative Mexican-American radio host in Texas who bills himself as a “liberty loving Latino.”
“I’ve always resented the hell out of liberals, in the press and out of the press, who have said that I, because of my Latino surname, have anything in common with someone who is breaking into my country without our permission,” Salcedo told me. “When the president cracks down on illegal border crossings and human trafficking, I do not believe he’s attacking me — because I also want to stop those same things.”
Now some Latinos have found their way to Trump. Good for them. But make no mistake. In a larger sense, they’re lost.