Over the course of the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump made his disdain for Latinos pretty clear. But over the last few weeks, he’s put a few exclamation points on that. For example, he:
- Ended DACA,
- Proposed new hard-line immigration measures,
- Continued his attacks on so-called “sanctuary cities,”
- Utterly failed in a response to the crisis in Puerto Rico, while making offensive statements about both their leaders and the people who live there, and
- Weighed in with support for Ed Gillespie’s fear-mongering campaign ads about Latino gangs.
Gallup has Trump’s approval rating among Hispanics at 16 percent right now. That might appear to be a significant drop from exit polls last November, which reported that 29 percent of Hispanics voted for him. But those exit polls have been critiqued by a whole host of individuals and groups, who suggest that their numbers show Trump getting in the neighborhood of 18 percent of the Hispanic vote. So today’s numbers don’t indicate there has been much of a change from an extremely low bar to begin with.
All of this points to the fact that, for Democrats, the issue with Latinos is not one of persuasion, but of mobilization. Data from Pew Research captures that fact.
Due largely to demographic growth, the number of Latino voters grew to a record 12.7 million in 2016, up from 11.2 million in 2012. Even so, the number of Latino nonvoters – those eligible to vote who do not cast a ballot, or 14 million in 2016 – was larger than the number of Latino voters.
Latino voter turnout in 2016 was only 47.6 percent, which is abysmal. Imagine what could happen if the energy being put into trying to understand how to persuade white working class people to vote for Democrats was also being put into understanding how to mobilize a higher turnout among Latino voters.
You might suggest that it wouldn’t help that much in the Electoral College because their presence isn’t large enough in any one state to make a difference. That is because we aren’t paying enough attention to how the map of swing states is expanding. For example, there has traditionally been a huge focus on Ohio. But Trump beat Clinton there by over 8 percentage points. On the other hand, his margin in Arizona was only 3.5 percent. In the big kahuna of Texas, Trump’s margin was only 0.86 percent larger than it was in Ohio. In other words, to the extent that white working class voters could make the difference in Ohio, higher turnout from Latino voters has the potential to do the same in Arizona and Texas.
I would suggest that Trump is doing all he can to mobilize the Latino vote. It is up to Democrats to recognize the opportunity and do what they can to GOTV in those communities.