What Can Washington Learn from Latino Voters?

James Hohmann has a pretty good run-down of the Trump administration’s actions that are likely to alienate “the Latino diaspora” in this country.

  • Termination of the provisional residency permits of Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and potentially Hondurans,
  • Immigration enforcement arrests are up by 40 percent,
  • Slashed the number of refugees allowed into the United States to the lowest level since 1980,
  • Cracked down on so-called “sanctuary cities,”
  • Announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,
  • Used the “dreamers” as bargaining chips to force Congress to pony up $18 billion for a border wall,
  • Pardoned Joe Arpaio,
  • Threatened to abandon Puerto Rico’s recovery in October if people on the island didn’t express more gratitude for his efforts,
  • Downplayed the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria,
  • Neglected Puerto Rico in the GOP tax bill.

Hohmann sums up with this:

Trump’s nativism may cost Republicans Senate seats this year in Arizona and Nevada, as well as several House seats across the Sun Belt…But the much bigger issue is the long-term damage that Trump is inflicting on his adopted party. When they look back a century from now, historians will likely write that immigration and health care were the defining issues of our time. Five years after the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy” of the 2012 election highlighted the urgency of appealing to Latinos, Trump is driving his party down the same path that Pete Wilson followed in California when he embraced Proposition 187 to get reelected in 1994.

I suspect he might be right. But the truth is, we don’t know. How are Latinos reacting to these moves by the Trump administration? Unlike white Trump voters, they haven’t been profiled endlessly in the media. Most mainstream polls use relatively small samples of people identified as Latino or Hispanic, with no distinction between a Mexican American living in Arizona and a Puerto Rican living in New Jersey.

So after reading about the report put together by Cheri Bustos about rural voters in “the heartland,” I’m thinking that one of the things I’d like to see is a report on rural Latino voters across Texas and the Southwest. Keep in mind that many of them have lived in those areas since the land was incorporated into the United States. For them, white Europeans are the immigrants. Much as Rep. Bustos suggested that Washington could learn from the wisdom of rural working class (white) voters in her area, I think the same could be true for rural working class Latino voters in the Southwest.

I still have pretty deep roots in Texas and can tell you that we make a lot of assumptions about what Latino voters in that state are thinking. Overall, we might be right. But the fact is that most of those assumptions are not based on the kind of data we have available about white voters. To the extent that the media misses that story, there are going to be some big surprises in store for an awful lot of pundits.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.