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Michael Swartz / July 14, 2021

Is the GOP Making Inroads Among Hispanics?

A new study by the Pew Research Center seems to indicate so.

We’ve devoted a lot of column space to the 2020 election and its aftermath, but the Pew Research Center recently came out with its own comprehensive look at the 2020 electorate. This Pew report inspired some additional commentary by one Steven Shepard at Politico.

Shepard, however, focused on the bad news by stating: “The Trump gains with Hispanic voters have some Republicans optimistic they can pick up congressional seats in Texas next year, along with holding the two South Florida House seats they flipped in 2020. But the Pew report suggests those gains could be fleeting: While Trump narrowed his loss among Hispanic voters between 2016 and 2020, Democrats won them in 2018 House races by their widest margin, 47 points.”

The Politico piece also focused on what could be considered a backhanded compliment about Trump’s increased share of the Hispanic vote. As the Pew study noted: “Even as Biden held on to a majority of Hispanic voters in 2020, Trump made gains among this group overall. There was a wide educational divide among Hispanic voters: Trump did substantially better with those without a college degree than college-educated Hispanic voters (41% vs. 30%).” Unfortunately, the Pew data did not break down this factoid in 2016, and the 2018 election Pew used is an apples-to-oranges comparison, because Trump wasn’t on the ballot and some congressional races in Hispanic-heavy districts had either a barely noticed Republican alternative or none at all.

More important, taking Hispanic people as a single demographic group ignores significant cultural and economic differences between them. Mexicans, for example, have different priorities than Puerto Ricans, who both have concerns at variance with the Cuban or Central American populations. One example: It’s long been known that the biggest political distinction among Latino voters is that Cubans are much more Republican than other Hispanics — a phenomenon that plays out most prominently in south Florida.

However, there are other trends that Democrats have noticed — the most important of which was the working-class Hispanic deficit, which has manifested itself most in southern Texas, where local elections have recently trended toward the GOP. There’s no guarantee that this local balloting trend will apply nationwide next year, but Republicans have placed themselves in a position to thrive with working-class Hispanics by using the same issues that endeared them to other working-class voters: an aggressive stance on trade and energy independence, and a focus on kitchen table issues, coupled with a more traditional outlook on the social side.

“We’ve all said Latinos aren’t a monolith, but in the [Rio Grande] Valley in particular, there’s three major employers,” said Chuck Rocha, founder of Nuestro PAC, a national group targeting Hispanic voters. Speaking to the Texas Tribune, Rocha added, “There’s border security, there’s the local government and there’s oil and gas, and all of those folks don’t line up with the value set that woke brown consultants or woke white consultants in New York or D.C. are selling as a national narrative to these Democrats.”

Also quoted there was outgoing Democrat Representative Filemon Vena, who represents south Texas’s 34th Congressional District. Vena cut straight to the heart of what concerns working-class Hispanics, noting about his district’s energy industry workers: “These guys are out busting their ass, leaving their homes for two or three weeks at a time, working night and day, but they’re making upwards of $80,000 a year. If they don’t do that, they’re back at home looking for a job that’s paying a third. And if you’re telling somebody, ‘We want you to go make $30,000 instead of $80,000,’ you think they’re gonna vote for you?”

Over the last 50 years, as the Hispanic population grew from just a tiny percentage of Americans to the nation’s largest minority group, the two parties have fought over this voting bloc. While the Democrats have had the upper hand for most of that period, and while Republicans have catered to them in an effort to negate that advantage — Ronald Reagan’s 1986 amnesty for illegal immigrants comes to mind — we may now be seeing a situation where neither party can count on the Hispanic vote. This means that both sides must put in the work to secure their support. And that’s as it should be.

Perhaps Hispanics have noticed the detrimental effects on the black community of having thrown in entirely with the Democrats and their cradle-to-grave welfare statism. And perhaps they’ve decided that same fate isn’t for them. A good choice.

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