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Rich Lowry / October 5, 2022

Hispanics Weren’t What Progressives Thought

Despite Democratic hopes, these voters are up for grabs, and their support has to be earned like that of other Americans.

One of the most significant events in American politics is that Hispanics are, in effect, deciding that they are working-class voters rather than ethnic-grievance voters.

This is so momentous because it means that Democrats can’t rely on the monolithic Hispanic voting bloc they imagined would guarantee them an enduring electoral majority, and that the shift to the Republicans may be just beginning (the migration of working-class whites to the GOP has been happening over the course of a couple of generations).

An NBC News/Telemundo poll of Hispanics has Democrats ahead of Republicans in the battle for Congress 54-33%. That’s a healthy lead, but it’s down from prior polls. Democrats led among Latinos by 42 points in October 2012, 38 points in October 2016, and 26 points in October 2020. Detect a trend?

Republicans don’t have to win Hispanics outright to change the calculus of American politics, only eat into Democratic margins.

In specific places, they are doing even better. A Sienna College poll shows Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio, both running for reelection in Florida, above 50% among Hispanics. A new poll for The Nevada Independent has Republican Adam Laxalt, challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, down by only 2 points among Hispanics.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Progressives had Hispanics pegged as “non-white” voters, which meant they’d be animated by the same worldview as Black Americans and become nearly as immovably Democratic. The arbiters of such things even cooked up a new term for Hispanics, “Latinx,” to signal their assimilation into the hothouse world of “woke” politics, with its kaleidoscope of genders and other bizarre priorities.

Hispanic is an incredibly wide-ranging category including people from different countries and regions who may have lived here for generations or just got here recently.

Generalizations are inevitably simplifications, but it’s safe to say they don’t have much in common with Black Americans, who went through the uniquely searing experience of enslavement and systematic discrimination. Within memory, Black people had to fight for the basic legal protections of citizenship, whereas many Hispanics got here after 1980, when the most fundamental civil rights struggles had already been won.

In a piece for Spectator World, the Republican pollster Patrick Ruffini argues that Hispanics are tracing the basic trajectory of white Catholics as they assimilate, move to the suburbs, and hew to traditional values out of fashion with the nation’s elite.

Analyst Ruy Teixeira has noted the clashing cultural attitudes of “strong progressives” and Hispanics. According to Echelon Insights survey, 66% of progressives reject the idea that America is the greatest country in the world; 70% of Hispanics disagree. Asked whether racism is built into our society or comes from individuals, 94% of progressives say it is systemic, and 58% of Hispanics say it is from individuals. The same divides are evident on transgender sports, defunding the police, and the importance of hard work.

The picture is of a constituency that is going to be skeptical of a party that made excuses for the 2020 riots premised on the notion that America is fundamentally corrupt, or that is on board the rush to embrace a non-binary future. Needless to say, this is not FDR’s Democratic Party, which had such a hold on white Catholics for so long.

On the cultural questions in the Echelon survey, Hispanics are much closer to working-class voters than the “wokesters.” This shouldn’t be a surprise since about 80% of Hispanics over age 25 don’t have a four-year degree, whereas hyper-progressives are disproportionately college-educated. Like other working-class voters, Hispanics are focused on the economy, and give President Biden failing grades.

None of this means the Hispanic trend toward Republicans is inexorable. Rather, it shows that, despite Democratic hopes, these voters are up for grabs, and their support has to be earned like that of other Americans.

© 2022 by King Features Syndicate

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