Progressive misconceptions on Latinos

No group is a monolith.

Rich Elfers

While a mere 3 percent of American voters overall have yet to decide on a presidential candidate, according to recent polls from Quinnipiac and Monmouth, 38 percent of registered Hispanic voters in 10 battleground states may be ambivalent about even voting. At least so far, this large group of Latinos seemingly perceives little reason to choose Mr. Biden over President Trump.” (Ian Haney Lopez and Tory Gavito: “This is How Biden Should Approach the Latino Vote”, September 18, 2020, NYT Opinion)

Latinos are the largest ethnic voting bloc in the nation after whites. That puts them in a position of power in battleground states. Based upon the article above, there seems to be a major misunderstanding among progressives about the nature of how people perceive race, especially Latinos. This misperception is instructive in our emphasis on race in this country.

Lopez and Gavito’s position is based upon an extensive study of 15 focus groups of Hispanic communities across the nation. Large groups of whites and Blacks were also polled.

Here was one of the statements shared with all racial groups: “The message condemned illegal immigration from places overrun with drugs and criminal gangs” and called for “fully funding the police, so our communities are not threatened by people who refuse to follow our laws.” This statement was considered to be a Republican “dog-whistle” (being racist without mentioning race) by the authors.

3/5 of white respondents were convinced by this statement. Surprisingly, the same number of Blacks agreed. The fraction was even higher among Latino communities. In other words, a majority of all racial groups surveyed agreed with this statement.

It must be remembered that not all Latinos think the same way. The problem is that progressive Latinos see being Hispanic as a race issue, while 3/4 of Hispanics do not categorize themselves as people of color. The overwhelming majority of Latinos do not see themselves as bound by racial ceilings of prejudice. They believe that if they work hard, they’ll be able to get ahead.

These authors encouraged Biden and the Democrats to operate with the sense that the way to beat Trump and get more minorities out to vote was by uniting all groups against the wealthy ruling elites who use race to divide us. These elites keep their power by dividing and continue to serve their own interests over the common good. They are able to control the agenda through their money and messaging.

All Americans need to do a paradigm shift of their focus from race and identity politics to acting as Americans united against a common enemy. All races have seen increased health risks, loss of jobs and businesses due to COVID-19 and the subsequent recession.

Our current president has used his bully pulpit to focus on our differences instead of what binds us together. During his entire time in office Trump has only appealed to his base, never trying to expand it even though he swore an oath to serve all the people.

We know from the 2016 election that the Russians used social media to stir up racial differences and create division and are undoubtedly at it again in this election.

Discouraging Latinos and Blacks from voting is part of Trump’s strategy to win the election. The survey that Lopez and Gavito wrote about teaches us that progressives have put Latinos into a box. It seems that both parties have gotten it wrong about race and politics. Republicans have used race for political gain while the Democrats have used race out of ignorance and stereotyping.

We need a leader who brings us together, united against a common foe—the wealthy elites—who have used our differences to divide and control us. They need to be reined in. The November elections are where it can start, if we can only get enough Americans to turn out to vote. That’s where each of you play a part. The “dog whistles” that have been used to divide us can be used to unite us if we focus on a common foe and the common good.

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