The Future of the Latino Vote, If There Is Such a Thing
If Hispanics swung for former President Donald Trump in some states and against him in others in the 2020 election, is there such a thing as a generic Latino vote? Among the most unorthodox answers—which is not for that reason mistaken—is that of Miami writer Alex Perez. He argues that his hometown is unique insofar as traditional polling, policy wonkery, and ideological point-scoring fail to capture what appeals to its voters: not “‘serious’ politics,” but rather aesthetics that reflect the city’s tropical, party atmosphere, in itself a result of a blend between Latino culture and the “classic American idea of ‘work hard, play hard.'”
Perez attributes the former president’s success in South Florida to a “Trumpian aesthetic” that projected “a carnivalesque, raucous good time: where the energy of a tailgate, and not of politics, carried the day.” Trump’s showpiece was a salsa song by Cuban group Los 3 de la Habana, whose video highlighted Latino families living “the good life” due to a booming, presumably pre-COVID economy under Trump (pronounced in its Latinized version: Tron). Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s dreary campaign reflected the Democrats’ conversion into the party of H.R. department scolds. The maximum expression of this worldview is the use of the term Latinx to refer to Hispanics, who are mostly confounded by the word’s meaning.
While Perez claims that Trump’s choice of salsa beats added several percentage points to his Florida vote, Spanish journalist Emilio Doménech even tweeted that the song led to outright victory in the state. This theory fails to convince Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, who argues that the salsa theory insults the intelligence of Latinos, an increasingly sophisticated group of voters “when it comes to making election decisions based on policy.”
Latinos in South Florida and the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas showed similar swings toward Trump, who gained 23 percentage points in Miami-Dade County and flipped Zapata County, Texas, for the first time since the 19th century. The difference, Garza points out, was that the Republican Party invested heavily in mobilizing Hispanics in South Florida, where it has a well-oiled political machine. That is not the case in the Texas border area, where Latinos mobilized spontaneously and educated each other around the key issues: the Second Amendment, energy policy, economic opportunity, school choice, and the importance of constitutionalist Supreme Court justices who would uphold the freedoms of worship and free speech.
Like the rest of Americans, Garza says, Latinos tend to distrust the media and political parties, whereas their neighbors, fellow churchgoers, and other parents at their children’s schools have much greater credibility. Garza, a Rio Grande Valley native, noticed that these communities, which are united b
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