Wednesday’s Debate Will Highlight How Candidates Really See Latino Voters
Wednesday marks the first debate of the primary season where candidates will not just be asked to take voters of color into consideration but to address them directly. Nevada, where the first truly diverse caucus will be held Saturday, is comprised of about 29 percent Latinos, as reflected by the most recent U.S. Census information.
According to Pew Research, approximately 79 percent of the country’s Latino population are U.S. citizens. It is estimated that 32 million Latino Americans will be eligible to vote by 2020, and if the last midterm election is any indication, the population consistently shows up to cast ballots.
Pew Research reported:
“Latinos made up an estimated 11% of all voters nationwide on Election Day, nearly matching their share of the U.S. eligible voter population (U.S. citizens ages 18 and older).”
But just as is the case with any other racial or cultural group, concerns among Latino voters are not monolithic. Candidates must go beyond addressing the most common or highly publicized issues Latinos face and dig into different facets of communities. Immigration and treatment of immigrants is, of course, a hot topic, but it is hardly the only issue that drives Latino voters to the polls.
Wage growth, housing security, economic opportunity, cost of college, justice system reform, basic law and order, health care, property and business taxes…the same issues that plague white America keep Latino constituencies up at night.
Some fast facts that aren’t discussed nearly enough in today’s political climate:
- Latino-owned small businesses employ approximately 2.7 million Americans
- Hispanic/Latino college enrollment and graduation rates are steadily increasing, with 28 percent of young Latinos acquiring at least an associate degree
- Latinos are making up the lion’s share of homeownership gains in recent years
Democrats run the risk of oversimplifying the needs of the fastest growing voting block, just as they commonly do when considering black voters. A vote for the left is not a guarantee when people are balancing the needs of their personal and business bank accounts against choices offered on Election Day.
Candidates in general need to understand that appealing to voters of color requires more than speaking the language and appearing to be the most personable — they need to bring intelligible plans to the table and convince people they can pull those plans off.
Groups that have been in the minority or oppressed in any way tend to pay more attention to the fine print when they’re given the right to vote. They take the responsibility seriously and candidates need to return the favor.
Wednesday night’s debate will be a turning point in this race as a moment of accountability. It will reflect candidates’ understanding of the complexity that makes up this country. Respect they have, or do not have, for a diverse set of constituents will be the spotlight on that stage.
Proof will be in the receipts, not in the accents.