Latinos Changed Politics
Accepted or Lose The Election!
From the book “The Latino Vote: The Future of American Politics”.
Driving to Los Angeles from San Diego, California I stopped at a fast food restaurant to get coffee. It can be a two-and-a-half-hour drive to a four-hour drive depending on traffic on the 5 or 805 freeway. The attendant wore a name tag with Maria written in big letters.
“What would you like?” she said flashing a happy smile.
“Buenos Dias (good morning),” I said in Spanish.
“Buenos Dias senor (good morning sir),” she answered.
Then she proceeded to take my order. I counted five people that I could see from the counter including what I could see of the kitchen. All speaking in Spanish or a mix of Spanish and English. The ladies at the counter spoke perfect English without a Mexican accent except for one of them. I noticed her accent, but other than that her speech was perfect.
“In California, Latinos are already the Ethnic majority since 2014 with Caucasians a close second”
If you live in Los Angeles, in San Diego, Chicago, anywhere in Texas or Florida, you probably have an ear for Spanish and maybe even some friends or family, colleagues or clients who speak it. In some of these States we have Latinos, especially Mexican Americans, as the majority of the population in only one more generation. In California, Latinos are already the Ethnic majority since 2014 with Caucasians a close second. But the gap is growing. What does this mean for politics?
The answer is not as simple as you might think.
At first glance you would probably say that all these votes will go to the Democratic Party. However, most Latinos are conservative by nature. They vote democrat because it’s the party for minorities. “How can I vote Republican if their candidate threatens to deport my parents?” one Latina voter asked me.
The US House of Representatives has 53 seats from California from the overall 435 available and only 14 are Republicans. To put this into perspective, Vermont and Delaware have one representative each. As more Latino voters influence the California law makers, the power of the Latino vote will be heard across the nation, not just in the Latinos most populous states.
Even heavily favorite Republican states such as Texas, with two Republicans as Senators, one of them, Ted Cruz, running for president in 2016, have a growing Latino shadow in politics. In the House of Representatives 25 seats are Republican and 10 are Democrats. Of those democratic seats only two are non-minority. This also points to a trend where according to the US Census Bureau 38.6% of the state population is Latino to 43.5% white.
What will happen to Texas when Latinos become the population majority and then the voting majority?
That will depend entirely on the approach of both parties to Latinos and other minorities. Stating they are pro-Latino or pro-Hispanic is not enough. Especially in southern states that feel every anti-Latino, anti-Mexican, and anti-immigration statements as a jab, a right hook, and an uppercut.
The immigration divide between parties was not always as black and white, as Democrat and Republican as it seems today. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush were very friendly towards immigrants from the south. President Reagan did his best to negotiate with his party and provide amnesty to three million undocumented immigrants. Opinions vary on his Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). Where along with amnesty came stronger border enforcement to deter more immigration. However, research paints a different picture of Reagan, one of an open border where people and trade can flow. This goes in line with his invisible hand capitalistic views.
“Reagan himself was a dreamer, capable of imagining a world without trade barriers. In announcing his presidential candidacy in Nov. 1979, he had proposed a “North American accord” in which commerce & people would move freely across the borders of Canada & Mexico”.
From the book: President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. Page 461 by Lou Cannon. Printed by Simon and Schuster Feb 1 1992.
I was at an investor’s conference in New Orleans speaking with passersby when a man approached our booth.
“Tell me about your fund,” he said.
“We’re creating a venture capital fund for investing in Mexico,” I started explaining.
“Investing in Mexico?” He asked cringing. “Why would you want to invest in Mexico if all the Mexicans are coming here illegally?” he said, shaking his head in obvious disapproval. His tone was angry and his face contoured into a dried prune.
“What should I say?” I thought. “Should I make a witty remark? Explain the GDP of Mexico, the immigration statistics, the culture? How about the Social Security surplus of $100 million left by those illegals? No, this would just escalate things,” I thought. I smiled at him. “Have a good conference,” I said. “If ignorance is bliss, this man is a saint,” I thought while walking away.
A month later I found myself at a private club in New York. Not a dance club mind you, but the type of club investment bankers and hedge fund managers go to rub shoulders in high end custom suits and twenty thousand dollar wristwatches. I was a guest of a potential client. There he introduced me to business owners and some of the investment community elite.
“Jorge,” one of them said. “What kind of name is that?”
“It’s a Spanish name,” I answered. “In my case it was given to me via Mexico from my mother,” I explained.
“Oh, you’re Mexican?” he asked.
“I was born and raised in Mexico,” I said. “My father is American.”
“My maid is Mexican,” he told me proudly.
“That’s nice,” I said grinning, smile frozen in place. I’m no stranger to this type of conversation.
“Her name is Maria,” he told me proudly. “But she’s not here illegally,” he made clear.
Again, I just smiled not knowing if I should tell him an illegal in New York doesn’t scare me. Or if I should inquire about his maid. Maybe he thinks we have something in common because he employs a maid. Would it be a difference if he tells me, “My doctor is Mexican. Or my attorney is Mexican. Or my Boss, the owner of the firm, is Mexican.” Would he even know his Attorney is Latino if he saw a tall blond Jewish man born in Mexico City? Probably not until he listened to his Spanish. Not knowing the answer to these questions is part of the problem. It’s part of not understanding the culture and now knowing how to relate to it.
I’m sure the man I spoke with didn’t mean anything by his comment. As I’m sure the man in New Orleans didn’t either. Just like many political candidates they don’t understand the language, the culture or even how to engage in small talk conversation. What happens here? Where is the disconnect? Why can movies, products, and services target Latinos while politicians, especially on the right, miss the mark?
About the Author
Jorge S. Olson is the author of the new book The Latino Vote: The Future of American Politics. A book that explores what are Latinos, what they do in the USA and why they will not just influence, but guide the future of American Politics.
Jorge specializes in influence and communications. He was born in Tijuana, Mexico and immigrated to the USA. In his book he explores how the labels of Latinos, Hispanics or Mexican-American were adopted and where they come from. He often states “I’m Latino but I don’t speak Latin”.
“After five years of thinking about it I finally decided to get political”. He says. Most of his work around Latinos deals with marketing and influence, not with politics, until now. Jorge is the author of several books and consults and speaks about Latinos and Influence all around the USA. He’s available for interviews and speaking engagements.