What is driving Hispanics away from the Democratic Party?

What is driving Hispanics away from the Democratic Party?
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

If you’ve been following this issue then you know that President Trump’s inroads with Hispanic voters in 2020 was cause for serious concern among Democrats despite the fact that they eventually gained control of the White House and the Senate.

That same worry cropped up again after the Republican sweep in the Virginia elections. There were conflicting reports over what happened in VA, with an AP/Fox News poll claiming Youngkin won the Hispanic vote while an alternate poll by Edison Research claimed McAuliffe won the Hispanic vote by 2:1. (Hispanics are a small percentage of the electorate in Virginia making precise polling difficult.) But as I pointed out at the time, elections analyst Sean Trende noticed some evidence Hispanic voters had moved right in New Jersey as well:

Yesterday, Ed wrote about the latest evidence that something really has shifted. A Wall Street Journal poll found that Hispanic voters were evenly split on the 2022 congressional ballot. Suddenly it looks like the shift that started under Trump is not only real, it has the potential to dramatically impact the outcome of future elections.

The obvious question is about all of this is why is this happening? There has to be some reason that Hispanic voters are moving away from the Democratic party. One possible explanation was put forward today on Twitter by Noah Smith who I’m not sure I’ve ever agreed with before about anything. His take is that it’s not just the words Democrats are using, it’s the dark picture of America so many in the party have embraced:

He doesn’t get specific here but another way to put this (at least in my view) would be that Democrats’ main message about America often seems like a toss up between the 1619 Project and AOC. Either way it’s a cruel place and a miserable failure for anyone who isn’t white and wealthy. But what if Hispanics, many of whom come from places of actual privation, violence and tyranny, don’t see it that way at all?

Jabs at conservatives aside, his main point is that for a lot of Hispanic immigrants, America is a great place where economic miracles, like going from having nothing to being solidly middle class, can still happen in just one generation.

Smith does get specific about the other narrative, the one that he believes is hurting Democrats.

He wraps up his thread with a prediction. If progressives don’t ditch the negativism toward America, the Hispanic shift we’re seeing now away from the Democratic party is going to stick and probably grow.

Smith isn’t the first person to make this argument. In fact, last year after the data came out showing that Trump did better than expected with Hispanic voters, Rev. Al Sharpton said this:

“He has done better than, in my judgment, he should have with Black men and Hispanics, which means that we’ve got to really look in the civil rights community, both on the Latino and the African American side, on a real conversation in our communities on what it is to be different in terms of being entrepreneurial aspirants and being fair in terms of how we look from the whole,” Sharpton said on “Morning Joe.”

“I think he appealed to some that wanted to feel that they had to be a certain kind of way to be aspirational and that you can be that and still be centrists,” Sharpton continued.

It’s a bit of a word salad to be honest, but I think what he’s saying is that Trump appealed to Hispanic voters who believed in the American dream. What I think Noah Smith added to that is that Hispanics have every reason to feel that way because America has delivered on those aspirations for so many of them.

Honestly, I don’t see any easy way out of this problem for Democrats. The woke contingent of the party who are pushing the various critical takes on America are not going to stop. In many cases it’s their brand and their livelihood. And for many of the progressive negativos on Twitter, it’s their identity.

Biden can ignore that at his peril. If he says nothing then the loudest, shrillest voices in the room will continue to dominate and Hispanic voters will probably continue to drift away. If on the other hand Biden starts talking more optimistically about America, he’s going to rankle the same noisy contingent of woke believers within his own party. That will create more internal conflict which recent polls suggest voters don’t like and which some have said is killing the Democratic brand. If there’s a win-win for Democrats to be had in this situation, I don’t see it.

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Duane Patterson 2:01 PM on June 05, 2023