The data is overwhelming: one in three citizens that the United States Office identifies as “Hispanics” voted in the last presidential elections in favor of re-electing Donald Trump as president.
According to the latest Pew Center report, the Republican candidate, who made his repudiation of immigrants his favorite campaign flag, reached 38 percent of Latino preferences. From there, Jorge Ramos, probably the most recognized public figure within this community, builds a brilliant narrative, but in the end, wrong.
In a recent text, the star host of Televisa-Univision recovers the old thesis attributed to Ronald Reagan according to which “Latinos are Republicans. They just don’t know it,” in reference to the supposed conservative roots of Latin American immigrants.
Beyond the interesting reflections of the veteran journalist to explain what really happens on this issue – such as recognizing that the Hispanic vote is not monolithic, considering the Catholic influence on Latino immigrants, as well as highlighting the weight that rhetoric could have anti-socialist against the Democratic candidate -, to understand the real importance of the Latino political muscle, it is essential to consider at least two more factors: the electoral result as a whole and the very concept of “Latino identity”.
Let’s look at the Trump factor first. Although he undoubtedly lost the election, the fact is that he came very close to winning it. To have obtained more than 74 million votes from an intolerant and isolationist proposal is itself a major issue.
For those of us who do not want to accept that half of American society agrees with racist and hateful positions that will open the doors to fascism in the United States, the central question is not why 6 million Hispanics preferred the gentleman with the orange toupee over Joe Biden, but, understand why they, plus the vast majority of the white evangelical population, broader sectors of the lowest education, plus those who got hooked on the artificial growth of speculative markets, preferred the lord of lies.
To deny the condition of the Trump factor as a symptom would be a serious mistake. It would also be to deny the vast social fatigue in the face of a deeply worn economic and political system. We must recognize that we live in interesting times that in various countries of the world have been the reason why so many people consider cathartic illusions of change in diffuse anti-system proposals, the trivialization of public life and permanent attacks on professional politicians, media communication and “elites” that Trump himself represented so well.
It is true that his vertiginous rise in popularity began with his insults to Mexicans: “bad men”, “criminals” and “rapists” and, of course, his infamous promise to build 2,000 miles of his “great Wall”. And still, in 2016 he got 28 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Then, from the White House, he continued to open whatever Pandora’s box he found in his path: contempt for Islam, for women, for “shitty countries”, and even, in the words of Ramos, with his arrogant rudeness throwing away toilet paper to the survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017.
What is relevant is that, despite his abuse of the presidential pulpit and his exceptional talent for controlling the public narrative from his twitter account, the Trump project collapsed. Joseph Biden is president in large part because 10 million Hispanics voted for him. The Hispanic vote was the highest in history. In part, as happened to Reagan and George W. Bush himself, because a third of them have decided to vote for the Republican standard-bearer in search of a second presidential term.
The second big issue is the “Latino identity” itself. Concept born on a desk –the 1960s Census Bureau–, the Hispanic universe is 100% American. Except for Bolivarian rhetoric – almost exclusively used by the cross-border ambitions of some Latin American presidents – the idea of building the same identity for 60 million people from the shared use of a language, some cultural roots are, to say the least, a rather diffuse matter.
If it weren’t for the interests that want to see that in a couple of decades this market will represent a third of the country’s population, it should be enough to recognize that about half of those who are classified as Hispanics by the census are people who they see themselves as “white.” As has historically happened with other waves of immigrants – Germans, Italians, Irish, Jews, etc. – after a few generations, the use of the mother tongue ends up being diluted.
A nation of immigrants, the United States remains a country of dual nationalities. Italian-Americans, Mexican Americans, Jewish-Americans, Cuban Americans, Korean Americans, and a long etcetera. The first for family celebrations and cultural traditions, and the second for going to war, paying taxes, and doing business.
The very issue of remittances, an economic lifeline for Mexico and almost all Central America, beyond showing the deep affection of migrants with their families, is a clear demonstration of the material progress of the new Americans. So misunderstood from south of the Rio Grande, that money represents about 5 percent of their income.
Therefore, if the Hispanic vote will happen to some extent what happens with the African American electorate – who overwhelmingly vote Democratic most of the time – is somewhat naive. Or what follows it.