Samuel Rodriguez: What Biden should learn about how Latinos voted in 2020
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A few hours after Joe Biden was projected to win the 2020 presidential election, the former vice president made a big vow to the American people: “I will be a president for all Americans.”
I hope Biden lives up to his promise, but if he truly means it, he will need to start by understanding why one-third of Latinos chose President Trump over him in the election.
Of course, there have always been conservative Latinos in America who historically have voted for Republican candidates. But I believe there is a unique and growing movement of conservative Latinos who have been energized by President Trump’s agenda to ensure limited government, promote the sanctity of human life, defend religious freedom and vehemently reject the left’s socialist agenda.
The clearest evidence of this movement is in Florida, a battleground state Biden lost to Trump. Trump gained a whopping 12 points among Florida Latinos, getting nearly half of the entire Latino vote in the state. In a more telling statistic, Trump got 55% of the Cuban-American vote, a group that rejects socialism’s failed policies. In fact, to the surprise of many, Trump did better nationwide with Latinos this election than in 2016.
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Latinos are now the second-largest group of eligible voters in America, according to Pew Research. And states like Florida are indicating that conservative Latinos could be the new swing vote in key elections. Unfortunately, Democrats for years have been ignoring the conservative Latino vote.
Since the end of the Obama presidency, the Democratic Party, under the influence of politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have dabbled in radical socialist ideologies and in the process they have disenfranchised many Latinos who have fresh memories of the repressive regimes they escaped from in Latin America.
On top of this, by endorsing late-term abortion, undermining religious freedom and limiting school choice, the Democrats have persistently told conservative Latinos their concerns and deeply held beliefs do not matter to the party.
Biden repeated the Democratic Party’s mistake this year. He didn’t make a campaign stop in Florida until September, less than two months away from the election, and his lack of outreach to Latinos, especially conservatives and evangelicals, was roundly criticized.
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Biden would do well to learn from how Trump courted the Latino vote. The president consistently spoke to the interests of conservative Latinos, and despite his tweets and rhetorical faux pas, his message of economic empowerment, educational freedom and religious liberty has resonated. As one Latino campaign strategist explained to a major network, “Trump showed up in Florida and listened to us. He asked us what our issues are and addressed them.”
While Biden and the Democrats banked on the president’s tough talk on immigration to be enough reason for all Latinos to turn away from him, they didn’t realize Trump was connecting with many Latino voters in other ways.
Immigration, as important as it is for our community, is not the only or even our primary concern. Obama understood this in 2008. George W. Bush did before him. Trump has understood this since 2016. But we have no evidence that Biden does.
The chief concern for Latinos is the future of their children — they want their sons and daughters to get a good education and attain economic opportunities, they want to raise their families in safe neighborhoods and they want to be able to worship freely. Much of this is lived out in communities of faith, often evangelical or traditional Catholic.
Even in the final days before the election, the Trump White House was hosting phone calls with Latino leaders to talk about these very issues and Trump’s plan — The American Dream Plan — to deliver on economic advancement and educational opportunities for the Latino community.
While Biden has outlined a plan that makes similar promises, he shouldn’t assume conservative Latinos will flock to him — especially if he wants to limit funds for school choice programs and enforce more lockdowns, which will severely impact Latino-owned businesses, and if he remains hesitant about boldly renouncing the movement to defund police departments.
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Most important, Biden needs to stand against the socialist wave sweeping the Democratic Party that wants to do away with religious freedom and advance an extreme abortion agenda.
If Biden listens to the concerns of conservative Latinos, he may well help restore our community’s faith in the Democratic Party — and in the process, he will prove he truly is a president for all Americans.
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