The mainstream media believes Latino voters are a monolith. But they're wrongby Daniel Rey / October 29, 2020 / Leave a comment
Asked by the press whether he had any new perspectives on Latin America following his tour of the region in 1982, President Ronald Reagan responded, “You’d be surprised, because, you know, they’re all individual countries.”
It’s easy to laugh at Reagan’s comment, yet the president was trying to articulate something that is little understood in the United States—Latin America’s diversity. Almost four decades later, with 32m Latinos eligible to vote in next week’s presidential election, that diversity is a major part of American democracy. And whilst there is much that unites Latinos, they are far from monolithic.
This year, for the first time, Latinos are the largest minority group in the US electorate. With four million Latinos enfranchised since 2016, they now represent 13 per cent of potential voters. Their ballots could determine the swing states of Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and—most importantly of all—Florida.
Yet too often political commentators and armchair pundits bunch Latinos together uncritically, as though—by virtue of cultural similarities—they are bound to think the same way. That’s equating a Mexican agricultural worker in California with a blue-collar Puerto Rican in the Bronx and a Cuban anti-communist in Miami. And even those examples are stereotypes.
To give a sense of the electoral implications of this heterogeneity, it’s worth remembering that Hillary Clinton convinced two-thirds of Latino voters to cast their ballot for her in 2016. That’s double the number that opted for Trump, but still means that nearly one in three Latinos voted for a candidate who promised to build the wall and stereotyped Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals and rapists. “Latino voters” (or “Latinx voters”, in woke parlance) might be a convenient catch-all term, but it obscures their individuality.
Just as it would be vague to speak of “the white vote”—as though there were not major discrepancies between, for example, the white working class and white suburbanites—the term “Latino vote” conceals major sociological and political differences.
Campaign teams are acknowledging the nuances in the Latino . Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez launched an all-Spanish Twitter account earlier this year; and, in the presidential election, Spanish language adverts are micro-targeted to different states, and even different communities within the same state. For Phoenix, Arizona, the narrator of a Biden campaign message has a Mexican accent. When the same…