The Latino electorate is geographically and ethnically diverse. The Democrats made key errors when campaigning—and it cost them a larger victoryby Daniel Rey / November 18, 2020 / Leave a comment
Latinos in the US have been hit especially hard by this year’s recession, are more vulnerable to the virus than any other race, and have been subject to the prejudiced outbursts of President Donald Trump. Democrats may never face a Republican candidate as unfriendly to Latinos than the outgoing president.
And yet, data from detailed exit polls suggest that compared to 2016, Trump increased his share of Latino votes by four percentage points in the latest election.
The Latino electorate is geographically and ethnically diverse. Some voters were drawn to Trump’s economic record; others to his foreign policy, and others to his social conservativism. And although Latinos were critical in helping Joe Biden flip the Rust Belt states, Trump’s gains suggest the Democrats made significant strategic errors when trying to court Latino voters.
The case in point is Florida, home to roughly 1.5 million Cubans and a rapidly-growing Venezuelan diaspora. 58 per cent of registered voters in Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county, were Latino, and more than one in four of its eligible voters were Cuban. There, Trump’s share of vote rose by 22 per cent.
Trump has courted anti-socialist Venezuelan and Cuban exiles throughout his presidency. In February 2017, during his first month in office, he hosted the wife of a jailed Venezuelan protest leader at the White House. Six months later, he imposed severe economic sanctions on the regime of Nicolás Maduro. Further sanctions followed, and opposition leader Juan Guaidó was Trump’s guest at this year’s State of the Union address. As for Cuba, Trump rolled back several Obama-era measures to normalise relations. In 2017, he reinstated travel and business restrictions. He made them stricter in 2019 and, just six weeks before the election, he tightened them further.
On the other hand, as Obama’s vice-president, Biden could be seen as soft on Latin American socialism. Despite his denunciations of Maduro as a dictator, he was unable to shake off an association with left-wing figures in the Democratic Party such as Bernie Sanders, who praised elements of the Cuban revolution during the primaries; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been equivocal in her condemnation of Maduro. Trump lost no opportunity to present Biden as a crypto-socialist.