Amer­ica votes - the world awaits

Ne­vada surge sug­gests Lati­nos fi­nally flex­ing elec­toral mus­cle

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE -

Some­thing was miss­ing on Mon­day as sev­eral hun­dred or­gan­is­ers from the most po­lit­i­cally pow­er­ful union in Las Ve­gas ral­lied in prepa­ra­tion for a fi­nal push to elect Hil­lary Clin­ton as US pres­i­dent. Apart from a few cam­paign but­tons, the Demo­cratic can­di­date’s name was al­most nowhere to be seen.

In­stead, the fired-up foot sol­diers of Culi­nary Work­ers Union Lo­cal 226 – which rep­re­sents 56,000 ho­tel and casino work­ers in the Ne­vada gam­bling cap­i­tal, most of them Latino – sported red-white-and­black T-shirts that made their mis­sion clear. The most dra­matic of them said in big block let­ters: DE­FEAT TRUMP.

The scene at the union hall re­called the New­to­nian law that for ev­ery ac­tion there is an equal and op­po­site re­ac­tion. Don­ald Trump’s state­ments dis­parag­ing Mex­i­can im­mi­grants have sparked a po­lit­i­cal back­lash that has seen an­gry Latino vot­ers flock to the polls in states that per­mit early vot­ing.

Mrs Clin­ton went into the fi­nal hours of vot­ing with a Latino fire­wall in some bat­tle­ground states – in­clud­ing Ne­vada and pos­si­bly in more pop­u­lous Florida, as well – that have large pop­u­la­tions of peo­ple with roots in Span­ish-speak­ing coun­tries.

Mr Trump still could find enough white sup­port­ers to win the White House. But if he does not, the elec­tion could wind up be­ing re­mem­bered as a demon­stra­tion of the grow­ing po­lit­i­cal power of His­pan­ics, who make up 17% of the US pop­u­la­tion but have gen­er­ally been less likely to vote than other groups.

“We are go­ing to have his­toric Latino turnout,” said Ruben Ki­huen, 36, who was born in Mex­ico and is now run­ning in Ne­vada as a Demo­cratic can­di­date for the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. “It could be the be­gin­ning of a new wave – not just of Latino vot­ing but of Latino rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

The turnout has been par­tic­u­larly dra­matic in Las Ve­gas,

where mem­bers of Lo­cal 226 – known lo­cally as ‘the Culi­nary’ – have been pur­su­ing a mul­ti­pronged strat­egy to pun­ish Mr Trump at the bal­lot box and elect Mrs Clin­ton in the process.

This year, the union has helped 2,200 of its mem­bers who were US per­ma­nent res­i­dents ob­tain cit­i­zen­ship so they could vote, ac­cord­ing to Bethany Khan, a spokes­woman for Lo­cal 226. At the same time, union mem­bers have been tak­ing leave of ab­sence to work-full time on voter reg­is­tra­tion ef­forts.

Maria Lan­deros, a 56-year-old mother of three who came to the US from Mex­ico as a young wo­man, es­ti­mated she has helped sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple reg­is­ter to vote since tak­ing leave from her job as a house­keeper at the MGM Grand Las Ve­gas in July.

She made the de­ci­sion to work full-time on voter reg­is­tra­tion – the union pays her for her time – be­cause of the things Mr Trump said. “He’s a racist. He’s a hater,” she said. “He doesn’t have re­spect. We want to stop Don­ald Trump. He’s dan­ger­ous.”

In more re­cent weeks, ‘the Culi­nary’ has been help­ing take vot­ers to the polls. A check­list on the wall of its union hall lists four ques­tions for or­gan­is­ers: “When will you vote? Where will you vote? What time will you vote? Do you need a ride?”

Even union mem­bers who are not cit­i­zens have been get­ting into the act, urg­ing col­leagues and neigh­bours who can vote to go to the polls, ac­cord­ing to Ms Khan. “They are say­ing, ‘Vote for me. Vote for our fam­ily. Vote for our com­mu­nity’.”

The in­ten­sity of the anti-Trump feel­ing in Latino Las Ve­gas came into fo­cus last Fri­day night dur­ing the last day of early vot­ing in Ne­vada. So many peo­ple lined up to vote at the Car­de­nas Mar­ket – pre­vi­ously known for its tacos and other Mex­i­can fare – that polling hours were ex­tended.

“Looks like Trump got his wall af­ter all. A wall of beau­ti­ful vot­ers,” tweeted Yvanna Cancela, the po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor of the culi­nary union.

Data re­leased by the Ne­vada state govern­ment show that far more Democrats than Repub­li­cans voted early in Clark County, which in­cludes Las Ve­gas and is home to most of the state’s vot­ers. Jon Ral­ston, a lead­ing po­lit­i­cal pun­dit in Ne­vada, said the dif­fer­ence – 72,000 votes – sug­gested that “Trump is dead” in the state.

“Noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble this year, but the math says that Ne­vada is pretty se­cure for Clin­ton,” said Billy Vas­sil­iadis, the in­flu­en­tial Ne­vada ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive whose com­pany R&R Part­ners de­vised the “what hap­pens here, stays here” Las Ve­gas slo­gan.

Be­cause Mr Trump has so few paths to an elec­toral col­lege ma­jor­ity, los­ing Ne­vada could prove fa­tal to his cam­paign for the pres­i­dency. What hap­pens in Las Ve­gas, in other words, might not stay there. It could change his­tory.

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