If the Latino vote keeps being taken for granted, the sleeping giant will never wake
CHICAGO >> News stories are starting to trickle out citing “deep concern” about whether Hispanics -- who, polls show, prefer Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump -will head to polls in the numbers the Democrats need in order to win.
But a better question is: Why should Latinos be expected to turn out to vote when so little attention is paid to them? They seem to matter only to journalists hot to publish overly simplistic reports proclaiming that Hispanics will either be decisive or again fail to punch their weight on Election Day.
To put this in perspective, here’s what a new weekly poll — a collaboration among the Hispanic polling firm Latino Decisions, Telemundo News and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) — has to say about what Latino outreach looks like in the weeks before the election:
While more than 91 percent of polled Latino registered voters stated they would more than likely cast ballots this year, more than 60 percent reported that they had not been contacted by a campaign, political party or organization.
For all the talk about “The Sleeping Giant” and demography-as-destiny, the major political campaigns are effectively making assumptions about what Hispanics will do come November and then leaving it all to chance.
Why? Because Latinos happen to be concentrated in a few key states and when those states are written off as a lock for a particular candidate, no resources for voter education or turnout are invested in them, setting up a loselose situation.
Vargas told me that he has warned top leaders in the Clinton campaign that they cannot travel to the west side of Los Angeles to fundraise and then never bother to cross into the east side of town to engage with the Hispanics that make up one out of every three Latino voters in the state.
Worse, when you take whole constituencies for granted in one geographic region, it ripples outward in a vicious cycle that has the effect of suppressing voter turnout.
As with all other major movements, infrastructure building is key. The Latino vote will never live up to its potential if it has to practically start from scratch every new election cycle.
I’ve asked the heads of many Latino advocacy organizations how best to create long-term change and the answer is always more money — but timing is just as important.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at Toledo Express Airport in Swanton, Ohio, on Monday.