Dems must include Latino voices, or lose their votes
Incredibly, Hispanics can simultaneously be the center of a national conversation, yet be virtually ignored when it comes to discussing immigration as a factor in the elections.
With few exceptions, Latino journalists, political scientists, demographers and immigration experts — were all but shut out of English-language election-night reporting and analysis that, in many cases, focused on the role immigration and Hispanics played.
“How can we be 59 million Latinos in the U.S. and not be invited to the news desk? MSNBC had a Latinx reporter from USA Today — ONE. Shaking My Head,” tweeted Rebecca Aguilar, the founder of the Latina Journalists Facebook group and diversity chair of the Society of Professional Journalists.
This is why I took to Twitter to ask Latino journalists for the election-night insights the whole country should have benefited from but didn’t.
Many of the responses I received said that the dearth of Latino journalists and pundits was especially galling in light of this year’s big headlines. “Latinos were suddenly disappeared from election coverage despite Hurricane Maria, [the] Puerto Rico vote, Central American migration, border-security issues, candidate wins, etc.,” said Tanzina Vega, the host of WNYC’s “The Takeaway.”
Journalists on the ground were eager to talk about delays, broken machines, rejected ballots and poor customer service at the polls, misfires that were amplified by underwhelming investments in basic Latino voter outreach.
“We don’t have leaders in place that are making our votes important. Here in Chicago, at my polling place, there was no Spanish translator,” said Susan Rivera, a freelance writer at WGN-TV. “I had to help a Mexican couple in their 80s, two elderly Puerto Rican women [and] an 18-year-old new citizen vote. The 18-year-old I helped stood out the most ... she had basic, fundamental questions about voting. Who is reaching out to Latinos ahead of elections?”
Not only did campaigns underinvest in helping new Latino voters cast ballots, there were reports from all over the country that organizations providing interpreters for languages like Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Hindi and Bengali weren’t allowed to translate for the people they showed up to assist.
“The Democratic Party has A LOT of work to do with Latino/a voters. A LOT,” said Maria Hinojosa, president of the Futuro Media Group and co-host of the “In The Thick” political podcast. “They could have delivered Beto [O’Rourke]/[Andrew] Gillum. And then the perennial question: Who are these Republican Latinx voters in Texas and Florida? What moves them? And if they vote Republican now under Trump, then, will they ever turn away?”
Suzanne Gamboa of NBC News noted three details that often get overlooked: “Latino Tailored outreach in Spanish and English has impact. There are still enough Latinos voting Republican to help Republicans win in some places. [And] the ‘suburban vote’ includes Latinos.”
Indeed, most of the writers that weighed in said something along the lines of what freelancer Claudia Garcia-Rojas shared: “Latinx people are treated as a monolith. There’s little to no reporting, for example, on why such a big percentage of Latinx people voted for GOP folks. The face of Latinx issues are Mexicans, but even within the Mexican diaspora, there are differing political views. Better reporting by media, please.”
Questions about why so many Latinos vote Republican referenced Democratic Rep. O’Rourke’s loss to incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas. But even though O’Rourke — who is not Hispanic — lost the race, his Latino-centric campaign sent a few clear messages.
“A bilingual and bicultural Anglo was the major force behind driving Texas Hispanic turnout,” said Roque Planas, a national immigration and political reporter for The Huffington Post. “Targeting a message to specific Latino communities and staking out clear positions on their issues is as important — or maybe more so — than the ethnicity of the candidate.”
Multiplatform journalist Matthew Reich, editor of the “In Focus: America” newsletter, added, “I think it has to be understood a candidate needs an ‘overall’ message for Latinx people beyond immigration.” Journalism student Luciano Gonzalez of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro added, “In many cases, it wasn’t the big media attention and celebrity endorsements that won the day for either party but solid ground game and organizing.”
I’ll let Refinery29 reporter Andrea Gonzalez-Ramírez close out with a thought on the opportunity that last week’s elections illuminated: “Women of color, including Latinas, are 10,000 percent electable. But there needs to be institutional support, both from Latinx and mainstream organizations, in order to create a pipeline for future candidates.”
Esther Cepeda is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.