The presidential election may all come down to the Latino vote.
That’s what I think, at least. Lots of pollsters agree — but it’s Election Day, and they still can’t quite predict how the Latino vote will split. Because (again, in my opinion) as a nation, we still don’t understand the diversity of Latinos.
That’s why I decided to spend Election Day and The Day After Election Day in San Antonio — the blue heart of a deep red state, home to liberal Democrats and new immigrants who are staunchly anti-Trump. But it’s also home to the Alamo, where Latinos helped win Texas' independence from Mexico. Those are the rebellious origins of a nuanced Latino demographic that supports Trump and doesn’t identify with more recent Latino immigrants.
At least, that’s what George Antuna told me over breakfast tacos this morning. He’s a co-founder of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas political action committee.
“‘I’m an American. I’m not a Mexican. I just happen to have Mexican descent.’ That’s how they’re thinking in their minds,” he says. “So when Trump says, ‘We have drug traffickers coming across the border, we have murderers coming across the border,’ in many cases they don’t identify [as the people Trump’s talking about] because they’re not them.”
Those third-, fourth- and fifth-generation Latino Americans — often suburban and of a higher socioeconomic level — make Texas the red state it is, instead of a purple one that could lean toward Democrat Hillary Clinton. Antuna says many Latino Trump supporters associate Clinton with the political classes in Central and South America.
“You have political classes in Mexico, and the locals see them as having everything," Antuna says.
"So when they come here, they don’t want a political class. That’s the last thing they want,” he adds. “Do we really want to go that route again, where we want somebody who’s been in the political class for 30-plus years — or someone who hasn’t?’”
But Trump wasn’t Antuna’s first choice for the Republican presidential candidate. Trump wasn’t even Antuna’s third choice. Fundamentally, though, his support of Trump and the Republican Party comes down to giving Latinos political choices. He thinks Democrats have taken Latinos for granted, and Latinos won’t have political power until two parties are vying for their votes.
“There’s other racial groups in the country that only align themselves with one party. And that one party takes their vote for granted, and the other doesn’t pay attention to them. You don’t want that. You want both parties courting you at all times,” Antuna says. “At the end of the day, we need to have another true option for Latinos within the political spectrum. Having one party dominate a certain sector of the community is no good for anyone.”
I’ll get reaction to that later today, as I follow millennial Latino Democrats going door-to-door to get out the vote. I’m also visiting election parties, house parties, campaign headquarters — and will report back to you tomorrow.
From PRI's The World ©2016 PRI