The Latino paradox of the Republican party
Hispanics are aiming to break precedent on both sides of the ballot box.
For the first time ever two – yes, two – Hispanics are vying for a shot on the Republican presidential ticket. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas are both solid contenders.
In a strange parallel universe known as the electorate, Hispanics – particularly Hispanic youths – make up a large chunk of eligible voters. They are a force to be reckoned with. Statistics show that every 30 seconds a Hispanic turns 18, which is why Hispanic millennials make up 44 percent of the 27.3 million eligible Latino voters.
Yet these two aren’t meeting in the middle. This dynamic is more of a Batman versus Joker parody: an immovable wall meeting an unstoppable force.
Sure, Hispanic voters aren’t known for turning out in primaries. And like all aspects of American politics, there’s a polar split, primary and general elections being no exception.
“The primaries tend to be non-Hispanic whites (who are) more conservative, evangelicals that have nothing in common – except maybe religion – with Latino voters,” associate professor of American and Latino Politics Jeronimo Cortina said.
Rubio and Cruz, both of Cuban descent, have no empathy for the immigration plight, even though Cubans have historically been given refugee status that expedited their paths to citizenship.
Both senators are running stanch immigration reform, anti-legalization campaigns. Or at least Cruz is; Rubio flip-flops on that issue. Both candidates play down their ethnicity to keep in cahoots with the more conservative voters. They’re the difference between “descriptive” and “substantive” representation.
“During the Chicano movement we were fighting to have a seat at the table,” Cortina said. “Now it’s more about substantive, bread and butter issues.”
Historically, Latinos have never voted red, nor have they really voted at all recently. A record low for Hispanic turnout took place in 2014 – an estimated 18.3 million out of the total 25.1 million eligible voters didn’t vote. But it’s pretty clear that those who show up won’t be vying for Rubio or Cruz’s descriptive representation.
Which brings up the greatest irony of the Republican primary: the Trump card.
Latino voters still don’t know how they feel about the majority of the candidates. For the most part, it’s because they still don’t really know the candidates, which is to be expected this far out from the general election. Except with Trump. The voters’ disdain for him is higher than any other candidate.
“Everything Trump has said (about) ‘rapists, criminals’… Latinos take it very personally,” Cortina said.
Latinos are dubbed the least politically active, but can Trump break that losing streak and mobilize 27.3 million Latinos – no matter their specific races and cultures – with his disgusting, racist rhetoric?
As the primary race ticks down, UH will host a GOP debate this month, days before Super Tuesday, and it’s garnering attention.
“This will be the first time…in modern memory that Texas will make a difference in the Republican primary,” Paul Simpson, Harris County Republican Party Chairman, said.
Texas has 155 GOP delegates, the second most of any state, on Super Tuesday. Republican turn out is expected to be the biggest yet, an anticipated 300,000 as opposed to 161,250 from 2012. Despite rampant assumptions, that alone won’t ensure Texas stays red.
“The reality of the nation is Texas with our diversity, we are the new political reality,” Cortina said.
The stakes are high. The candidates are polarized. Latino voters might just be ready to throw their weight around.
Should it really take two decades and blatant racism to send Latinos to to the ballot box? Is Trump actually the Dark Knight we all know we don’t want? The real Latino electorate needs to stand up.
Opinion columnist Leah Lucio is a journalism senior and may be reached at [email protected]