From the start, Donald Trump spoke and acted like a Republican presidential candidate who wanted to lose. That strategy hasn’t worked too well in the Republican primaries, but Trump’s open racism makes him a nearly-unelectable general election nominee, especially among Hispanic voters.
As it stands, Hispanics represent the largest minority populations in the United States. With over 27.3 million newly-eligible Hispanic voters set to cast ballots this year for the first time, it should come as no surprise that this group has the potential to sway the entire election, particularly in swing states.
Historically, though Hispanics comprise a very large percentage of the U.S. population, they have a relatively low voter turnout. In February, the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies (CLACLS) found that, although 28 million Latinos were eligible to vote, only 48 percent cast a ballot in 2012.
But if history is any indication, this election could mark a major turning point in that trend.
In 1994, California Governor Pete Wilson, sponsored an initiative to restrict immigrants and their children from enjoying public education and health care. The proposition failed after many Latinos went to the polls to vote against it.
In 2012, Arizona politicians tried to introduce legislation to limit Latinos’ civil liberties through increased racial profiling. In the wake of the xenophobic bill’s passage, many grassroots organizations hosted voter drives. In fact, according to the grassroots organization Promise Arizona in Action, 11,975 Latinos in Arizona went to the polls to vote against the legislation, which represented a 28 percent increase compared to 2008.
In August of last year, according to a Rasmussen Reports telephone survey, 70 percent of potential Republican voters believed that a wall should be built along the U.S.-Mexican border, and 92 percent of those respondents support large-scale deportation efforts.
Recently, in Indiana, an elementary school student was publicly bullied at a school basketball game. Throughout the game, students at a predominantly white school chanted “Build the wall” as they held up pro-Trump signs to distract the other, primarily-Latino team.
In Northern Virginia, a student was told that he would be “sent home” when Trump becomes president.
In Boston, Knicks player Jose Calderon was heckled by Celtics fans who chanted “Go back to Mexico” and “build a wall.”
According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s “American Values Survey,” 56 percent of respondents believed that Hispanics face “a lot of discrimination” in America. However, that average belies a partisan split: only 42 percent of Republicans believe Hispanics face a disproportionate amount of discrimination, compared to 68 percent of Democrats.
As Donald Trump has made clear, 2016 will be a landmark year for racism in our electoral process. But Trump’s brand of anti-immigrant xenophobia cuts both ways. Turnout among white voters may increase, but they’re far outnumbered.
In fact, Mr. Trump’s comments have inspired political donors like George Soros to launch the“Immigrant Voters Win” PAC, a $15 million initiative to mobilize Latinos in swing states to register to vote. Univision has launched their own voter registration initiative as well, with a goal of registering 3 million new Latino voters.
Florida offers a valuable case study in how this could all play out for Donald Trump, should he be his party’s nominee. According to the Pew Research Center,
Among all Floridians, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in 2016. This is due in part to Hispanics, who accounted for 88% of growth in the number of registered Democrats between 2006 and 2016. During this time, the number of Hispanic registered voters increased by 61%, while the number of Hispanics identifying as Democrats increased by 83% and those having no party affiliation increased by 95%. The number of Hispanic Republican registered voters has grown too – but much more slowly (just 16%).
In 2014, a study from the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 62 percent of Latinos nationwide support Democratic candidates. According to the CLACLS, the relative surge of Latino voters can help decide election winners in swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania.
So, sure, Donald Trump won Florida. He also won Nevada — “even among Latinos!”
That is, among Latino Republican primary voters.
In Florida, according to Fortune, relatively few Latino Republicans came to vote and only 7 percent of the Latinos who did vote favored Trump.
The Nevada caucuses showed similarly unimpressive results: the Washington Post reported afterwards that, for all of Trump’s talk, he only won 2 percent of eligible Latino voters, “because there aren’t many Latino Republicans and because turnout in Nevada’s caucuses is very small.”
Surprise: Donald Trump knows how to twist statistics to say whatever he wants them to say. But that doesn’t change reality — 80 percent of Hispanics have a negative view of Donald Trump. And yes, their voices will be heard in November.
Photo: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump brings up a Latino member of the audience as he speaks during a campaign event in Tucson, Arizona March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich