Politicians can’t afford to ignore Latinos
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Every Mexican has heard the legend of el chupacabra. No one’s ever seen the mythical creature, but people across Latin America still believe in it. Think of it as the Latino Bigfoot.

I have spent my entire political career hearing story after story about the growth of the Latino demographic. Legend has it that Latinos will turn Texas into California, Latinos will be the key to winning Georgia and North Carolina, and Latinos will be the key vote in winning prized, battleground states, like Florida and Nevada.

But much like el chupacabra, many argue the Latino vote -- the sleeping giant -- is just a myth.

To those who make that argument, I would say that el chupacabra has actually been walking down Main Street in broad daylight.

In 1994, when California Governor Pete Wilson (R) put forth Proposition 187 targeting undocumented immigrants throughout to make them ineligible for public benefits, Democrats and their partners smartly invested over 40 million dollars in registering, educating, and mobilizing Latino families to vote against this proposition. Because of that investment, California turned deep blue. The state Speaker of the House and the president of the State Senate of California are now Latino.

In 2010, Latinos in Nevada were the largest factor in re-electing Senator Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBarr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks Harry Reid warns Trump 'can be reelected' Homeland Security Republican accuses Navy of withholding UFO info MORE.

When most people had written him off, but Senator Reid won by 41,424 votes with over 94 percent of the Latino vote.

In 2012, the Latino vote was crucial during the presidential election between President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKrystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans Sanders campaign announces it contacted over 1 million Iowa voters Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE and Mitt Romney, Governor of Massachusetts. Just eight years earlier, George W. Bush had gotten 42 percent of the Latino vote, but Mitt Romney only received 27 percent of the Latino vote, after championing for a self-deportation policy.

Meanwhile, President Obama won reelection with more than 70% of the Latino electorate.

In 2016, el chupacabra is getting ready for a one-man Broadway show.

On one hand, we have Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE calling Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers.

He uses every campaign speech to remind his supporters that he will build a large wall on the Mexico-United States border. On the other hand, we have Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUkrainian official denies Trump pressured president The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Missing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani MORE promising a pathway to citizenship and running advertisements featuring immigrant children. Her running mate, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Missouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers Sen. Kaine: No reason for US to 'engage in military action to protect Saudi oil' MORE (D-VA), speaks Spanish at every opportunity on the trail. Both candidates have stark differences in their views for the future of the United States’ education, economy, and healthcare.

However, the threat of Donald Trump’s wall or charm of Senator Kaine’s Spanish is not enough to mobilize Latino voters. The power of the Latino vote will remain a myth without real investment into Latino outreach to capitalize on the extreme differences between both candidates and address the nuances within the Latino community.

As of now, our community is met with lackluster outreach and budget cuts.

In most campaigns, a focus on the Latino vote is the first item to be cut from the budget. For instance, more than half of all the Latinos (55 percent) living in the United States reside in California, Texas, and Florida. Campaign budgets meant for Latino outreach are low in California and Texas, because these states are safe Democratic and Republican states, respectively.

This lack of investment in safe states has the potential to silence millions of Latinos.

When campaigns have funding shortfalls, they tend pursue safer, older voters, and ignore the youth vote. The average age of a Latino in the US is 27, and one in four school children in America are Latinos. There are also more than 60,000 Latinos turning 18 every month. Thus, policies that affect millennials also impact millions of Latino families in the United States. These numbers illustrate this demographic’s potential, and candidates should be taking that potential into consideration when deciding how to run and fund their campaigns.

The Latino vote continues to be seen as mythical because campaigns, parties, and groups have failed to target and mobilize a large portion of Latino voters.

This failure also arises from a misunderstanding of the Latino community and its culture.

We are not a monolithic group. You cannot have Chicanos, Boricuas, and Hispanics under the “Latino” column of your spreadsheet and expect to adequately address the issues, interests, and history of each community. Our community needs campaigns that are culturally aware and invested in our community like they are invested in other swing voters.

Latinos are an important part of the fabric of this country, and our vote should not be an afterthought.

When the Latino vote is valued, then you will see El Chupacabra’s Broadway show.

Chuck Rocha is the president of Solidarity Strategies, a Latino-owned political consulting firm. Follow him on Twitter @ChuckRocha


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