Not a monolith: The diverse Latinx vote 2.0

Not a monolith: The diverse Latinx vote 2.0
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Latinxs have never been a one-dimensional constituency. Just as not all Latinxs love tacos or dance salsa, it is reductive and simplistic to assume all Latinxs share one political perspective.

Once again, pundits are touting Latinxs as game-changers in the upcoming election and speculating on results in the primaries this week in Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington.

Over the past few decades, in almost every election cycle, Latinxs have been designated as a sleeping giant that will soon awaken to make or break a campaign.  

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This year, 32 million Latinx citizens are projected to be eligible to vote. That would account for 13.3 percent of the electorate and so yet again Latinxs are predicted to be a decisive force in 2020. 

Latinxs are often discussed as a singular, united voting block, but this has never been the case. They are a varied group with diverse histories, realities, and political and ideological persuasions. Too often, however, “the Latinx vote” is invoked as a monolithic entity despite ample evidence to the contrary. 

In my Latinx studies classes at DePaul University, students’ debates about the current election are animated and spirited. While many students are enthusiastically embracing Tío Bernie, others are passionately advocating for Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenGOP set to release controversial Biden report Biden's fiscal program: What is the likely market impact? Warren, Schumer introduce plan for next president to cancel ,000 in student debt MORE (D-Mass.), and some are convinced only former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll GOP set to release controversial Biden report Can Donald Trump maintain new momentum until this November? MORE can beat the current occupant in the White House. In this context, any closeted Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll Trump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Jimmy Kimmel hits Trump for rallies while hosting Emmy Awards MORE supporters quietly observe the fray.  

The idea that Latinx voters are a monolithic block of progressive voters should have been put to bed in 2016 when Trump took almost 30 percent of the Latinx vote. A sizeable number of Latinxs have always aligned themselves with conservative politics. 

This is not a new phenomenon. In his forthcoming book, The Hispanic Republican, historian Geraldo Cadava traces the story of the millions of Latinxs who since the 1960s, have been loyal members of the Republican party. 

Latinx Democrats are not a single block either. Like other Americans, Latinx voters are all over the spectrum. This is clear to see with the endorsement of some of the most powerful progressive national Latinx advocacy organizations. 

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Mijente, a national network of Latinx organizers founded in Chicago, which defines itself as not only pro Latinx but also “pro-Black, pro-woman, pro-queer, pro-poor” endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders.

United We Dream, the influential youth-led immigrant based network, endorsed both Warren and Sanders.  

Meanwhile, Latino Victory, a four-year-old political action committee founded by actress Eve Longoria and businessman and philanthropist Henry Muñoz III, recently endorsed Joe Biden for president. 

Other National Latinx organizations such as UnidosUS have not yet endorsed any candidate.

Still, one thing is certain, whatever their preferences, a demographically surging population does not translate to political power unless folks register and vote. 

Latinxs have a notoriously low voter participation rate; historically, Latinxs vote less than any other ethnic group. Only about half of all eligible Latinxs are currently registered to vote.   

It will take creativity and hard work to boost Latinx voter participation rates. Virtually all major Latinx advocacy organizations are dedicating money and people power to this important effort and some, such as Voto Latinx, have voter registration as their primary motivation.   

Organizations are finding novel strategies to activate new voters. One of my favorite examples of this effort is Jolt’s Poder Quince ("Power Fifteen") campaign in Texas where volunteers attend quinceañera parties In Texas and register Latinxs to vote.

Candidates running for office need to talk to Latinxs and convince them that they represent their interests and Latinxs need to actively exercise our potential power.

Yes, sí se puede, but only if we get to the polls.

Lourdes Torres is a professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at DePaul University, editor of the journal and Latino Studies.