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The fight for the Latino vote has just begun

The fight for the Latino vote has just begun
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The United States is changing — socially, culturally, but perhaps more than anything, demographically. The country has been undergoing considerable growth — tipping the scales at an estimated 330 million for 2020 — with significant changes in demographics in recent decades. Largely white (87.7 percent) as recently as the 1970’s, it’s now much more diverse than ever before.

Changing demographics are challenging the Republican party like never before. African-Americans are still overwhelmingly loyal to the Democratic party. Hispanic-Americans have also largely favored the Democrats, along with other smaller minority groups.

Longtime Democratic operative James Carville even authored a book, titled, “40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation,” in which Carville lambasts the GOP as the party of white men, while praising Democrats who’ve coalesced a melting pot of voters (whites, African- Americans, Hispanics, and more) in a way the GOP cannot match. 

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So says Carville.

Yet a deeper dive into the so-called Democratic domination of minority voters shows apparent weaknesses, noticeable cracks in the armor that Republicans can — and will — take advantage of.

For starters, consider the 2020 presidential race. Trump’s success with Hispanics surprised many. Trump not only defeated former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenRev. Barber says best way to undercut extremism is with honesty Biden requires international travelers to quarantine upon arrival to US Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE by a healthy 375,000 votes in Florida, he also made deep inroads with Hispanic voters. Specifically, approximately 55 percent of Florida's Cuban-American vote went to Trump, with 30 percent of Puerto Ricans and more than 48 percent of those defined as “other Latinos” backing Trump. And in heavily Democratic Miami-Dade County, the president went from 333,999 votes in 2016 to more than 532,000 votes this year. Numbers don’t lie; these are impressive for any candidate, especially a Republican. As for Biden, his vote count was even less when compared to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSamantha Power's Herculean task: Turning a screw with a rubber screwdriver Beau Biden Foundation to deny lobbyist donations, make major donors public Whoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration MORE’s 2016 performance. Clinton received 624,146 votes in 2016 in Miami-Dade, with Biden garnering only 617,201 votes.

Add it all up, and Trump garnered 45 percent of the Latino vote in the Sunshine state, an 11 percent improvement over 2016.

In Texas, where Hispanic growth is at a breakneck speed, Trump performed exceedingly well.  According to Daniel Garza, president of The LIBRE Initiative, a Hispanic center-right organization, “I think Latinos understand Trump can be coarse sometimes and can be uncouth, but then they take a look at his policies that a lot of Latinos embrace — pro-growth, entrepreneurial — these are all policies Latinos can embrace.

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For starters, there’s Starr County, Texas, where 8,244 residents took to the ballot box — record numbers — for the Republican candidate for president. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the county by a whopping 60-point margin, yet Biden limped across the finish line with a meager 5 percent win. A 55 point swing should get anyone’s attention. Furthermore, in nearby Zapata County, then candidate Clinton won by 33 points in 2016, but in 2020, Trump edged out Biden by 6 points.

But many in the broader Hispanic and Latino community are crying foul at these numbers, claiming they misrepresent one important fact: Using the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” as a unified, single voting block is dangerously inaccurate. One voter tweeted, “The commentators on @ABC continue talking about the #LatinoVote as a monolith. They can't seem to come to terms with the fact that Latinos in Florida are NOT like the Latinos in the Southwest and California.” According to says Geraldo Cadava, an associate professor of history and Latina and Latino studies at Northwestern University, “Terms like Hispanic and Latino do not fully capture how we see ourselves.”

While Republicans have had challenges with winning over minorities in recent decades, they’re making inroads for sure.

Trump galvanized many groups within the larger Hispanic community, a warning shot to Democrats that the gloves are coming off. As America continues to march down the great road of diversity, both parties will need to take notice of the changing demographics. Democrats cannot sit back and falsely assume that African-Americans and Hispanics will vote overwhelmingly for their candidates, just because of decades of what many see as abused loyalty by one party. 

As for support from the African-American community, Trump was also able to muster an additional 2 percentage points over his 2016 performance, gaining approximately 8 percent of the black vote. It’s still single-digit numbers, but it’s progress indeed when compared to the likes John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader MORE and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyFor Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief GOP senator calls Biden's COVID-19 relief plan a 'non-starter' MORE.

Republicans are gaining ground and will continue to do so in coming elections.

Conservative groups, associations, and thinks tanks for a wide spectrum of minority voting blocks are popping up throughout the country. The GOP is pouring resources into heavily Hispanic regions of the country. By 2045, the United States will become what the U.S. Census projects as a ‘minority white’ nation. The GOP is well aware of the trend. The fight for the Latino vote — or perhaps more accurately, a subsection of Hispanic voters — has only just begun.

Charles Denyer is an historian and a national security and cybersecurity expert. He is the author of “Texas Titans: George H.W. Bush and James A. Baker, III: A Friendship Forged in Power.” He is also personal biographer of two American vice presidents: Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle.