Juan Williams: Dems should not take Latinos for granted

Juan Williams: Dems should not take Latinos for granted
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Three out of four Latinos say they are not voting for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE. But Latino elected officials were not exactly thrilled by last week’s Democratic convention, either.

With GOP nominee Donald Trump calling for deportation of all undocumented immigrants, seeking to build a wall on the border with Mexico and defaming Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and thieves, Democrats are expecting record turnout and support from Latinos.

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But at the Philadelphia convention, the party’s Latino leaders spoke privately of wanting more attention from the Clinton campaign and the Obama White House.

A prime example of the Democrats’ strained relationship with Latinos is on view in the U.S. Senate race in California. Two Democrats — one Latina and one black — are facing off to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE

Under California law, the top two vote-getters during the primaries advance to the general election — even if they are both Democrats.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez trails California Attorney General Kamala Harris in the polls and in fundraising. Harris has more than twice as much money on hand as Sanchez, $2.9 million to $1.1 million. If Harris wins, she will be the second black woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate. Sanchez, however, would be the first Latina.

Sanchez is charging that Harris is the choice of “the party establishment, the insiders…they discouraged all of us from running.” Vice President Biden and California Gov. Jerry Brown have endorsed Harris. But Sanchez includes President Obama, who has also endorsed Harris, in that “establishment" as well. Sanchez told Univision that Harris “is African American. He [Obama] is too.”

“I think they have…a friendship of many years. She is African American, as is he. They know each other through meetings,” said Sanchez. 

Harris is the daughter of two first generation immigrants, an Indian-American mother and a Jamaican-American father. 

Harris fired back that Sanchez “should apologize to the president of the United States.”

The White House was forced to get involved in the fray. Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the president didn’t know what Sanchez “intended to imply.”

“The president’s endorsement, though, I think spoke volumes about his deep appreciation for Attorney General Harris’ service and her skill,” Earnest declared. 

But Sanchez got support from fellow Latino politicians. 

“Congresswoman Sanchez has served her party and her state in an exemplary fashion for over 20 years,” said Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) earlier this year, when it was clear California Democrats were lining up behind Harris.

“Not one single Democratic Latina has ever been in the United States Senate, and the California Democratic Party’s position is a disrespectful example of wayward institutional leadership which on the one hand ‘wants our vote’ but on the other hand wants to ‘spit us out,’” Vela fumed.

Then there was Latino disappointment over Clinton’s selection of a white man, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineMontana Gov. Bullock enters presidential race Bullock hires senior staffers ahead of likely presidential run Senate fails to override Trump's Yemen veto MORE (Va.), as her running mate. Clinton passed over a number of popular Latino Democratic politicians: Labor Secretary Tom Perez; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: Trump moves forward with rule on California drilling | House panel advances bill that resumes participation in Paris climate fund | Perry pressed on 'environmental justice' | 2020 Dem proposes climate corps Trump administration moves forward with final rule to allow new California drilling Overnight Energy: Interior chief says climate response falls on Congress | Bernhardt insists officials will complete offshore drilling plans | Judge rules EPA must enforce Obama landfill pollution rules MORE (Calif.) and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

While the Democrats have made history with the first black president, and now the first female nominee of a major party, a Latino has yet to appear on the presidential ticket.

“There’s no question that the future of the Democratic Party of America lies with Hispanics,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, who was one of many prominent Latinos who lobbied the Clinton campaign hard to put Castro on the ticket.

The decision to give plum speaking slots to Nevada State Sen. Ruben Kihuen and actress America Ferrara as well as Reps. Luis GutierrezLuis Vicente GutierrezDHS to make migrants wait in Mexico while asylum claims processed Coffman loses GOP seat in Colorado Trump changes mean only wealthy immigrants may apply, says critic MORE (Ill.) and Joaquin Castro (Texas), was another attempt at healing the bruised feelings of Latinos in the Democratic ranks.   

It’s also why you saw Clinton supporters such as Rep. Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ fundraising PAC, go out of their way to praise Kaine as “a true friend and ally of the Latino community.” Much was made at the Democratic National Convention last week of the fact that Kaine speaks fluent Spanish.

“He has proven himself a leader through advocacy on immigration and common sense gun reform. It has been his life’s journey to create an equal playing field for Latino families,” added Cardenas.

Obama won 71 percent of Latino voters in 2012, according to exit polls.They are the largest minority group in the United States and their numbers are especially strong in electorally crucial states like Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia. Hispanic turnout is crucial to the outcome of several races that will determine whether Democrats are able to gain a majority in the Senate.  

The haggling among Democrats, however, is dwarfed by Latino antagonism to the Republican nominee.

A Pew poll in late June had Trump winning only 24 percent of registered Hispanic voters. Some Republicans celebrated that low percentage because it is about the same level of support given to the GOP’s last two nominees, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012 and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Romney: Trump 'has distanced himself from some of the best qualities of the human character' MSNBC host: Barr 'the most dangerous person' who works for Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) in 2008. But a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll conducted in early July gave Trump only 14 percent support among registered Hispanic voters.

The Journal poll also found “heightened interest in the election among Hispanics” with 72 percent saying they are following the race closely as compared to 55 percent at the same point in the presidential race four years ago.

The current low-level static — the Democratic establishment on one side, and Latino voters and elected officials on the other — could yet blow up into a major story before November. 

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "We The People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers' Vision of America," published by Crown, is out now.