Biden-Trump and the Fight for the Latino Vote

Biden-Trump and the Fight for the Latino Vote

By Maribel Hastings, America’s Voice | March 27, 2024

Joe Biden’s statement last week to Latino voters in Phoenix, Arizona, captures the stakes in what is shaping up to be a close election between the Democratic president and former Republican President Donald Trump: “I desperately need you.

And while the Nov. 5 race is a world away politically, several polls conclude that Latino support for Biden has eroded since 2020, when a CBS News poll found that 65% of Latinos supported him. It now hovers around 53%, although he continues to prevail over Trump in the preference of this diverse group of voters.

The challenge is to maintain and increase that support by getting the disaffected to vote because it has been proven that a voter who stays home is as good as voting for the opponent, in this case Trump.

The Biden campaign knows this and launched its “Latinos with Biden-Harris” initiative in Arizona, a swing state that the president won over Trump in 2020 in a close race.

He also visited Texas and Nevada. Likewise, First Lady Jill Biden was in Puerto Rico, as was Vice President Kamala Harris, who made a stop on the island to raise campaign funds. Puerto Ricans on the island cannot vote in the presidential elections but those living in the United States can and many live in key states where a handful of votes decide an election.

Biden took out an ad reminding Latinos of Trump’s insults toward immigrants, while Trump continued to exploit the border issue in another ad.

But in the case of Latino voters, it is vital to recognize that they are not a bloc, that their views are as diverse as their nationalities of origin: they are conservative, moderate, liberal and progressive. Some are offended by Trump’s insults to immigrants, and others applaud him. Some empathize with immigrants, and others despise them.

So there can be no single mold for Latinos given their diversity. But if anything, speaking plainly and clearly to them works.

And Biden has several good things to say because under his presidency Latinos have experienced low levels of unemployment; programs and tax credits have been expanded that have reduced poverty levels among Hispanic children; programs that benefit small businesses have been expanded. They have also benefited from the cancellation of part of their student loan debt. The list is extensive.

The immigration issue continues to be a thorn in the Democrats’ side, as it has been impossible to comply with the elusive immigration reform and showing a hard hand on the border with “lite” Republican positions does not go down well with some sectors.

But Biden, so far, is marking contrasts with Trump, especially regarding the extremist and insulting language referring to immigrants as “animals” or saying they “poison the nation’s blood”.

As a Latina, I am sure that a sector of our diverse community, supports Trump and his horrible inflammatory language because there are Latinos who believe they are superior to other Latinos and think that when Trump insults immigrants he is not referring to them, even though he is actually insulting all of us. Others support Trump’s positions and overlook his contempt for immigrants.

But I also know that in our diverse community there is much empathy for immigrants and appreciation for the enormous contributions they have made and are making to this nation.

Immigrants like those who, according to press reports, went missing in the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, on Tuesday. They work for a construction company that was doing asphalt repair work on the bridge. Media and social networks quoted an employee of the construction company, Jesus Campos, who said they came to the United States seeking a better life for the families they left behind in their home countries.

They were working the toughest shifts. Not “poisoning our nation’s blood,” as Trump says.

It is by recognizing the contributions of immigrants and the entire Latino community and drawing contrasts with Trump that Biden can effectively appeal to Hispanic voters.

Maribel Hastings is a senior adviser to America’s Voice.

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