At 11:29 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez summed up the frustrations of Latinx Americans across the country with a single tweet. “I won’t comment much on tonight’s results as they are evolving and ongoing, but I will say we’ve been sounding the alarm about Dem vulnerabilities w/ Latinos for a long, long time,” she wrote. “There is a strategy and a path, but the necessary effort simply hasn’t been put in.”
The “results” she was referring to were, of course, those of the 2020 presidential election, among other contested national, state, and local races. Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet surfaced just after news outlets called Florida in favor of Trump, a tough blow for Democrats all over the U.S. who hoped the state’s large Latinx population would surely shift it toward Biden.
AOC may not have been so blunt, but I’ll go ahead and say it: U.S. politicians clearly don’t know a thing about what it means to be Latinx.
In and of themselves, the terms “Latino,” “Latina,” and “Latinx” are nothing more than markers of geographical ancestry. So long as their roots trace back to Latin America, one can be of any racial background, socioeconomic status, or political alignment and comfortably claim a Latinx identity. In short, many Latinx people don’t have anything in common beyond, perhaps, a shared native land and a mutual love for empanadas. Frankly, even that’s a stretch.
This is a reality those of us who call ourselves Latinx are more than familiar with. Many of us come from families of mixed racial origins and divided views on hot-button issues.
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In some ways, the Trump campaign might have been more aware of the diverse perspectives of Latinx Americans than Biden’s. Trump pushed hard to gain the support of Cuban and Venezuelan voters in Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, in particular. NBC News reports that his performance in the area drastically increased from the last election, skyrocketing from 333,999 votes in 2016 to upwards of 529,000 this cycle. Meanwhile, Democratic support in the county decreased by 11,060 votes.
Just because someone is Latinx doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from the Trump administration’s bias toward the rich and white. Plenty of us, myself included, fall under both of those categories. It doesn’t make us more or less Latinx; it simply means we exist beyond the archetype of the “typical Latino” whom Democrats have spent millions of dollars trying to woo with an onslaught of public appearances, pseudo-relatable personal stories, and campaign ads set to Bad Bunny songs. Even Republican Senator Ted Cruz is technically Latinx, having been born to a father of Cuban descent.
In other cases, Latinx individuals who don’t qualify for top-tier race and class privileges still align with the values of today’s conservative. The Pew Research Center estimates that 55 percent of Latinx Americans identify as Catholic. Trump’s anti-abortion rhetoric could have resonated so profoundly for some of those people that they’re willing to overlook the hate crimes he’s inflicted upon our community. As author Geraldo Cadava put it in an interview with NPR, “When I hear pundits talk about the Latino vote, they’re still assuming that all Latinos out there are reachable by Democrats…that completely misses the point that Hispanic Republicans have developed their partisan identities and their loyalty to the Republican party over a long period of time.”
We don’t know exactly how this election will pan out yet, but if there’s one thing Dems should take away from the results thus far, it’s that no ethnic group in the United States is a monolith. This isn’t the first thinkpiece on this topic, nor will it be the last. Minorities are expected to outnumber non-Hispanic whites in this country by 2045, meaning political leaders of all alignments had better start listening to us if they hope to hang on to any last shred of their power. Something tells me Latinx Americans like AOC will be at the head of that charge.
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