For decades some conservatives, yours truly among them, have argued that Latino Americans, with their ethic of faith and family and work, ought to be natural Republicans. On Saturday in a South Texas city on the Mexican border,
gave America a glimpse of what this future might look like when he became the first Republican elected mayor of McAllen—the 85% Latino seat of Hidalgo County.
“Villalobos’ election should surprise absolutely no one who followed how counties in the Rio Grande Valley swung heavily toward Trump in the last election,” says
a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and author of “The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics Is Dividing the Land of the Free.”
As Mr. Gonzalez notes, the auguries were there for anyone who cared to look. In 2016
carried Hidalgo County by 41 points. But in 2020,
won by only 17 points. Meanwhile Zapata County—what the Washington Post calls “the bluest of blue counties along the river”—flipped for
in 2020, the first victory for a GOP presidential candidate there since
Warren G. Harding
a century ago.
These developments have Democrats sounding the alarm. A May postelection analysis by a trio of left-leaning organizations noted that while Latino turnout in 2020 grew “dramatically” over 2016, Democrats saw a “significant dip in support in places with high concentrations of Latino and Hispanic voters.” Nor were Republicans simply sitting on the sidelines all the while. When asked by Texas Monthly what was attractive to Latinos about the Republican Party,
an adviser to the
presidential campaign, answered this way:
“At the Republican National Convention, the party had one Latino speaker after another telling their immigration story and how they lived the American dream. And if you just sit back and watch that or read the coverage, you might think, ‘Hey, these Republicans are all right. They like immigrants. They want to build entrepreneurship. They want us to all be rich like Donald Trump.’ ”
A new National Republican Senatorial Committee survey of Latino likely voters in battleground states offers some striking insights here, especially on values and priorities. At a time when even some conservatives are attacking the GOP commitment to free markets, for example, the NRSC result is striking.
The survey asked Latinos to choose between two statements. The first was unadulterated
: “Some people say free-market capitalism is the best form of government because it gives people the freedom to work and achieve.”
The second was what we might call the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez option: “Other people say that socialism is the best form of government because it is more fair and equitable to working class people.”
Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents opted for the Friedman position, against only 17% for the AOC line. Hardly surprising, given that so many Latinos came to the U.S. in the first place to escape socialism. But capitalism is just the beginning of the surprises:
• 67% are “very concerned” their kids “won’t have the same opportunities me and my family came here to find.”
• 58% said too many people in America are happy not to work and “just live off government assistance.”
• 80% percent agree that “public schools are failing.”
• 67% agree that too many Americans “are losing our traditional values centered on faith, family and freedom.”
• 57% “oppose Democrat efforts to pack the Supreme Court with liberal judges.”
• 72% agree “we should do what is necessary to control our southern border.”
• 65% oppose the Democrats’ “bill that would make voter ID illegal.”
• 50% agree that “many of the policies that Democrats say help all minorities actually end up hurting Hispanic families.”
The NRSC’s conclusion? The political future isn’t California—it’s Florida. Florida’s electorate, the report notes, is substantially less white than it was in 2000, yet it is also more Republican than it was 20 years ago.
Still, if more Latinos are willing to pull the GOP lever these days, it probably owes as much to the Democratic Party’s lurch leftward than any brilliant Republican outreach. Last year’s riots certainly didn’t help among people who value law and order. In addition, Mr. Gonzalez argues that critical race theory, so popular with the political left, will end up having the opposite effect on minorities than progressives think.
“Critical race theory insists that Americans who are not WASPs must see themselves as aggrieved victims who want to transform America,” he says. “But people don’t fit into these neat categories cooked up in the faculty lounges. It’s turning off Americans of Latin background.”
The Democratic postmortem seems to confirm Mr. Gonzalez’s read. The GOP, it concedes, successfully cast Democrats in 2020 as the party of economic shutdowns, defunding the police, keeping schools closed, and socialism. “Republican attempts to brand Democrats as ‘radical’ worked,” it says.
The really bad news for Democrats? This was all back when Joe Biden was still selling himself to Americans as a moderate.
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