According to CNN exit polls, Donald Trump won 30% of the Latino vote, more than the last two Republican candidates. This was after he kicked off his candidacy by hastily quoting a magazine he read backstage and saying that Mexico was willfully sending murderers and rapists to America, and that he assumed some were good people, as though he had never seen a brown person in his life.
Just before the election, I read on a news crawl that Trump reached out to Venezuelan-Americans to tell them he would be tough on Nicolas Maduro. It scared me.
Because he just won a few more votes.
Latinos in America are an eclectic group. First of all, contrary to popular right wing belief, undocumented immigrants cannot and do not vote. Unless Trump inserts a grandfather clause into the Constitution and incites World War III within the United States, most Latinos who voted did not feel like they were voting for their lives. Could some have been voting for the safety of friends and family? Sure. But again, the Latino voting bloc is a loose confederation that is increasingly starting to wonder what binds it together.
There are Colombian-Americans who are against Colombia’s peace talks with the FARC. The aforementioned Venezuelan-Americans who have seen extreme left-wing ideology plunge Venezuela into chaos. The same goes for Cuban-Americans. These are not easy Democratic pickups.
There are huge generational differences between Latinos on issues like gay marriage, and there are Latinos who are so religious they align completely with white evangelicals. Not to mention that an increasing amount of Latinos are identifying as white, as well as Latinos who have been here for many generations and may not even speak Spanish.
I have a feeling that Trump’s White House Voltron of white nationalists, conservative Republicans, wealthy industrialists, and Silicon Valley technocrats will fall apart after it tries to take its first step. But if Republicans continue to find these wedge issues and tap down the rhetoric, they’ll probably make even more gains, and politicians may stop using the word “Latino” at all.
Finally, since I mentioned undocumented immigrants, I’d like to share an anecdote. I spend a lot of time in rural Pennsylvania, and in a county that voted heavily for Trump, I found one of my favorite diners closed until 1pm on a Sunday morning. I asked the diner owner how could that be, and she said, “the guys who used to work here left, and the kids who work here now don’t wanna wake up that early.”
I had a feeling in my gut what the “guys” looked like and what the “kids” looked like, and I hope people think about that before following through on policies that are least misguided and uninformed, and at most dangerous and un-American.