Amaury Abreu, Commentator
As a Latino man I decided to focus my research paper on potential communication strategies that would mobilize Latino voters. I have to say that I am not a voter as I am not a US citizen yet so both my perspective and research will be based on that frame.
I believe that Latino people are continuing to become an essential part of the US democracy and while their participation has not been the best in the past, they have stepped up their standard and have decided to go out and vote.
When both parties approach the Latino community, they forget at times the complexity of this community because the Hispanic community can be connected by language, cultures may differ and therefore a generic approach might not be as successful when reaching out to the Latino community.
Each Latin American country has its own set of values that makes them different from each other and I believe that political parties in the US need to change their approach to how the engage with the Hispanic community, they must realize that they must decide to focus on a specific culture like Puerto Rican, Mexicans, Dominicans, etc. or prepare a different communication approach to each culture they plan to mobilize.
Mobilization of Latinos to vote
Every election cycle there is a somewhat of an interest to reach out to the Latino community in political campaigns, the DEMS and GOP take different approaches to connect with the Hispanic community, although the Democratic party has done more to reach the Latino community it may seem that they forget that Hispanics are usually religious and most times care about their religious values more than anything else.
According to the Atlantic media outlet they shared the following “Over the past few years, Hispanics have begun abandoning the Democratic Party, defying generations of political patterns and causing varying degrees of panic on the left. In the 2018 midterm elections, when Democrats regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, they won the Hispanic vote by 40 points nationally” (Alberta, 2022)
While Latinos usually have sided with Democrats because of the left immigration policies, the Hispanic community has limits in terms of religious morals and what they find acceptable. For example, in mu experience I can say that it is easier for a Latino to support a Republican simply based on abortion views and traditional family values, most Hispanics will side with a Republican on those perspectives but then you come to the topic of immigration and the Hispanic community will side with the Democrats and the question that arises is, can each party offer more than one side of the coin?
I believe each party fails to try to shift their communication strategies to be more holistic and try to gain the Hispanic vote by appealing to vote immigration, employment policies and moral/religious values. Democrats could focus more on the idea that they support freedom of choice instead of freedom of abortion and the Republicans could focus on preaching a more organized immigration process instead of trying to send all illegals out of the country without looking at the value they bring to the US economy.
An article by The Guardian says it perfectly “But Latino strategists, pollsters and advocacy groups say both parties are still missing the mark. They argue Democratic and Republican campaigns continue to treat Latino voters like a monolithic group, failing to contact and reach out to voters early and invest in ads grounded in what communities themselves care about. As Latino operatives ascend the ranks in independent political action committees and campaigns, that’s steadily changing. But those who plan to continue with the status quo could make or break party election results in 2024” (Rios, 2022)
The Latino vote is too important to miss as this community is still the fastest and largest growing minority group in the US. Political mobilization by Latinos is not a matter of if its possible but how could it be possible. The political parties need to understand that Latinos are a complex mix of cultures that have unique motivations, they also must remember that a lot of times these people come from cultures that were under intense political issues that they carry from their country and many times that comes with a lost of faith in political systems.
The National Library of Medicine states “In many Latin American countries, violence is now among the five main causes of death and is the principal cause of death in countries like Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, and México (Hernandez, 2002; Buvinic, Morrison, & Shifter, 1999). Years of political strife and armed conflict in many Latin American countries have perpetuated the region’s violence and political violence (PV) continues to be a critical public health concern for immigrants from Latin America along with exposure to other violence and psychosocial trauma (Asner-Self & Marotta, 2005).” (Fortuna et al., 2008)
Taking into consideration the trauma experience by many Hispanic cultures, political parties should be aware of this and use communication strategies tailored to address that trauma and not ignore it. For example, when the January 6th insurrection happened that brings a lot of memories of pain and suffering to many Hispanics who lived a similar experience in their home country, events like this one could affect their trust in the US political system and therefore limit their desire to be involved in politics.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez spoke about political trauma experience by Latinos, this is what she said ““I’m doing therapy, but also I’ve just slowed down. I think the Trump administration had a lot of us, especially Latino communities, in a very reactive mode. So I’ve been putting myself in a more proactive space,” (Daily, 2021).
I believe that AOC is correct on this matter, the Hispanic community experienced a lot of political traumas because of the Trump administration and not because of his political affiliation but because of his communications style and approach to immigration policies.
When we realize that there are aspects of the Hispanic experience that are being forgotten by political communication strategists, we can see how they have struggled to bring out the Hispanic community to vote. We can see how Hilary Clinton took the approach of being more friendly to the Hispanic community by addressing the Hispanic Caucus “For example, on September 15, 2016, in a speech addressed to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Clinton framed the election as an ontological decision, “we need to decide who we are ::: . We need to stand up and repudiate this divisive rhetoric” (Clinton 2016d)” (Larrosa-Fuentes, 2022)
I do think that as a new generation of Hispanics is coming up and the world is changing becoming more interconnected through social media, we will see a shift in the Hispanic community and their approach to political involvement. I believe that technology is also affecting the religious values many Hispanics used to grow up with and therefore new values are being formed which will shift the political arena.
I also believe that civic education in high schools plays an important role in the mobilization of Hispanics, for example, in Dominican Republic I was required to take a civics class that taught me about democracy and how to be a good citizen, this class has helped me navigate the political atmosphere of the United States and while I am not politically involved yet, I look forward to the day that I will be able to do so.
We can see the importance of civics according to the following research “. Overall, I fnd that content informed by critical pedagogy leads young Latinxs and African Americans to report greater willingness to participate in multiple forms of politics relative to those who are exposed to traditional content. Most importantly, exposure to content informed by critical pedagogy appears to close gaps in participation between white youth and young people of color across multiple participatory domains. This suggests that the content of civic education courses can play a formative role in processes of political socialization. I conclude by emphasizing the importance of exploring new ways to teach civics in the United States. If one hopes to close the racial participation gap, critical pedagogy may provide a new way forward.” (Nelsen, 2019).
While political parties do a great effort into encouraging people to vote, in my opinion it seems at times that they do not spend enough on educating the Hispanic community how the US political voting system works, for the non US person that eventually becomes a US citizen the topic of voting can be confusing and without an explanation it could be hard to really know how to vote and where to find information, the political parties should focus on more educational outreach which could turn confused individuals into new voters.
While using fear has been effective at times to mobilize Latino voters, we also need to remember that political involvement while materialized in voting is bound to voting. Like the following research suggest “Studies with other marginalized groups show that those who report facing more discrimination are more likely to politically engage (Valdez, 2011; White-Johnson, 2012).” (Rosales et al., 2021)
Because not all Latinos can vote we must remember that while the Hispanic community is growing incredibly not all of them are US Citizens with the ability to vote but as mentioned above that does not limit the political involvement of those who cannot vote in order to motivate others who can to do so.
This research explains it “Making up 15 percent of the U.S. voting-age population (U.S. Census, 2015), Latinos are transforming the U.S. electorate. Many Latinos, however, cannot vote because they lack citizenship. Despite this limitation, they can and have participated in other political activities (e.g., volunteering, attending rallies, writing political leaders) to promote change. The Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s, the 2006 Gran Marchas against federal anti-immigrant legislation, and the continued activism of undocumented immigrant “Dreamers” seeking legal status are just a few examples of how Latinos have used alternative political activities. Research on these other forms of political participation, however, is limited, despite the fact that for many Latinos, particularly noncitizens, they offer important access points to affect community change and to combat the rising anti-immigrant, anti-Latino sentiment shaping current U.S. politics” (Potochnick & Stegmaier, 2020)
Political communication strategists from both parties must start considering the importance of the Latino community in a more serious way, politics can be unpredictive and if a minority group is not cared for by one of the parties that can put in jeopardy their agenda and change the future of the country in ways that we do not yet know or understand.
The following statistic shared by the UCLA shows why it matters to care for the Hispanic community when it comes to politics “Latinos had the lowest registration rate among racial and ethnic groups during the 2020 general election at 61.1 percent. This was more than 10 percentage points lower than the 72.7% registration rate for all voters regardless of race.
However, once registered, 88 percent of Latino voters cast a ballot, which is only 4 percentage points lower than the 92 percent of registered voters who cast a ballot regardless of race.” (From Eligibility to the Ballot Box, 2022)
Political communication can be messy and difficult and when you add culture and a different language, well, that is a whole new level, but we must strive to get the Hispanic community to be as involved as possible and reap the benefits of their involvement not only in politics but in society.