Monday, August 1, 2016




          Here’s the one thing Democratic politicians should fear more than any other potential California event: Latinos stay home from the polls in droves on Election Day in November 2016.

          It went almost unnoticed beyond Orange County in early 2015, but the events in one contest for a spot on that county’s Board of Supervisors should be most instructive.

          In that race, the virtually unknown Vietnamese-American Republican Andrew Do beat the recently termed out and popular former Democratic state Sen. Lou Correa – now running for Congress – by 43 votes.

          This wasn’t the classic Orange County campaign in a suburban area where Republicans typically run up huge margins. Instead, it centered on Santa Ana, the mostly-Latino county seat that’s been the base of power for longtime Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, now running for the U.S. Senate.

          This supervisorial seat became vacant in 2014, when former county Supervisor Janet Nguyen took over Correa’s vacated slot in the state Senate in an election where overall turnout was dismal, but Latinos voted in much lower proportions than the general public.

          While Latino voters were no-shows in large numbers again in the Do-Correa contest, the Vietnamese-American Republicans who elected Nguyen performed again for Do, with 84 percent of the votes cast by mail.

          One analysis of the race found that ethnic Vietnamese registered voters were twice as likely to turn in ballots as Latinos.

          Why were Latinos so derelict about voting? It just may be that California is at last feeling some results from President Obama’s determined, long-term policy of deporting as many undocumented immigrants as possible.

          During his first five years in office, Obama presided over the deportations of 1.9 million persons who were in this country illegally. That was a massive increase from the 1.1 million deported during the last five years of the previous administration led by Republican George W. Bush.

          Yes, Latinos know Republicans in Congress stymie every move made by Democrats to provide the undocumented with a path to citizenship, even if it’s long, onerous and expensive. But they also see what Obama has done, even though he’s attempted to allow illegal immigrants brought here as children to stay indefinitely.

          When a report from the often reliable Latino Decisions polling firm shows 63 percent of all Latino registered voters are personally acquainted with someone who is undocumented, mass deportations like Obama’s speak powerfully. When 40 percent of those same registered voters say they know someone who currently faces deportation, that also makes an impact.

          It means this: The more undocumented immigrants Obama deports, the more Latino registered voters start to wonder if there’s really any difference on immigration between Republicans and Democrats, despite their very different rhetoric.

          But Obama hasn’t cared about this. His deportation policy has long been an attempt to fend off frequent, completely unsubstantiated claims from the Republican right that he is a traitor with a secret agenda of destroying America.

          So, while every survey shows that immigration for years has been the single most important issue for Latino voters, Obama persists with his defensive mindset and his deportation policy.

          Now the results are beginning to come in, with first Nguyen and then Do elected in an area long dominated by Hispanic voters.

          Overall voting figures from 2014 suggest this might not be confined to the Santa Ana area. Only 1.3 million Latino votes were cast in California that fall, 15 percent of the total. Staying home, then, was more common for Latinos last year than for other voters, who also came out in record low numbers.

          All of which suggests that Obama’s deportation policy has already hurt a few fellow Democrats, and could hurt more this fall. Latinos who suddenly became active as voters turned this state solidly Democratic because of their fears after the passage of the anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187 in 1994. If those same voters become convinced Democrats are taking them for granted, as Obama has, Republicans could stage a significant California comeback.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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