Monday, November 29, 2021






       Ever since the 2020 election, Republican Party officials have crowed about how ex-President Donald Trump and other GOP candidates greatly improved their usual performance among Latino voters, not just in California but across the nation.


       Not to misunderstand: The GOP did not win anything close to a majority of Hispanic votes, even though the party did better in the nation’s fastest-growing ethnic group than at any time since Ronald Reagan’s second presidential run in 1984. It figured to do at least as well in this month’s recall election.


       Back in 1984, a grinning Reagan won about 36 percent of Latinos and bragged on it the next morning, in his understated way. “I guess we showed people our Hispanic friends are a little more varied than they thought,” he said. Last year, Trump won about 35 percent of Latinos, an increase of almost 8 percent over his 2016 performance among them. And last fall, Latino voters broke only slightly more Democratic than last fall to the pro-Democrat “no” side in the recall vote.


       Both last year’s vote and September’s demonstrated the veracity of Reagan’s remark. The 2020 consequences were clear in California, leading directly to the comeback of David Valadao in a Central Valley district where the switchover of about 1,600 mostly Latin voters defeated Democrat T.J. Cox, who had briefly ousted Valadao by 900 votes in 2018.


       A slightly better than usual performance among Latinos also helped fuel the 2020 campaigns of Republicans Young Kim and Michelle Steel in Orange County, as they narrowly took back two more formerly solid Republican House seats that went to Democrats Gil Cisneros and Harley Rouda two years before.


       Trump’s vote among Hispanics in places like Los Angeles, Fresno and San Jose was also consistent with what happened in perpetual Democratic strongholds like Houston, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York.


       It bespoke an ethnic group which feels its votes are taken for granted by Democrats.


       The 2020 Latino defections produced a near thing for Democrats. A few more Latinos going Republican in a few more congressional districts could have cost them their majority in the House, where Democrats now have a small majority that requires party unity to get anything done. That’s often hard to achieve in their fractious party.


       All this appears to mean that Latinos, who for many years followed California guidance from political leaders like onetime legislators Art Torres and Richard Alatorre, have become more varied. For one thing, as they’ve succeeded, some of California’s myriad Hispanic business owners appear to have become more interested in the kind of tax cuts Republicans often push than they are in social justice and welfare.


       Meanwhile, the significant Hispanic movement toward the GOP has not drawn much response from California Democrats, who used the huge late-1990s increase in Hispanic citizenship to turn this into a consistently blue state, where it formerly exhibited a hotly-contested “purple” hue.


       Democrats here also expect that the immigrant family background of Alex Padilla, appointed in January as the state’s first Latino U.S. senator, will bring lapsed Hispanic voters back.


       But that may not be automatic. Yes, huge increases in Latino turnout in states like Arizona and Georgia helped Democrats flip three Senate seats last year, but who knows whether Padilla can inspire the effort many of those voters made to cast ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.


       Yes, about one-fourth of the state Assembly is now composed of Latinos, one reason the Inland Empire’s Eloise Reyes was chosen that chamber’s majority leader this year, giving Hispanics like her and Speaker Anthony Rendon huge financial and policy influence.


       This was one example of Democrats trying to send a message to Latino voters that their contributions are not taken for granted.


       Democrats will need to make many more such moves if they expect to cement the kind of support from Latinos they have gotten in the past. For among the many messages sent during the last few elections is this: Democrats can no longer take support from Hispanics as an automatic, rote thing. They will have to work for it, just as they long have done with many other ethnic groups.


Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is

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