Latinos

A supporter holds up a sign calling on Latinos to vote for Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff during a rally for Ossoff and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Casto in Lilburn, Ga., Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. The rally was part of an effort to register and mobilize voters in Georgia's growing Latino population for the two Democratic candidates in the Georgia's twin Jan. 5 Senate runoffs that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. 

One thing Democrats should have learned this year is that Latino voters aren’t as into them as they would like.

After the election, Bloomberg News pulled back the curtain on the assumption that voters of color would leap into the questionably loving arms of the left. Donald Trump, after all, characterized undocumented immigrants as gang members and rapists, put children in cages at the border and took a sledgehammer to immigration protections.

A funny thing happened on the way to liberal Nirvana, though. Joe Biden beat Trump with Hispanic voters, but he underperformed Hillary Clinton from four years ago.

That's headed in the wrong direction for Democrats.

Trump bagged Texas and Florida, thanks to Latino voters.

The Mar-a-Lago billionaire collected 53.5% in majority-Hispanic precincts in Miami-Dade County, compared to 40% four years ago.

This is a county with 1.6 million voters, with nearly 60% registered as Democrats. For perspective, Denver County has 498,375 voters.

Biden won Miami-Dade County by 7%. Clinton won by 29. 

This says one thing or parts of several things: legislation and issues don’t matter as much as pundits think, Trump is delivering what Hispanic voters want, or, third, Democrats are selling a product that’s eating away their brand like a sand castle at high tide.

Colorado Democrats have their own problems, including a splintering party. Last year, a handful of qualified women of color were in the primary for U.S. Senate. None got traction, and ultimately the party oversaw the race as it dwindled down to two white guys.

I met Greg Lopez and his wife, Lisa, for breakfast in Parker at the Egg & I the week before the world shut down last March. Greg ran surprisingly strong in the Republican primary for governor two years ago, and he’s running again in 2022.

He grew up a migrant worker, and he’s proud of it. Work ethic builds character, and Greg picked enough onions in the Texas heat to have a truckload of both.

“I’ve had to compete my whole life,” he told me.

He thinks most Latino voters are like him: They want as little government as possible and the opportunity to make it on their own. Republicans are for striking down regulations and requirements that throttle opportunity.

“Any time the government has gotten its hands on a program, I’m yet to see it do what they said it was going to do,” Greg said over oatmeal and berries.

Democrats say the government is here to help.

On Monday the 13-member Colorado Democratic Latino Caucus talked to reporters about their goals for the next General Assembly, which begins Jan. 13.

The plan has four pillars, as they called them: health care, housing, immigration and jobs.

Expect a push to protect routine private information that the state government collects from prying eyes, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Cue the sanctuary state charges. They'll say the state isn't enforcing immigration laws and that it's a federal responsibility, but now they're making it harder for the feds to do the job.

Access to contraceptive and reproductive rights is also on the agenda.

“That is something we all believe, as a caucus, is very important,” Rep. Alex Valdez of Denver, a co-chair of the caucus, said.

That’ll be interesting. Hispanics make up 40% of all U.S. Catholics, and 57% of adult Latinos self-identify as Catholic.

The papacy has viewed contraceptives as evil since 1965, though Pope Francis has been less strident. He's also been less than clear.

He said couples should listen to God and follow their conscience, not march to dogma. The pontiff added that “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil.”

I’m saying it’s not nothing that Democrats are playing with this kind of demographic dynamite.

The session, foremost, has to take on the virus, vaccinations and getting the economy back on its feet. All three disproportionately affect Colorado’s communities of color, Valdez told the press.

Immigration and health care sounds mighty familiar at the statehouse.

“These issues were issues before the pandemic,” said Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez of Denver. ”There are things that need to be addressed in the immediate (future), but there are the bigger picture long-term type of issues that need to be addressed.”

Rent assistance and moratoriums with federal money is a temporary solutions to long-term problems, however.

There’s also the prohibitive cost of going through the immigration process.

The Trump administration hiked the application fee from $725 to $1,170, with huge increases for green cards. Recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will have to pony up more to apply or renew, $765 instead of $495.

My friend Jesse Paul of The Colorado Sun reminded the caucus they’ll have to sell moderate Democrats on some of their more progressive ideas, and that's where the mud gets deep.

“We’ve been able to have success with our moderate members,” Valdez said confidently, “and I’d look for that trend to continue as we start to get more and more legislators who are sent to the Capitol to achieve these progressive goals. We’ve seen a continued appetite from the voters of Colorado for the work we’ve been doing.”

He better hope he’s right. Hispanic residents are a fast growing demographic.

Democrats are riding high on the fumes of success right now. To be a party of the future, Democrats have to stop the bleeding from the communities of color.

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