Latinos make up California. Why are so many not participating in the recall?
LOS ANGELES – Latino political power has never been stronger in California.
They are the largest ethnic group in the state and make up about 30 percent of registered voters. They propelled Democratic victories in California for decades, helping the party win qualified majorities in both houses of the state legislature, where Latino Senators and Assembly Members hold powerful positions and adopt certain legislation most favorable to immigrants to the country.
But as Gov. Gavin Newsom tries to win in a recall election in days, the Latino voters he relies on appear to be disengaged and ambivalent about the prospect of his ousting.
In 2018, exit polls showed Mr Newsom had the support of around two-thirds of all Latinos. Now polls suggest Latinos are almost evenly split on the recall. And so far, 18% of all registered Latino voters have sent in their ballots, compared to 32% of white voters, according to Political Data Inc., a Sacramento-based research group.
For many Latino voters, mixed feelings stem from an ongoing struggle with the pandemic, as they face higher rates of infection and death, as well as unemployment. For others, there is a deep disconnect with the Democratic Party and Mr. Newsom himself, a multimillionaire Napa Valley vineyard owner whom they see as distant and distant.
Interviews with Latino voters, strategists and advocates statewide reveal a frustration among Hispanics that Mr. Newsom has never exploited. The pandemic has further deepened inequalities statewide and exacerbated anger over the pervasive class division that Mr Newsom’s wealth only underscores.
Karla Ramirez, 43, a Democrat who lives in Downey, a heavily Latino suburb southeast of Los Angeles, said she believes Mr Newsom has handled the pandemic generally well. But Ms Ramirez, who owns a commercial cleaning business with her husband, said she plans not to participate in the race and does not have the means to pay attention to state policy while the virus was still raging. Her 9-year-old daughter and her husband have both tested positive for Covid-19 and are recovering from mild symptoms.
All registered voters have received the ballots in the mail and have the option of mailing them, depositing them at the ballot box or voting in person by election day September 14. Voting by mail is no longer an option for Ms Ramirez.
“I got my ballot and threw it in the trash. I don’t think I would be fair, ”Ms. Ramirez said. “I’m busy getting my kids back to school and getting vaccinated.”
With only a week to go before the polls close, public polls suggest Mr Newsom will remain in office. But many see his struggle with Hispanic voters as a troubling warning sign to Democrats both state and nationally, a glimpse of the consequences of not engaging deeply with a vital political force whose allegiance is up for grabs. Democrats became concerned after the 2020 presidential election, when many Hispanic voters in Florida, Texas and other parts of the country turned to President Donald J. Trump. But the problem is potentially even greater in a state where Latinos make up almost a third of the electorate.
“The real problem is that Governor Newsom has not aroused the enthusiasm of Latino voters,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which has been involved in California politics for decades. “This is part of the reason he is threatened. They were not motivated by his policies and practices, and he totally failed to address the Latino community as a Latino community and recognize its importance in the state.
The recall election in California
Mr Newsom’s campaign aides deny failing to engage or listen to Latino voters. Aides points to its expansion of Medi-Cal to residents over 50, including undocumented immigrants, and a long moratorium on deportations during the pandemic as two key policies they say have helped thousands of Latinos in California . His campaign has repeatedly boasted of appointing Alex Padilla to the US Senate, making him the first Latino in the state to sit on that body.
Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Mr Newsom’s campaign, said the governor’s strategy for reaching Latino voters was essentially unchanged. Throughout, Mr. Click said, the campaign viewed Latinos – and young Latinos in particular – as difficult but essential to reach.
“We have known from day one that voters who vote during presidential years but don’t vote in midterm elections and really don’t vote in special elections are the No. 1 target of all our efforts,” he said. he declares.
A generation ago, Proposition 187, a voting initiative that would have barred undocumented migrants from receiving most public services, gained broad support among Republicans in California, including Governor Pete Wilson. The anti-immigrant measure largely alienated Latino voters from the Republican Party and joined them by Democrats, who publicly acknowledged that the ballot measure was essential to their rise to power.
But many Latino voters are too young to remember the battle over Proposition 187 in the early 1990s, and feel no particular loyalty to Democrats. Despite all the talk about the political potential of Latinos in California, no governor in recent memory has effectively rallied Latinos to become strong supporters.
“We haven’t made enough of the argument in long enough that things are different and better, especially for young Latinos,” said Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat who represents a heavily Latino and working-class San Diego neighborhood in the Assembly. ‘State. “It’s like doing no harm to Latinos has become enough for a lot of Democratic politicians.”
The recall is also coming as many are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic. California Latinos were much more likely to contract and die from the virus than white residents. The unemployment rate among Latinos remains above 10%, and many Latino small business owners have lost significant incomes over the past year and a half.
Frank Oropeza, 27, a barber in Montebello, just east of Los Angeles, said he voted for President Biden last year and considered himself a Democrat. But he said he gave little thought to how to vote on the recall. He said he was torn apart, reading social media posts from fellow barbers and hairdressers who were in favor of recalling Mr Newsom, who twice shut down their business, and others who were seeing the things differently.
“I’m so easily swayed,” he said with a laugh. “It’s like, ‘Close your eyes and throw a dart.'”
Mr Oropeza said he understood the need for certain restrictions in the event of a pandemic. But he was frustrated that barbers and hairstylists had been forced to stop working for the second time, even after implementing precautions like universal masking.
The criticism is a criticism that Mr. Newsom’s opponents jumped on, using the argument to try to persuade more Latinos to vote for the recall.
“A lot of these small businesses that have shut down forever are owned by blacks and browns,” Larry Elder, the conservative radio host who has become the Republican frontrunner, told reporters in a crowded field of recall candidates.
At the virtual press conference, Mr. Elder appeared alongside Gloria Romero, a Democrat and former state lawmaker who is now a strong advocate for charter schools. She featured prominently in a recent Spanish advertisement the Elder campaign sent to Latino voters via text message.
“It’s about sending a message about how the Democratic Party has largely abandoned Latinos,” Ms. Romero said. “We were taken for granted.”
Latino voters are a force in every part of the state and represent a wide range of political opinions. While university educated liberals in urban centers are part of the grassroots Democratic base, working class moderates in suburbs of the Inland Empire and Silicon Valley are key to winning statewide. . And in Orange County, the central valley and far north of the state, religious voters and libertarians have helped elect Republicans in key congressional districts.
And there are signs that Republicans are succeeding in gaining the support of Hispanic voters, including first-time voters.
“I’m tired of the way things are,” said Ruben Sanchez, 43, a construction worker who lives in Simi Valley, a conservative stronghold north of Los Angeles. Mr Sanchez, who attends an evangelical church, said he cast his first ballot in 2020 and voted for Mr Trump in large part because of his religious beliefs and that he planned to vote for Mr Elder when calling back. “This governor and this state are not for the workers, for the people who care about this country. “
Mr Newsom’s campaign officials have promised a blitz targeting Latino voters in the final days before the election. Last week, the Newsom campaign ran an ad featuring Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the former presidential candidate turned so popular among many young Latinos in California that some call him Tío Bernie, which means Uncle Bernie.
During the Democratic presidential primary, the Sanders campaign focused much of its outreach on Latino voters from the start, opening campaign offices in heavily Latino neighborhoods and posting videos to be broadcast on social media. The efforts were widely recognized as a kind of playbook for effectively reaching Latino voters, and some Democrats criticized the Newsom campaign for not doing more to replicate them.
Beyond outreach, Mr Sanders appealed to many young Latino voters largely because of his ideology, calling for Medicare for All, forgiving student loans and sweeping bills to fight the climate change.
“Latinos still have some fundamental frustrations that Bernie was talking about that have not been resolved,” said Rafael Navar, who was the California state director for the Sanders campaign. “We have had high death rates, high unemployment and massive inequalities. “
Despite skepticism of Mr Newsom, many Hispanic voters say they fear what would happen if a Republican took office. Yet even though they are repelled by Republican politics, some liberal voters do not call themselves enthusiastic Democrats. Loyalty to the party, they said, is not as important to them as supporting a candidate who will address their concerns more directly.
Ernesto Ruvalcaba, 27, a mapping specialist who lives in Los Angeles, said that even though he voted against the recall because Mr Newsom “was doing the job”, he remained dissatisfied.
“What he did he could have done better,” said Mr. Ruvalcaba. “The evenings are really old, both. They just need to break up.