Hispanics Will Not Join a Black/Brown Coalition
The adage "be careful of what you wish for, you may just get it" most certainly applies to recent efforts by black political leaders to expand ballot access. Their reasoning seems alluring: voting has been their ticket to progress, and the more blacks who vote, the greater the progress. A corollary is that such expansion would also help their political allies, notably Hispanics and other minorities of color, and thus build a mighty coalition. Moreover, open borders bring more Hispanics, and this will, eventually, swell yet further this alliance which, it is assumed, will be led by blacks.
Reality may be a disaster for blacks. For one, expanding ballot access by easier absentee voting and the like will likely have minimal impact on black turnout, since black non-voters are disproportionately less-educated, disproportionally poor, less interested in politics, and often legally barred from voting due to felony convictions. Banning personal ID requirements and similar measures will have scant impact on this apathetic group.
By contrast, today’s low Hispanic turnout is bound to increase without hard political battles. Among Hispanics, growing U.S. citizenships, increased education, moving up economically, population aging, and especially learning English all will promote higher turnout. Thanks to their current low turnout, Hispanics have lots of “headroom” to expand their political clout and demographic forces will outweigh tweaking voting laws. The future of American “minority politics” is Hispanic, not African American.
There are other Hispanic electoral advantages. Just observe Hispanic officeholders -- though many have distinctive Spanish origins and names via immigrant parents or grandparents, and speak fluent Spanish, they are often physically almost or entirely “European.” Examples include Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, plus countless others such as Representative Vicente Gonzalez, who hardly appear to be stereotypical “Hispanics.” Further add those who define themselves as “Hispanic” but lack a distinctive Hispanic name. Bill Richardson, who had a distinguished political career, is Hispanic, grew up in Mexico City.
These Hispanics may be “minority “candidates” but they generally appear “American” and have more conventional backgrounds such as business owner, lawyer, or educator, and often are military veterans. These traits are a huge advantage in American coalition-based politics with heterogeneous electorates. “Hispanic” candidates can thus win in districts with few Hispanic voters while blacks usually depend on mobilizing large black populations.
This wider appeal is especially valuable if running against black candidates who often must emphasize their “blackness” to attract black voters in primaries against rival black candidates. Being a good “race man,” however, may alienate non-black voters. It’s hard to imagine Hispanic candidates trying to out-Hispanic Hispanic opponents by appealing to narrow group interests and invoking racially inflammatory language.
Consider, for example, Alex Mooney (R-W.VA) who was born and raised in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. He’s an Army vet (Bronze Star), an outspoken conservative and a bona fide Hispanic who represents the whitist state in America. And Alex looks as if he’s “a good old boy” who “…believes in the American values of hard work, faith, and freedom that have made our country great.” On the other side of the partisan aisle is Salud Carbajal (D-CA) who appears more "Hispanic” than Congressman Mooney, but despite ample Spanish on his website, is basically a conventional liberal Californian Democrat. He’s a former Marine and focuses on the environment, social services, the military, the budgetary process and public safety. Yes, fiery black elected officials like Maxine Waters or Cori Bush may enjoy job security in heavily black districts, but the future belongs to the people like first-generation American Mike Garcia, a highly decorated United States Naval officer and businessman recently elected to the House as a Republican from California.
A perfect example of how Hispanic candidates can defeat black officeholders in areas long dominated by African Americans occurred in New York’s City’s 13th Congressional District. This is Harlem, a district emblematic of black political power, and between 1971 and 2017, it was represented by an African American, Charles Rangel, Unfortunately for Rangel, personal scandals and recent Hispanic immigration spelled his doom. He was replaced by Adriano Espaillat, a Dominican Republic immigrant who slowly climbed up the political ladder by diligently helping constituents. Who would ever believe that a House seat once held by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. is now occupied by a once-illegal Spanish-speaking immigrant? So much for open borders.
A “black/brown” coalition led by blacks is pure fantasy. It is hard to imagine two more antagonistic groups who often live in proximity. This conflict is frequently physical, as reflected in gang battles over turf, schoolyard and particularly violent prison battles plus acrimonious minor encounters in stores and restaurants. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Latino Gang Members in Southern California are Terrorizing and Killing Blacks.” The academically-crafted message that all racial and ethnic minorities, including “the Latinx,” must unite against white oppression is totally foreign in Californian cities like Compton where an influx of Hispanics are pushing out blacks from a city they long dominated.
There are also deep differences over bread-and-butter issues. Many of the small businesses destroyed during the post-George Floyd riots were Hispanic-owned, a disaster exacerbated by the lack of sympathy among blacks who framed the destruction as a legitimate outrage over historic injustice. Many Hispanics also personally see that an open southern border brings economic competition that will invariably lower their own wages. Especially for those near the border, the influx of drug, gang violence, sex trafficking, and other criminal behavior is a personal matter, not an ideological abstraction. Meanwhile, while black leaders call for defunding the police, Hispanics are increasingly joining the force. Hispanics no doubt take the defund movement personally -- they have family serving as police officers.
Nor does the current Democratic Party agenda seem relevant to Hispanics. How many Latinos embrace the woke agenda of LGBTQ+ rights, reparations for slavery, renaming buildings, subsidizing black home ownership, and, perhaps most of all, government mandated Diversity, Inclusion and Equity? It’s hardly surprising, since many of today’s Hispanics were not educated here and thus are immune to the siren song of guilt-heavy identity politics. Pandering to blacks is a losing strategy in Hispanic neighborhoods. It is hardly surprising then that when affirmation action was on the ballot in California, Hispanics generally refused to support it.
Moreover, unlike white liberals, Hispanics are not easily cowed by accusations of racism. It helps to be a minority of color when, for example, black activists demand that you step aside in dividing up the spoils or occupying positions of power. In fact, given the macho nature of Hispanic culture, blacks will think twice about trying to push them around. As such, Hispanics are great allies in resisting black demands.
Predictably, poll after poll reports a mass exodus from the Democratic Party to the GOP. A political party dominated by blacks and influenced by ideas promoted by rich whites, especially academics, hardly offers Latinos a comfortable home. They want a booming economy, business-friendly law, and could care less about promoting Critical Race Theory. Today’s Hispanics may resemble the Irish of the 19th century who flocked to the Democrats when that party offered a better life, not an agenda to transform America. Today the GOP may be that political home, and this is not a happy outcome for blacks.
Image: GPA Photo Archive