With the midterm elections at hand, one of the questions is the narrative that will emerge from the Latino vote in Texas, especially in the Rio Grande Valley. This, considering that in the 2020 general elections former President Donald Trump not only won the state, but also increased his level of support among Hispanic voters compared to 2016.
Although Democrat Joe Biden lost Texas to Trump in 2020, he did so by just 6 percentage points. But in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, a traditional Democratic stronghold along the Mexican border, Biden won by narrower margins than Hillary Clinton in 2016 in Hidalgo and Starr counties. Even more significant was Trump’s victory in Zapata County, with almost 53% of the Latino vote.
In the Texas gubernatorial race, Democrat Beto O’Rourke is seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Greg Abbott. The most recent polls do not seem to favor the Democrat, who has focused his campaign on the issue of abortion after the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that reversed Roe v. Wade. This attack on women’s reproductive rights, in fact, breathed life into Democrats heading into the midterm elections that were shaping up to be decided in favor of the Republicans in control of Congress.
There are also at least three House races where three Republican Latinas from the Rio Grande Valley are hoping to win to help move the House under Republican control. These three applicants are Mayra Flores (District 34), Cassy Garcia (District 28) and Monica de la Cruz (District 15).
Although O’Rourke is shaping up to prevail in the Rio Grande Valley, the question is by what margin. How will the Latino vote behave in this part of the state that has generated so much attention due to Republican advances? The obligatory question would be precisely, why is it that the Republicans have made progress with the Latino vote in the Rio Grande Valley? Or is it just the fluctuations of an oscillating Latino vote that varies in each electoral cycle?
The answer is a mix of factors ranging from being a rather conservative constituency, to Democrats having lost ground by not maintaining a consistent presence courting that vote or adequately investing in maintaining it; that Republicans have made strategic investments; or because Republican Hispanic women have assumed a significant role in reaching out to the community, where the factor of churches and religion play a preponderant role in attracting the Latino vote.
Or as Danny Diaz, political director of the organization LUPE Votes, said in a teleconference with the media last week, that the Latino vote in the Rio Grande Valley is perhaps “the most persuadable” of all and can lean towards candidates of either of the two main political parties
“The Latinos, the Mexican-Americans in South Texas are the ones who can be most persuaded,” if you do the work of speaking to them directly, Diaz said.
abortion and religion
For Rogelio Saenz, a professor in the Department of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio, one of the factors is that “in Texas and especially on the border and in the Valley there is a conservative Latino population.”
“It is not a liberal population that accepts the policies that the Democrats are promoting, such as abortion,” he explained. Although Saenz admits that many Latinos recognize that the Supreme Court’s ruling in overturning Roe v. Wade crossed the line, “especially people who have daughters,” which is why the issue may help O’Rourke in Texas among the Latino vote.
In South Texas there has been more conservative thinking, even on the issue of immigration. “There is a segment among the Latino population and on the border that is anti-immigrant,” said Saenz, although he clarified that Latinos in that area continue to be more pro-immigrant.
Without a doubt, Saenz added, religion “is a very important point that has not been talked about much in the political discourse on the Latino population.” And he abounded: “It is something that we have been seeing throughout the nation, but especially in some parts, such as the border. There are evangelical groups, for example, that have been growing, with many Latinos changing from Catholic to evangelical. Thus, we know that the politics of these groups is also very conservative and much more in line with the politics of the Republicans.”
According to Saenz, there are two other issues that can help O’Rourke among Hispanics: the issue of gun control, after the Uvalde massacre, and the sending of asylum seekers to Democratic cities using taxpayer funds, both mishandled. by Republican Abbott.
Republicans and Latinas
Trinidad Gonzales, professor of History and Mexican-American Studies at South Texas College, agrees with demographer Saenz that the rise of the three Republican candidates for Congress through the Rio Grande Valley is not surprising because it is a process that has gone giving gradually.
“Republican Latinas have reinvigorated the (Republican) party in South Texas over the last 10 years without outside help. What is new is that outside groups have taken notice because of how President Trump increased his vote in South Texas in 2020 and how Monica de la Cruz was able to offset Hidalgo County Democratic votes that went to Vicente Gonzalez with votes. Latino Republicans in outer Rio Grande Valley counties to nearly displace him in the same year. The special electoral victory of Mayra Flores continues this narrative. However, this election (on November 8) will indicate if there is a real change in political positions,” said Gonzales.
However, Gonzales himself acknowledges that “Republicans manipulated the 15th District of Texas to give Monica De La Cruz (R) the opportunity to obtain a seat that has been held by a Democrat for decades.”
It refers to the manipulation of district lines that are reviewed every 10 years based on Census data and that this time favor Republicans throughout the country. In fact, Matt Barreto, president and founder of BSP Research and professor of Political Science at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), recently said that the Republican gains in the 15th District are due to the manipulation of district lines by adding rural areas. conservative and white, and not because there has been a significant historical change in the preference of Latino voters. He also recalled that more Latinos participated in Democratic primaries than in Republican ones.
For his part, Saenz added that “a problem also with the Democrats is that they have not made efforts to get involved with the Latino population… They have not dedicated resources or time to learn more about the Latino population, especially from the border. And that is one of the advantages that the Republicans have taken advantage of, because they have put resources into it.”
For Gonzales, one of the questions in this election is O’Rourke’s margin of victory in the Rio Grande Valley. “Will he win enough along the border and in the major cities and reduce Governor Abbott’s rural vote?” he asked.
“The real question in this election is the increase in Latina voter registration. Will new voters turn out for Beto to help offset the structural advantage of Abbott and the Republicans that has been shrinking over the past three election cycles? What is missing from the polls is what the new voters are going to do, because the pollsters continue to focus on the possible voters,” concluded Gonzales.
Source: La Opinion