The 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries started on Feb. 3 with the Iowa caucuses, which were won by Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. On Feb. 11, Sanders triumphed in New Hampshire. Now the race is on for the first state with a significant Latino population: Nevada. The caucuses will be held Feb. 22. About one in five of the state’s eligible voters is Latino.
According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos will play an important role in deciding who wins the White House this year. Overall, they account for 13.3 percent of eligible voters in the United States. This November, no candidate will be able to win without significant Latino support.
Though Nevada will start the run of primary states with significant Latino populations, that demographic’s influence will quickly accelerate on Super Tuesday (March 3) when six states with significant Latino blocs, including California, will cast ballots.
“The Hispanic population is much more than an electoral fad,” newscaster Jorge Ramos wrote recently in the New York Times. “As the iconic Hispanic labor leader César Chávez said, “We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”
A few states where Latinos make up a significant share of eligible voters (56%) moved up their primaries this year, increasing the likelihood that their support could swing primary races in early voting. This could eventually tip the scales of the general election.
Overall, 67% of registered Latino voters say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today. “It is like we don’t even exist to most of them,” said Rafael Fonseca, member of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPA). With the ever-increasing number of eligible voters, it is extremely important for candidates to recognize Latinos as the prominent voting bloc they have become. “We are a pretty big number nowadays and candidates seem to forget that,” Fonseca added.
Democrats have long been the choice of most Latino voters when it comes to party preference, but that advantage has been decreasing steadily since 2012. Democrats have barely scratched out a gain in Latino voters recently — and in the 2016 elections, Trump garnered 29 percent of this group.
President Obama promised an immigration reform bill that would have granted millions of undocumented immigrants a legal stay in the country but never delivered. Instead, more than three million undocumented immigrants were deported under his watch. Now Latinos are mistrustful of the Democratic Party. Additionally, polarizing opinions among its most prominent candidates on central topics such as deportation and Latino unemployment seem to be the number one reason they are driven from the party.
Despite their small advantage, it seems Democrats still have a long way to go if they want to secure the Latino vote and beat Trump in the general election. “For this to happen, the Democrats must be honest with the Latino community: They must vow not to fall into the same traps they have in the past,” wrote Ramos.
For the first time in the nation’s history, Latinos are set to be the largest group of minority voters. Nevertheless, the 32 million projected to be eligible voters are still considerably fewer than the 60 million who reside in the country. “From what we have seen, candidates are still scrambling to grasp key aspects concerning Latinos in America,” said Kelly Jimenez, a member of ALPA. “They believe the only topic that matters is immigration.”