With the conventions and primaries behind us, there will be a renewed focus on the outreach strategies deployed by the campaigns to win over Latino voters. Clinton’s lead among Latinos builds upon a generation of progress integrating more Hispanics into the Democratic party and any cursory look at the convention events, panels, meetings, and platform committee discussions illustrates how far the Democrats have come, but also illustrates that the party still has some ways to go.
Let’s face it, Donald Trump would be a disaster for the country. He has no bearings from which anyone can discern what direction he would take the country in times of crisis, let alone the mundane gears of government that can have great long-term consequences for Latinos. Moreover, his commentary and rhetoric— ranging from ridiculing former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain because he was "captured" to making fun of a disabled reporter to picking on the Muslim mother of a fallen U.S. Army captain is incredibly disturbing. There really isn’t any discernible reason to vote for Trump.
But ignoring Hispanics can also have dire consequences for the Democrats. While Latinos are very unlikely to show much support for Trump, taking this voter block for granted may have a depressing impact on voter turnout. Not coming out to vote would be almost as bad as Latinos voting for Trump. So here are four things Clinton must do to continue the progress of the party in integrating Latinos.
SPEAK MORE SPANISH
When Clinton's vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine came out in Florida speaking Spanish, many scoffed at him for “pandering” to Latinos. This is hogwash. Don’t listen to those folks. Sprinkling a little español demonstrates your acceptance and integration of Latin culture. Most Latinos are bilingual and bicultural, and showing your comfort with bilingualism by peppering some words here and there is an excellent way to communicate that you understand what it means to think, speak, and maneuver through life in a multicultural environment.
EAT MORE TACOS...
...As well as pastelitos, arepas and rice and beans, for that matter. Once again, eating good Latin food is often met with derision from the cultural gatekeepers who think that somehow only they own Latin cultures. Ignore them. Hispanic cuisine is awesome - and it's also American. Gustavo Arellano’s book, “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America”, paints a wonderful portrait of how culture works in our multi-ethnic nation. Embrace our food, our artists, and our pop stars as you would the air you breathe. It is America, show it.
LATINOS ARE LIBERAL ON THE ISSUES, TALK ABOUT THEM OFTEN
Hispanics are more than just vats of people interested in immigration. Being friendly and understanding of the immigrant experience is a must, but Latinos align with Democrats on a wide variety of substantive issues, whether it is the environment, gun control, gay/lesbian rights, and the economy. A recent poll by Latino Decisions laid out the many ways that Latinos and the Democrats agree on policy issues. Speak to Latinos on the substance of your policies, not just that you are an outsider demonstrating your acceptance of immigrants into the American fabric. Not engaging Latinos on this important aspect of the party is a missed opportunity each time it is ignored, because it allows Republicans to speak in vague generalities about “small government” without actually defining what that means.
The convention was a poignant reminder that the Democrats have still a ways to go with integrating Latinos into the party. While Julián Castro, Xavier Becerra, and Tom Perez were considered high on the list of VP candidates, only Becerra has been truly groomed as a political insider within the Democratic Party. All three are young and have a promising future, but Latinos want to see representation of their communities at the national level. The three candidates also exposed how few Latinas were considered for higher office. Hilda Solís, Lucy Flores and others should be intently promoted and looked to for promotions and support as they continue to work for the party. Christina Bejarano writes about the “Latina advantage” in electoral politics, and that should not be ignored.
Communicate early to Latinos who among these representatives you would like to see in your cabinet or sitting in the White House with you as you go about your daily routine. Perez would make a great Attorney General or Chief of Staff. Say it. Julián Castro would do well as Secretary of Education, and Becerra should continue his rise in the ranks of the Party with greater decision-making power. Communicate this to Latinos so that they can connect their votes to greater access in Washington.
Democrats are in a new stage of their relationship with Latino communities and greater integration will make future presidencies much more difficult to win for the GOP. This much is evident to even the most dense Republicans out there not named Trump. This is why Governor Kasich of Ohio, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and others are working so hard to distance themselves from Trump.
This year is a golden opportunity for the Democrats to solidify the institutions within the party among Latinos for another generation while the Republicans scramble to make up for lost time.