Latino Voters

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John Loredo, political analyst and also a former Arizona lawmaker and Joe Garcia, director of the ASU Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center discuss the changing demographics of Latino voters.

José Cárdenas: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. Will the changing demographics of the Latino vote affect the 2016 presidential election? We'll talk about Latino voters and politics today. Plus, a program helping undocumented youth refugees adjust to a life in the United States. And learn about a program hoping to be a key part of the future of Alzheimer's prevention research. All this coming up straight ahead on "Horizonte."

Video: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. The first Republican and Democratic primaries are less than a month away. Whether and how the Latino vote will impact the 2016 election is a hotly debated topic. Joining me to talk about this is John Loredo, political analyst and former Arizona lawmaker, and Joe Garcia, director of the ASU Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center. Gentlemen, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." One of the reasons I wanted to talk about this was a provocative article by Roberto surro who's well respected, head of the Pew Hispanic research center in Washington, now a professor at USC and the head of the title is whatever happened to Latino political power? He's expressing concern that despite the growing number of Hispanic voters, there may be no impact in this election for a variety of reasons. John, what do you think?

John Loredo: That's certainly not the case in Arizona. Arizona has the largest growth of Latino voters in the United States. The impact here I think is being felt from school boards to city councils to the state legislature where we've seen an uptick, pretty steady uptick in Latinos getting elected. Their impact on policy at the local level has been fairly important, and when you look at the growth in the Latino vote during the last presidential election in 2014, Latinos were 16% of the overall electorate that was eligible to vote, yet they were 18% of those who actually voted. That is an over-performance. It doesn't happen everywhere but it happened here. And so that type of turnout, which is I think was the second highest vote share in the entire country, that type of turnout is not by accident. It's because Latino voters here are motivated and they have the means to get involved in the political process and they do. So you know, when I see articles like this that paint with pretty broad brushstrokes overall, the whole country, that may be true in other places but it is certainly not the case here.

José Cárdenas: Well, just one question before I move on to Joe. What happened in 2014 with the Latino vote? That could have made the difference in David Garcia becoming the state superintendent and it wasn't there.

John Loredo: Off-year elections always have a lower turnout. They just do. But you have to look at the overall electorate. Young voters skip that election completely. They were in the single digits. They just didn't show up. You have -- and it didn't matter what color they are, they just didn't show up. You have different segments of the voting electorate that are on the downturn. You've got different segments that just don't turn out at all. You can't just put the success of elections on the Latino vote themselves. They have been -- I think there were 13% of the electorate during last year's election, that's one of the highest Latino turnouts in the country. So it takes a lot of different groups of voters in order for Latinos or Democrats to win. The only growth in the Democratic Party has been Latino voters, you know. The other segments of that group need to carry their own weight as well and until they actually increase their turnout like Latinos are, you know, they can't expect much.

José Cárdenas: Joe, one of the points that professor Surro makes is that Latinos are focused on what is perhaps a losing issue. What ignites the Latino voting bloc is immigration, so they support Democrats, Democrats haven't come through for them, a failure of the Democrats to get meaningful immigration reform through and then Obama is labeled as the chief deporter. And on the other hand, they may have mobilized an anti-immigrant vote and driven voters who might otherwise vote for Democrats into the Republican party. How do you assess that?

Joe Garcia: Well, I think if you look at Latino voters, I'm glad that the article started with a question because it is a question. I think the question should be where will Latino voting power be in the future? And not so much what happened to it. Because largely we were talking about an emerging Latino voter in Arizona and elsewhere that is coming up. And they are largely pro-immigration and it is a key component but not the most important issue, and I think that's important, too. So the candidate who supports jobs and education and does the bestselling job on those points is probably going to get the Latino vote. But I should point out, too, that if you come across too harshly on immigration issues, it's interpreted by the Latino community as anti-Latino. And that's a long hammer there and to switch direction of aircraft carrier like that, that's your position, is very difficult to do. So political rhetoric that's going on today is going to have ramifications for decades to come. So it's kind of what is happening? And I think it's important to note, too, that potential Latino voters oftentimes are still too young to vote. But every year there's a new wave of Latino voters who are voting age, and they are going to vote. I think the younger generation is going to vote eventually in more frequent style than their parents do. But it's not going to be a single issue. It's not going to be just immigration.

José Cárdenas: Well, one of the things we point out is that the reaction of the DREAMers, for example, to the really harsh rhetoric coming from Donald Trump hasn't been that strong. And he compares it to the really strong reaction from the black lives matter group and where is the indignation that might mobilize that voting bloc?

Joe Garcia: It's a culture thing, as well. I think if you look at the track when it comes to civil rights and rights in general between African-Americans and Latinos, it's very different. But I think the passion is still there. The reaction is still there. It doesn't mean there's going to be protests, that there's going to be grabbing a microphone to speak over a presidential candidate, it doesn't mean that's going to be there but I'm saying that it resonates and it has a long-lasting effect on how Latinos are going to vote not only in this upcoming election but for future elections to come. But the question I think the Republicans are all asking and are worried somewhat is are we destroying the Republican party for the future, for Latinos, just by a single candidate and harsh rhetoric coming from Donald Trump?

John Loredo: He needs to get behind his computer screen and take a look outside because that reaction is there. That outrage is there. Donald Trump gets interrupted at almost every stop he makes by young Latinos who are outraged at his rhetoric. It happened here, it's happened all over the country. He is being dogged all over the place by young Latinos who are confronting him on his position, very hateful position, on immigrants and Latinos in particular. So I think that outrage is there.

José Cárdenas: John, what about the suggestion that Latinos are diminishing their effectiveness, their power, by being so loyal to the Democratic Party? That if they really want to have an impact, it would be much greater balance between the two parties?

John Loredo: I don't think that's the case. Like I said, between 2002 and 2014, Arizona had a 165% increase in Latino voters, that's the highest, most dramatic increase in the entire country. Many of those --

José Cárdenas: People who actually voted or registered?

John Loredo: Both. Both. When you look at the vote share like I said, in 2014, second highest vote share in the entire country. It's happening. But when you look at how Latinos register, about half of them if not more than half register as independents. There's a reason for that and it's not that they don't like Democrats or -- it's that they vote based on the issue. Young Latino voters, they may not be loyal to a brand, they are loyal to their community and loyal to their issues that matter most to them. And I think that's a good thing because they hold people accountable. To them, brand is simply not what your loyal to. You're loyal to the issues. And holding Democrats and Republicans accountable to those issues I think is a really important thing to take notice of because they're doing it. They're doing it at all levels of government, whether it be talking about issues at the city council meeting or in school boards or in the state legislature, they're holding people accountable. And Latino voters will vote based on those issues that they see out their front door. In many cases before they will vote based on a national issue.

José Cárdenas: Joe, there's a decent chance it looks like as we sit here today that there will be a Republican at the head of the -- I mean, a Latino at the head of the Republican ticket, either Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. How do you think that impacts the significance of the Latino vote?

Joe Garcia: I don't think just ethnicity is going to be a determinator. I don't think Latinos view Cruz as a Latino, I'm not even sure he views himself as a Latino so I think that cancels itself out. Rubio allows more of an opportunity there but he would have to move more towards the center. So it's possible. It's going to come down to not who you are or what your ethnic background is. It's not even your personal history, your family story. It's what you're going to provide for families today and tomorrow and the future.

José Cárdenas: So both of their personal stories do seem to resonate in a way for many Hispanics. That people came to this country, their parents came to this country, lived a tough life, they succeeded, their children are better off than they were. That seems to resonate with many people don't you think?

Joe Garcia: It absolutely does but the message is we're still going to deport you, that message cancels itself out again. So it's an understanding. Comprehensive immigration reform looked like it had life for a while. The problem was people thought it was a compassionate immigration reform. But without a pathway to citizenship, it's pretty much D.O.A. when it comes to the Latino community understanding what can happen. The American dream has to become an American reality which means legality for Latinos. We form our opinions at a very young age, eight, nine, 10. People have very long memories. Our study on Arizona's emerging Latino voter, we looked at that and we predict by 2030, Arizona could become a blue progressive state, largely because of the Latino vote, young Latinos coming of age, where they can vote but independents and Democrats voting in a bloc somewhat when it comes to key issues for Latinos and the declining Republican party can really change the outcome. What we're seeing right now is not -- where we haven't elected a Latino statewide office holder since governor Raúl Castro, 40 years ago. What we're seeing now is a snap shot of the past and not a picture of the future. Latinos -- I don't know if you can win an election anymore without the Latino vote. And that's become more powerful as each year goes forward.

José Cárdenas: So John, last question, we're almost out of time. But one other aspect of a Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz at the head of the ticket is they're both Cuban descendants. Cubans comprise less than 3% of the Hispanics in the United States. Mexican Hispanics are 78%. The two communities have not always gotten along, traditionally Cubans vote Republican and Mexicans vote Democrat. Do you think people would vote against those two guys because they're Cuban?

John Loredo: There may be some I'm sure but when you look at the dramatic increase in Latino voting in Arizona in particular, that doesn't happen because you have an uninformed Latino electorate. Latinos are informed. They vote on the issues. And there is an atmosphere of holding people accountable. There is a feeling that we're under attack by the right wing with some pretty hateful, racist rhetoric. That may be a motivating factor to get engaged and vote against somebody but voting for somebody means that they actually have to be right on the issues. They have to be right on immigration but they have to be right on public education, they have to be right on the economy and jobs.

José Cárdenas: And I should end this interview, this segment by noting that the polling does suggest that immigration is not the number one issue with Hispanics. It is the economy and jobs and I'm sure we're going to be talking about that, all of that a lot more the next few months. Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it.

John Loredo: political analyst,Joe Garcia:Director of the ASU Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center

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