Mon, Mar

Memo to Dems: Don’t Take Latino Vote for Granted


LATINO PERSPECTIVE--A growing number of new Latino voters in Los Angeles and California are registering as “Non-Party Participants,” in a rebuke of the Democratic Party. 

I found a really interesting article written by Amanda Gomez from PBS last week in which she argues that the Democratic Party is relying on Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric to drive up Latino turnout this fall. But while conventional wisdom holds that most new Latino voters will register as Democrats, an increasing number in California and I have to add Los Angeles — a key state in the battle over immigration — are actually opting out of the two-party system altogether, a troubling sign for a Democratic Party that has long taken the Latino vote for granted, Gomez suggests. 

Since 2008, California — which holds its Democratic and Republican primaries on Tuesday — has seen a 35 percent spike in people registering as “No Party Preference” voters, instead of as Democrats or Republicans. California’s new nonpartisan or no-party voters are primarily young and Latino, according to Paul Mitchell of Political Data, a California voter information and political campaign management group. 

“As cities get more heavily Latino or Asian, [the] rate of nonpartisan registration rises significantly, while Democratic registration is flat-lined and Republicans are losing voters,” Mitchell said. 

The surge of Latino no-party voters in California isn’t surprising, given that many come from families whose parents do not have strong ties to either major political party. Often, their parents were born outside of the country or are less interested and involved in U.S. politics, said Mark DiCamillo, a senior vice president at Field Research, a California-based polling firm. 

Still, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Latino turnout this election is less of a pledge of allegiance to the Democratic Party, and more of a vote against Trump. And beyond the implications for 2016, the no-party voter surge reveals an important generational divide among Latinos like Betsy Avila, which could impact Democratic candidates for years to come.

Avila, a 28-year-old artist in Los Angeles, says she updates her Mexican-born parents regularly on the state of the presidential election. There isn’t a dinner-table discussion that goes by without election talk, Avila said. 

But in these discussions, Avila said she often finds herself explaining the intricacies of U.S. politics to her parents. “It goes beyond English to Spanish. I provide nuance,” she said. 

Avila cited Sanders, who relies on numbers and catchphrases like “the 99 percent” and “the 1 percent” that can mean little for immigrants without being placed in historical context. 

That disconnect is readily apparent in Los Angeles County, which has the largest Latino voter bloc in the state. More than one-third of the residents in the county are immigrants. The number of new no-party voters in Los Angeles is growing daily, according to Diana Colin, the director of civic engagement at the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, a nonprofit that runs a voter registration program. 

“California has come a long way since Prop 187,” said Colin. “But Latinos in California have not forgotten.” 

Still, Democrats are going to have to work harder to convince Latinos to remain in the party. Until that happens, the number of no-party voters could keep growing. 

“The Democratic party should have California Latinos’ unwavering support,” said Jose Parra, the CEO of Prospero Latino, a left-leaning political consulting firm in Washington, D.C., “but it doesn’t because the party has not [done enough] to sustain it.”

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected].)