Biden’s mistakes with Latinos may cost him the election

See,

1) Sean Sullivan, “Latino groups warn that Biden’s sluggish outreach to their voters could hurt in November,” Washington Post, September 13, 2020 (10:18 p.m. EDT).

2) Nicole Narea, “The Latino vote is not being taken seriously”: Longtime Democratic strategist Chuck Rocha sounds an alarm; A former senior campaign adviser for Bernie Sanders explains why Joe Biden seems to be underperforming among Latinos, VOX, September 9, 2020, 8:50am EDT

Sometimes it seems that Joe Biden has gone out of his way to antagonize the Latino vote.

This could be because no one person is in firm control of the campaign.  Whatever the causes, if he does not fix the problem he may lose enough of the Latino vote to lose the election.

Prominence given to African-Americans and relative neglect of Latinos

One factor may be that he has given the impression that he cares deeply about the African-American vote, but in comparison doesn’t care very much about the votes of Americans of Hispanic origin.  He is familiar with African-American voters.  James Clyburn and black voters in South Carolina are responsible for his winning the Democratic nomination.

The identity politics that have worked so well with his African-American supporters don’t seem to work so well with the diverse Latino communities he must win over if he is going to succeed in November.  In Florida, he must appeal both to Cuban-Americans, many of whom (especially those who are older) are quite conservative, and to Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and immigrants from Central and South America (as well as Haitians).

It is difficult to understand what the Biden campaign was thinking when they failed to give prominent positions to outstanding Hispanic Americans at the Democratic National Convention.  It was insulting that they only gave one minute to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of their rising stars.  If Biden had wanted to stress that the Democratic Party has  a big tent, he could have honored her achievement and popularity by giving her at least five minutes to talk.  Other Latinos could have been given more prominent  speaking slots.

Unfortunately, the impression given was that Democrats care deeply about–and celebrate–African-Americans, but Latinos, well, not so much.

LatinX

A second factor, touched upon above, appears to be that Biden has not yet learned how to speak to Latinos.  They certainly don’t want to be referred to as “LatinX” instead of Latinos.  LatinX is a label which must grate, particularly on older voters, as the imposition of a term describing them dictated by the LGBTQ component of the party.

Health Care

Third, Biden has failed to make two of his potenrially strongest arguments in appealing to the Latino community.  The first is the contrast between his position and that of Donald Trump on health care.  Biden is in favor of strengthening the ACA (Obamacare), while Trump is challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare–and its protections for pre-existing conditions–in federal court.  Trump, if he wins, has no alternative to Obamacare in place.

In effect, Trump is campaigning to take away health care from millions of voters, including very significant numbers of Latino voters and their children.  Why Biden hasn’t called Trump out on the contradiction between what he says in his campaign (that he will protect pre-existing conditions) and his position in federal court is anyone’s guess, and points to a lack of nimbleness in the campaign.

This issue is obviously also of importance far beyond the Latino community.

Federal stimulus benefits for the unemployed

The second major issue of importance to Latino voters which Biden has failed to stress is federal financial assistance to the unemployed and others who have been brutally affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Latinos include a large percentage of low wage-earners and unemployed. The failure to pass legislation to provide continued federal stimulus payments to the unemployed has had a huge impact on many Latino families.  Biden has failed to make this a salient campaign issue in his battle with Donald Trump.

Certainly his reassurance to individuals earning less than $400,000 a year that he would not raise their taxes must have sounded obscene to Latino workers trying to survive on very low-income jobs, or no jobs at all.  Biden could make this a big campaign issue, but hasn’t.

He could push for the House to insist on some stimulus relief in exchange for House support of a continuing resolution to raise the debt limit and avoid a  shut-down of the government   The Democrats, relying too strongly on polls as they did in 2016, seem to be afraid of a fight with the Republicans to secure essential support for Latino and other unemployed workers who are up against the wall.

Biden’s life and family and religious values

Third, Biden’s life exemplifies the strong family values and religious values that are so important to Latino voters.  He should continue to draw attention to his exemplary religious and family values.  The difference with Trump is obvious, and need not be belabored.

Need for positive focus on values and what Biden will do if elected

One final point is that Biden, while continuing to criticize Trump, should now place greater emphasis on what he is for, and what he will do, if elected president.  He should talk about honesty and truth, and why they are important.  He should talk about obstruction of justice, and explain in simple terms readily understood by less-educated or less-informed voters, why it is really important. These are arguments which Latino voters will understand, and appreciate.

Needed:  A focus on major themes

Democrats tend to think and talk in complicated ways.  Biden needs to boil his message down to a short list of major themes, to win over Latinos and everyone else.  One potential list:

1.  Health care;

2.  Covid-19 crisis management, and 200,000 to 400,000 deaths;

3.  Economic support for working families and unemployed during the pandemic;

4.  Russian influence over Donald Trump and his administration;

5. Science and climate change.

6.  Abuse of power, obstruction of justice; and

7.  Decency and family values.

Winning the daily news cycle

Biden needs to conduct a much more active campaign, and turn Kamala Harris loose to do the same.  She has been a vastly underused resource. They need to conduct a national campaign, in many states, and not just a campaign in swing states.  To date, they appear lethargic in comparison to Trump, who is always making news.  They need to move beyond their rational-analytical mindset, and connect with voters on a deep emotional level.

Too often Biden just laughs at some ridiculous issue raised by Trump, as if he were in an audience of his supporters, instead of explaining in simple and straightforward terms, with a straight and earnest face, why the issue should not be taken seriously.  We have all heard, “Come on, man,” one time too many.

Biden and Harris must find a way to gain prominence, for themselves and for their arguments, in the daily news cycle.

Winning the Latino vote

In conclusion, Latinos have reasons to feel neglected and just not bother to vote in November.  Whether Biden will be able to correct for his mistakes, using strong arguments he has not yet stressed or made salient, and mobilize Latino voters to actually vote is the key question.

The election may depend on the answer to this question.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

1 Comment on "Biden’s mistakes with Latinos may cost him the election"

  1. Michael mauldin | September 15, 2020 at 6:11 pm | Reply

    Excellent article and strong points on how Biden could connect with that electorate.
    Trump doesn’t actually make news everyday, he makes spectacle and that seems to work in a way that makes his base feel “good”. What can Joe do to make everyone feel good?
    Trump is not running a campaign he’s running a show. The show has no real substance but it seems to be the only “show” on all the channels. We have left the world of reality some time ago. Or so it seems.

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