GOP and Hispanic voters define their relationship

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Well on now to today’s lead story: the Latino vote.

One of the biggest surprises for Democrats after last week’s election? How many Hispanic voters supported President Trump and other Republican candidates. Especially in places like Florida and Texas.

BASHAM: WORLD senior correspondent Katie Gaultney reports now on the growing conservative movement among Hispanics and what to expect from the Latino vote in the future.

KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Connie Gonzales lives in the heart of San Antonio. One look leaves no doubt about who she voted for.

GONZALES: I’m wearing my Trump hat, my patriotic earrings, my buttons: Trump 2020, and Latinos for Trump.

One of her favorite shirts has a stylized graphic of the president wearing a sombrero, Poncho Villa-style, with the words “Latinos for Trump” underneath. She says her family supported Trump too, but she got some push-back from friends.

GONZALES: There’s some friends that have said, if you’re a Christian, how can you vote for Donald Trump? They just don’t understand. And actually if they call themselves Christians, I tell them, “I don’t understand how you can vote for abortions.”

Gonzales’s husband is a retired police officer, so she appreciated President Trump’s stance on “law and order.” And she largely supports him on immigration. Her family emigrated legally from Mexico generations ago, and she expects others to go the legal route, too. She even campaigned for Trump, making calls and helping to organize several car parades known as “Trump trains.”

GONZALES: All the Trump supporters out there with flags, women for Trump, Latinos for Trump, I mean, it just gave me goosebumps just to know that our president is being loved.

Gonzales wasn’t at all surprised that Latinos turned out for Trump in bigger-than-expected numbers. But plenty of political analysts were.

Samuel Roriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He says Democrats made a tactical error by assuming Hispanics are a monolithic group. A Puerto Rican in New York likely has different values than a Cuban-American in Miami, or a South Texas Mexican-American. But he says after last week’s vote, strategists are keyed in on one fact: Conservatives have a chance to court Hispanic voters. 

RODRIGUEZ: The Latino community just said yes to a formal engagement ring from America’s conservative movement. We’re not married yet, but we’re no longer flirting.

Israel Ortega works with the non-partisan Latino advocacy group Libre. He spent time this election cycle in several heavily Hispanic states—Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Ortega says faith was a key part of Trump’s outreach to Christian Hispanic voters.

ORTEGA: One of the things that President Trump was able to do very effectively, I think this cycle, was the outreach. He did it in evangelical churches in Florida, particularly in Orlando.

Samuel Rodriguez agrees: the faith component in Trump’s support among Hispanics was clear.

RODRIGUEZ: What brings us together as Latinos, beyond the language of Don Quixote? What brings us together as Latinos is our commitment to faith and family.

And Rodriguez says that emphasis on “faith and family” resulted in a rejection of several controversial issues at the polls—abortion, secular totalitarianism, and one other key issue.

RODRIGUEZ: And the third thing we said “no” to that was really loud—“no” to socialism. So here’s my take. The Latino community is America’s vaccine against socialism.

For many Latinos, socialism isn’t just a buzzword. They’ve seen first or second hand the negative effects of socialist policies.

RODRIGUEZ: We’ve come from these countries. We have friends in Venezuela who are starving today because of socialism and in Cuba and in Nicaragua, literally dying of starvation, malnutrition. So it’s right now, a wake up call for the Democratic Party.

But what about immigration? It seems logical to assume many Latino voters would frown on some of the president’s border policies, particularly at the U.S.-Mexico border. But Israel Ortega says it may not be a priority.

ORTEGA: A lot of the polling actually shows that Hispanics do care about immigration, but it’s not usually the first issue. Usually it’s third or fourth; even education ranks higher than immigration…

And Rodriguez notes that supporting Trump doesn’t mean wholesale support for his character or rhetoric. It’s more about recognizing the benefits Latinos have reaped during his administration.

RODRIGUEZ: The policies lined up with Latinos. The lowest unemployment rate in Latino history in American history for Latinos, because of this guy in the White House, I’m getting paid more money per hour. I’m having more for my children. I can send my kids off to college. It’s not what it used to be back in the day.

So, what’s next? Ortega says Republicans will likely try to ride this year’s momentum in traditionally blue areas, like parts of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Democrats, on the other hand, may see this as a wake-up call that they can’t take the Hispanic vote for granted. For his part, Rodriguez is planning outreach to Hispanic voters for the next election.

RODRIGUEZ: And my commitment is for the sake of my children and my children’s children, we’re going to mobilize the Latino community to determine the outcome of the 2024 election, without a doubt, not just Florida and Texas, but across the nation.

Back in San Antonio, Connie Gonzales remains committed to Trump, even in the face of what looks like defeat.

GONZALES: I love America. I love my God. And I love my president, my country, the flag. And they’re not going to take that freedom away from us. No way. I still say Trump 2020! (laughter)

MUSIC: [Nuestro Himno, Olga Tanon, Wyclef Jean and Carlos Ponce]

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Katie Gaultney.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) President Donald Trump give a thumbs up to the cheering crowd after a Latinos for Trump Coalition roundtable Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Phoenix. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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