May 14, 2021

Republican Gains With Hispanic Voters Are Real in Texas

As a sort of companion piece to our earlier post, I was interested in this New York Times story about how Hispanic conservatives in Texas are trying to solidify the undeniable gains that Republicans made with Hispanic voters in the 2020 election. These gains were made in the face of a Republican administration* that made the country’s Hispanic communities its primary scapegoats. This is a legitimate concern for Democrats going forward with their plans to purple Texas up.

That conservative surge — and the liberal decline — has buoyed the Republican Party’s hopes about its ability to draw Hispanic voters into what has long been an overwhelmingly white political coalition and to challenge Democrats in heavily Latino regions across the country. Now party officials, including Mr. Abbott, the governor, have flocked to the Rio Grande Valley in a kind of pilgrimage, eager to meet the people who helped Republicans rapidly gain ground in a longtime Democratic stronghold.

Republicans would be foolish not to see the opportunity here, but then again, the Republicans have been foolish about this opportunity since Karl Rove and George W. Bush were trumpeting it in 2000 and 2004. Then again, the GOP spent four years propping up a public bigot and his henchmen, who ramped up a camp system for migrants of all ages, and their approval rating went up, not down.

Ms. Pena-Garza said she was called a coconut — brown on the outside, white on the inside — and a self-hating Latino, labels that have begun to recede only in recent years as she meets more Hispanic Republicans who, like her, embrace policies that they view as helping small business owners and supporting their religious beliefs. Now, she says, the political choice is a point of pride.

“You can’t shame me or bully me into voting for a party just because that’s the way it’s always been,” she said.

So the story ably tracks a genuine political phenomenon, and certainly one that’s worth watching going forward. But this is 2021, and these are Republicans, and sooner or later, there’s a serious bustle in the hedgerow.

Elisa Rivera, 40, said she had voted for Mrs. Clinton in 2016, but did not understand the fierce reaction against Mr. Trump. “I was following along the family tradition, my dad is a hard-core Democrat, my father was really for unions, and I thought the Democrats defended the union,” Ms. Rivera said, before adding: “But then I started to research myself and found out the Democrats are supporting witchcraft and child trafficking and things like that, things that get censored because they get labeled conspiracy theory.”

If you think the Republicans won’t weaponize this thinking, and if you think it won’t work, I have a couple of first-term members of Congress I’d like you to meet. It’s just so damned exhausting.

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