Texan Hispanics will soon outnumber white, non-Hispanics in the state. But that demographic shift won’t necessarily equate to Texas turning blue, politically. That’s because although more Hispanics tend to vote Democratic, about 30% tend to vote Republican. More importantly, neither statistic is set in stone, and understanding the complexity of the Latino political identity could be key to understanding the future of Texas politics.
Geraldo Cadava is an associate professor at Northwestern University, and author of the book “The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity From Nixon to Trump.” Cadava told Texas Standard that “the notion that Hispanics are, ‘naturally liberal’ has been around for a long time. But the truth is, since Richard Nixon’s reelection in 1972, about a third, sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more – about a third of Latinos have voted for the Republican Party.”
Cadava said Hispanic and Latino members of the Republican Party are all over the United States, not just in well-known pockets like Miami.
“One misconception is that Latino conservatives are kind of, you know, a little slice of South Florida, and they care mostly about Cuban politics and things like that,” he said. “But the Hispanic Republican movement is truly much more diverse than that. And you can find Mexican-Americans in Texas, Arizona, California, Puerto Ricans in New York and Florida, who are also Republicans in terms of the issues they care about.”
They’re drawn to the brand of patriotism championed by the Republican Party, and Cadava said that bears out in the number of Hispanics serving in the military, on the Border Patrol, in police departments.
They’re also concerned with Republican issues like so-called school choice and religious freedom.
“All of these things are issues that draw Latinos into the Republican Party,” Cadava said.
Hispanics aren’t “naturally” Republican or Democrat. When politicians make such assumptions, Cadava said it diminishes the complexity among the individuals who make up that voting bloc.
“It doesn’t recognize there are serious political actors with true, real, sincere ideas that are deeply held,” he said. “And I think the important thing is that candidates from both parties need to listen to Latinos when they tell them what they care about and take them seriously and go fight for every one of their votes.”
If they don’t, and politicians take for granted that 30% of Hispanics will always vote Republican, that could backfire.
“Just because the Republican Party has won 30% of the Latino vote pretty consistently for the past 50 years, it does not mean that they are destined to win 30% of their vote going forward,” Cadava said. “I think they’re going to have to figure out ways to expand their support among Latinos if they want to remain relevant well into the future.”