Why ‘Sleeping Giant’ Is The Wrong Metaphor For Latino Voters

Texas Monthly’s Cecilia Ballí says Latinos are not disengaged in politics – it’s the other way around.

By Kristen CabreraOctober 19, 2020 1:27 pm, , ,

As the countdown to Election Day continues, the focus Latino voters is ongoing, too. Previously on the Texas Standard we have had conversations on the history of the Latino vote and about Hispanic Republicans. Latinos represent a population many say could tip an election if voters tuned out in large numbers – they’ve been called the “sleeping giant” of electoral politics. But there’s a giant problem with that metaphor, said Cecilia Ballí, who writes for Texas Monthly.

“Latinos are by and large informed, independent political thinkers, whom our political system hasn’t properly understood or engaged,” Balli told Texas Standard

She and a team of anthropologists spent months traveling around Texas speaking with Latino voters in depth about politics. Ballí said that the “sleeping giant” metaphor commonly used to describe the Latino voting populous doesn’t encompass all the complexities of this group.

“I feel that it’s a misleading term that doesn’t capture the true deeper reasons behind some of the political disengagement by Latinos,” she said. “The metaphor suggests that people are sleeping, meaning they’re disengaged or they’re not paying attention. And then that it’s this giant that’s going to wake up, you know, is this opposition and this will happen when it’s the right candidate or the right election.”

Ballí said that when it comes to the nonvoters among those she spoke with, many were engaged with politics.

“What we found was that most nonvoters were following political news to some degree. Some of them quite closely. But they didn’t feel that their vote mattered. They had a harder time connecting government to their lives.”

Part of the mainstream narrative is that Democrats do a better job of reaching out to Latino voters. But Ballí said outreach has been historically lackluster.

“Neither party has done a good job of reaching out to Latinos and engaging them consistently,” she said. “And not just at election time and engaging them on other issues beyond immigration. And so what you see is that Latinos don’t speak in highly ideological terms and a number of them are independent. A great number of them consider themselves independent, even if they consistently vote for one or another party. And I think that partly reflects that lack of conversation.”

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