President Donald Trump did historically well in terms of the Hispanic vote. In both Texas and Florida, the Republican nominee did well among Hispanics.
Per NBC News, “55 percent of Florida’s Cuban-American vote went to Trump, according to NBC News exit polls, while 30 percent of Puerto Ricans and 48 percent of ‘other Latinos’ backed Trump.” Nationally, he went from 28% among Hispanics to 32%.
What happened here? Did particular issues at stake in the 2020 election affect the Hispanic community’s votes? What about Trump’s immigration policies? And lastly, is there even a Hispanic voting bloc—or should we look at these voters in a different way?
Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss all this and more.
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Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Mike Gonzalez. He’s a senior fellow in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation. Mike, it’s great to have you with us on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Mike Gonzalez: It’s entirely my pleasure to be able to speak to you and to your audience of The Daily Signal.
Rachel del Guidice: Well, thanks. It’s great to have you back on. Also, while votes, Mike, are still being counted and we still don’t know for sure who the next president will be, President [Donald] Trump did historically win well in terms of the Hispanic vote, per NBC.
Fifty-five percent of Florida’s Cuban American vote went to Trump, according to NBC News exit polls, while 30% of Puerto Ricans and 48% of other Latinos backed Trump. What is your perspective on all this?
Gonzalez: Well, I mean, one thing that it did do is that it showed, what you just said, the Hispanic vote does not exist. I don’t know how often I need to say this, there is no Hispanic vote. There’s a Cuban vote in Miami, just like there is an Irish vote in Boston.
The Irish vote in Texas is very different from the Irish vote in Boston. The Irish vote in Texas is more conservative, more Republican, more GOP. The Irish vote in Boston is traditionally Democrat.
The Cuban vote in Miami has been strongly pro-Trump. I don’t believe it’s 55%, I think it is much higher.
Polls going in put it at, Trump had a 38 percentage point lead on Joe Biden in the polls going into the election. So I don’t think it was 55%. I mean, that’s what they gave Trump in 2016. They gave him 56%. And if anything, it will be much, much, much higher this year.
… The number that I’ve seen today is 69%. But yes, 69% for Trump, 30% for Biden among Cuban Americans in South Florida.
The Puerto Rican vote in the I-4 corridor between Tampa and Orlando was also very important. And it’s, again, a very different Puerto Rican vote from the one, for example, in New York or at Hartford, Connecticut, or Philadelphia. It is much more conservative.
The Puerto Rican vote in the Northeast is very, very liberal. This vote in the I-4 corridor, Central Florida, is much more conservative.
And then … Trump outperformed with Mexican Americans in the Rio Grande Valley. There’s one county, Zapata, which he actually won, which Hillary [Clinton] had won by 30 points. That county is 95% Mexican American and Trump won that county. And he improved in all the other counties of the RGV.
… Oh, and let me mention, by the way, I don’t know if you want to get into this later, is the defeat of Proposition 16 in California. … Chinese American parents organized this. Their own affinity groups like Asian Americans Advancing Justice were against them.
They defeated Proposition 16 at an even higher rate than Proposition 209 in ’96, which is the first one to get rid of affirmative action, racial preferences. So all in all, this is a very good defeat of identity politics all over the country.
Del Guidice: Well, in Texas, per Vox, Biden won the Hispanic vote by 19 points this year, according to the exits, but that’s down from Hillary Clinton’s 27-point margin in 2016. What do you make of this, Mike?
Gonzalez: Well, as I just said, there is no Hispanic vote in Texas or anywhere. It doesn’t exist. I know that the media likes to talk about it in that sense. It’s a Mexican American vote. And in the Rio Grande Valley, in the heartland, traditional Mexican Americans have lived in Texas. Trump really outperformed there compared to 2016.
And the numbers, I have them here, in Hidalgo County, he improved by 25 percentage points. In Zapata County, he won that one out right. In, I think, Jim Hogg County, … he improved by 39 percentage points.
So the improvement from [2016 to] this year in all these counties—Zapata County, Starr County, Webb County, Zavala, Brooks County, Hidalgo County in Southern Texas. And this is not a Hispanic vote, right? This is a Mexican American vote. This is the heartland of the Mexican, of the Tejano vote. This is a Tejano vote in Texas.
Del Guidice: Do you think, Mike, there were any particular issues at stake in the 2020 election that had a particular impact on Mexican American communities’ votes?
Gonzalez: Yeah, I think they like the economy. … The Trump economy was very good. I think people understand that what happened with COVID-19 had nothing to do with the economic gains that have been made in the first three years.
What is clear is that there was no repudiation of Trump. In fact, Trump did very, very well, and he brought together a very different coalition. And I think the liberals are very surprised by what they’re seeing here.
And one of the reasons why liberals have been taken aback is because they continue to believe there’s such a thing as a Latino vote. There’s no Latino vote.
I understand that consultants need to feed their families and they must push this idea, there’s a Latino vote. You have, as I said, very different groups. Again, as I said before, the Irish vote in Boston is very, very different from the Scots-Irish vote in Kentucky and West Virginia.
Del Guidice: Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for The New York Times Magazine and a leader of the 1619 Project, tweeted on Tuesday, “One day after this election is over I’m going to write a piece about how Latino is a contrived ethnic category that artificially lumps white Cubans with black Puerto Ricans and Indigenous Guatemalans and helps explain why Latinos support Trump at the second highest rate.”
Mike, you’ve written about this. Can you tell us your perspective?
Gonzalez: I’ve tweeted back at her and I mentioned her in an op-ed that I’m publishing tomorrow. She’s completely right. I mean, I don’t get to say very often, “Nikole Hannah-Jones is 100% right.” She is 100% right.
She gets it wrong in a subsequent tweet when she said last night that these are categories created by whites. No. These are categories created by leftist activists and ideologs, but nothing to do with their color.
On that tweet, she was 100% right.
Del Guidice: What is your response, Mike, to the narrative we’ve heard for so many years that President Trump is racist with him doing so well now in 2020 with the Hispanic vote?
Gonzalez: So again, there is no Hispanic vote. He did not do well in the Hispanic vote, he did well with Cubans. Cuban Americans in Florida. He did relatively well with Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida. He did well with Mexican American voters. He did vastly better with Mexican American voters in the Rio Grande Valley.
The New York Times actually ran a very good piece, a very good essay, about a month ago in which, … first of all, they found out that 75% of quote-unquote “Hispanics” do not think of themselves as people of color, which threw The New York Times for a loop.
And the people who wrote this op-ed, only the most leftist 25% consider themselves as people of color. And they don’t see themselves as victims or minorities.
And they actually agreed with a lot of the messages that President Trump was giving that to The New York Times sounded like a racist dog whistle, quote-unquote “messaging.” These Hispanic voters that [were] surveyed in this New York Times op-ed agreed with that.
So it’s almost like this a parallel world being lived where you have a lot of super woke, very white elite people who think they understand their country, who think they understand the countrymen, but do not really understand.
Not just that they do not understand mainstream people, nonminority people, if you want to put it that way, they don’t understand minority people either. They live in a Twitter world, which is relegated to the coasts. They do not understand their country or their countrymen.
Del Guidice: Well, President Trump’s rhetoric and policies on immigration have been harshly criticized by the media and D.C. pundits. Do you think that his share of the Mexican American vote shows that there’s diversity of thought on immigration policies and others?
Gonzalez: Absolutely. I mean, the quote-unquote “Mexican American” voters of New Mexico have been there since the 1600s. A lot of them are not immigrants, they’re not the grandchildren of immigrants. …
Immigration never comes up as a top issue of Americans with their roots in Latin America. What do they care about? They care about jobs. They care about education. They care about health care. They care about the same things their countrymen care about.
Del Guidice: Why do you think, as a whole, President Trump was so successful with Mexican Americans? And are there lessons for conservatives here?
Gonzalez: Just be yourself. Don’t buy into this idea of Hispanic votes or Latino votes or we need to cater to minorities. But no, treat people like Americans. Treat people like adults.
… Just treat people, not like members of a victim group, of an agreed group, but treat people like American voters and pay attention to what they say back to you, and not have assumptions as to what they think about or how they think just because they’re members of a category that was created by the bureaucracy in the first place. If politicians begin to do that, they’ll be rewarded.
Del Guidice: And finally, Mike, you did hit on this a little bit, but do you think the media understands the Mexican American vote? Why or why not? And how would you change media coverage of this demographic?
Gonzalez: The media has to do everything different.
I mean, obviously, this election was a repudiation. It was a repudiation of the media. The media was repudiated here. They felt that it was their job to remove Donald Trump. They wanted to have Donald Trump repudiated. That didn’t happen.
So to tell the media how to better cover Mexican Americans in Texas, it’s a minuscule part of all the things that the media needs to do differently. But they’re not going to learn because they think they’re right.
They live in Brooklyn or Manhattan, or they live in Washington, and all they know is people like themselves. Washington, D.C., voted 93% for Biden, 5% for Trump.
If you live in Washington, D.C., well over 9% of the people you meet are liberals just like you. And that’s where a lot of the media is based.
So the media is so far removed from real America that I wouldn’t begin with how to cover Mexican Americans. I would just tell them, for Pete’s sake, stop using the term Hispanic or Latino and, of course, Latinx.
NPR … uses it all the time. Nobody. Nobody in a bodega in New York or a coffee stop in Miami has ever used the term Latinx. It’s only the super liberal people at NPR that use Latinx, and they’re not Hispanics.
Del Guidice: Well, Mike, thank you so much for joining us on “The Daily Signal Podcast” and unpacking the Mexican American vote with us. We appreciate having you.
Gonzalez: Great. Thank you very much. It’d been my pleasure. … Thank you.