Latinos are becoming an increasingly important part of building a coalition. Shifts in allegiance in places like the Rio Grande Valley of Texas indicate that they aren’t a group that has become totally beholden to the Left.
The question is, how do conservatives best court Latinos, and what is the voting bloc most concerned with?
Jorge Martinez, spokesperson and director of coalitions for The LIBRE Initiative, says that Latinos are concerned about many of the same things as most other Americans.
“The message doesn’t change [for Latinos],” he said. “It’s the messages of freedom, of family, and values of life, and God. And so, that is a message that is the same.”
Martinez joins the show to discuss how conservatives can keep Latinos in their coalition.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Doug Blair: My guest today is Jorge Martinez, spokesperson and director of coalitions for The LIBRE Initiative in the state of Texas. Jorge, welcome to the show.
Jorge Martinez: Thanks for having me, Doug. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Blair: Of course, it’s great having you on. And I’m so interested about this topic today because there has been so much discussion about bringing Latinos into the conservative coalition. So, before we get into the meat of things, I want to know a little bit about what you guys are. So, what is The LIBRE Initiative and what are you guys trying to do?
Martinez: Well, first of all, The LIBRE Initiative was founded in 2011 by founder and President Daniel Garza. He worked in the Bush administration and he currently lives in Mission, Texas. That’s also where I live, which is in the Rio Grande Valley, where all the action is at right now.
And basically, we were originally founded to spread the message of economic freedom within the Hispanic community. And throughout the years, we’ve definitely expanded our portfolio and what we do. And now, we really still have that message, but we want to see the U.S. Hispanic community prosper and thrive.
So, we talk about principles of limited government, the rule of law, sound money supply, property rights, when it comes to policy and informing the community on those policies that improve our lives.
Blair: Right. Well, one of the things that struck me when I was reading about The LIBRE Initiative is a lot of those things that you mentioned don’t really seem specific to the Latino community. It’s kind of everybody—white, black, anything in between. Does that sort of imply that Latinos are just like every other American?
Martinez: Yeah. The message doesn’t change. It’s the messages of freedom, of family, and values of life, and God. And so, that is a message that is the same. But we have a specific target audience that is a Hispanic community. And we’ve been doing it since the beginning, 11 years now.
I’ve been fortunate to be a part of LIBRE for 10 years and to see the growth of where we’ve been. And not only that, but to see the exciting changes that we are now seeing when it comes to the policy changes and the policy champions we want to see.
Blair: What does that look like to reach out specifically to Hispanic communities? Is it Spanish-language outreach? Is it speaking to particular countries’ values? What does it look like?
Martinez: There’s multiple. So, you’re going to do English, you’re going to do Spanish, whatever the audience needs to reach out to that demographic. So, you have first generation, which mostly is Spanish-speaking only. You have second, third, and then that’s mainly English-speaking. So, it just depends.
But we really hire our staff that they’re from the community. We’re not a flying organization where we take someone from somewhere else and plant them there. It’s really authentic grassroots community-building.
Blair: One of the things that I think a lot of conservatives get confused by is the seeming social conservatism of Latino Americans, who maybe come and they have these values—like you mentioned, they’re God-fearing, they have traditional family structures—but they continuously vote for the Left. They vote for Democrats. Why is that happening?
Martinez: I think for many generations, and you’ve seen this even from the ’60s, the Left has done a really good job of reaching out to Hispanic community, whereas the Right was just not there. They were absent. And over the last decade, there’s been a shift in reaching out.
What we have to do as just anybody that’s out there that wants to inform the community, doesn’t matter what party you are, what affiliation, you want to get people where they are at, meet with them where they are at, talk to them about the issues that matter to us: How can we improve our lives? And when you start doing that, you start making inroads, you start building trust.
And Hispanic community, it’s very hard to build that trust and maintain it. So, you can’t come in during election season and say you’re for the Hispanic community, and then Nov. 9, you’re out the door. It doesn’t work that way. That’s not authentic.
So, LIBRE is a 24/7, 365, we are in communities throughout the country and we’re not going away after Election Day. We’re still there to inform the community on policy, remove barriers, as well that we want to help the communities. And we do that through our 501(c)(3) organization.
Blair: So, you are embedded in these communities. You are working with particular members on the ground. What are they saying about the direction of the country? Are Latinos more or less maybe hopeful about the direction the country is going in?
Martinez: I could tell you that at first it was difficult. Because after many years and generations, my grandma voted Democrat, and so I’m going to vote Democrat or whatever party. And I can tell you, my parents had voted Democrat most of their lives, too. They were like, “Well, the Democrats are for the poor and therefore to help us.”
But as we’ve gotten older, more educated as well, my family, they worked hard so that I could pursue my dreams as well. And we worked in the fields, I got to experience that as well. And it’s not the life that—I don’t know of any mother that has a child and says, “I want my son or daughter to work in the fields.” Hey, that’s tough work. I’ve done it and it’s hard, but it really taught me a lot of life lessons.
And I know that my parents had dreams for me, so they sacrificed so that I can reach my goals.
So, back to your point, I think that what we’re seeing now is that we had a good four years of policies that really limited the growth of government, that reduced taxes. And that is something where, especially in Texas and when we saw energy jobs increase, we depend a lot on that. And so, there was a lot of growth.
We started seeing wages increase, 401(k)s increase, and then you go to the policies that we have now, where we’re seeing more government handouts, that’s taxpayer money. People are seeing the rise of inflation. Now people are starting to realize, “Oh, this isn’t good for me.”
And LIBRE has been doing a lot of campaign events, but by campaign, I mean, we have a campaign called the True Cost of Washington Tour. And we’ve been able to go around the country, specifically for me in Texas, meet with people, usually Spanish-speaking only, about inflation, talk to them about inflation and why we have inflation, but also hear their stories and how they are struggling. And it is a real need.
So, when you have President [Joe] Biden saying that inflation’s not a big deal, that it’s the same it was last month, I mean, he’s out of touch.
Blair: Well, I mean, it sounds as if there is a shift happening in this particular community. You mentioned the Rio Grande Valley, obviously, where we are seeing a monumental change from a certain voting pattern to a new voting pattern. As somebody that is based out of there and is able to tell us what it’s like there, what does it look like on the ground? What does that shift actually look like?
Martinez: So, it wasn’t overnight. Before 2020, there was no other organization like ours there. It was just us. And I’m just saying that to show that it takes many years to get to where we are at today and what we want to build toward the future.
So, it was a lot of education, like I said, on the policy, we had a lot of community events, fun events as well, as it wasn’t always just on policy. That could be boring to some people. So, we want to have a good time and also talk a little bit about our message.
So, what people are seeing now and where they’re at, I think people are going to be surprised, and outside of our area, but what I’m seeing and hearing, people want to change.
Blair: And that’s not just in the Rio Grande Valley, you’re seeing that across the country?
Martinez: Across the country. Specifically, for me, because I’m based in Texas, I can tell you Texas, but where all eyes are at right now, South Texas, where I’m from, I think we’ll be seeing some changes there. Because people now can see what good policy looks like and how it improves my life and what bad policy looks like and how that messes up our lives.
Blair: Right. Well, that’s actually a great point because it almost begs the question, is this going to stick? I think a lot of people are curious whether or not this realignment seems to be something that’s permanent or if it seems to be based on possibly former President [Donald] Trump, if that’s sort of the glue holding this coalition together.
Martinez: I’ve long said that it wasn’t a character that people were voting for, it was the policies. And we will probably see that here in November in seven weeks, that people are voting based on policy.
Blair: One of the things that we are also kind of concerned about here, too, is that we’re going to divide Hispanic into an identity group. So, the Left tends to view voter blocs, like blacks, Asians, Latinos in certain services, as just an identity monolith. Is there a risk sometimes of saying, “We’re going to push Hispanic policies, we’re going to push for the Hispanic voter,” or is it a useful way of describing this bloc of voters?
Martinez: I think it’s a useful way to describe voters. I mean, it exists. It is what it is, but LIBRE is not pushing for Hispanic policy. We are pushing for policies that benefit all. And if you look at our mission statement, it says we want to improve the lives that benefit all. So, we do that by advancing generic policies that, obviously, are limited in strength and in scope.
Blair: What role do the different countries of origin, for example, play in reaching out to this type of voter, because there’s Venezuelans, there’s Puerto Ricans, there’s Cubans, all of these different what we would call Hispanics but have such different background?
Martinez: Yeah. So, I’m from Mexico, Monterrey, Nuevo León. I was born there, raised in California, unfortunately. Don’t feel sorry for me.
Blair: I’m from Oregon. I feel you.
Martinez: But look, I mentioned that we hire people within the community. If I were hired to work within the Cuban community in Florida, in Miami specifically, I wouldn’t do well. I don’t know their culture. Things are different. So, we hire people who are in the community that know their community.
So, I did really well and have done really well talking to people from Mexico because I get it, I understand. I came here legally and found a way to prosper and fulfill my American dream, and I want others to do the same through right channels.
And we talk about things like immigration, and that’s obviously the big topic around immigration. But inflation and economy, criminal justice, reform health care.
But we definitely want to hire people and have people that know the country and the values of that country. And if there’s a specific population, that’s what we want to do, because we are authentic. … We’re not hiring someone that’s from another area and bringing them in.
Blair: Now, immigration is something that I’m curious about because it does seem like when you think about Hispanic voters, immigration is the issue that comes to mind. But from what it sounds like you’re saying, that’s not really the top-of-mind issue.
Martinez: No, it’s No. 3, No. 4. Usually, it’s what it polls. Look, The LIBRE Initiative has had a very commonsense approach and there’s been a lot of misconceptions out there, but one, we do need border security. I live on the border. I want my family to be safe.
So, that could look differently, though. It could be more Border Patrol agents. It could be more infrastructure, more technology. It could be a mixture of all of those combined at the same time.
Just solving border security alone will not fix our immigration system. People will still find a way to come here. So, we need to actually update our immigration laws, reform them so that people can actually have legal channels, legal pathways to get here. Because we want the most talented people to be able to come here, contribute to our society, and you can’t do that when you don’t update the needs of our labor demands today.
Blair: Where does wokeness and the idea of identity politics rank among the concerns in this particular voting bloc?
Martinez: Yeah. I don’t even think that gets any kind of level here. It doesn’t poll. I can tell you that it’s not the No. 1, No. 2, 3, 4 issue. I think from what I’m seeing on the ground, it’s something that is against what we believe as Hispanics. So, the wokeness, the Latinx, it just does not work. I don’t like it. I know others don’t like it either.
Blair: Right. Well, that’s the reason I don’t necessarily know if it ranks as immigration or inflation, but I would assume that as a group that is being consciously targeted by the identity politics Left, that would sort of have an impact on the perception that Hispanic and Latino voters have of, let’s say, the Democratic Party that is pushing that ideology.
Martinez: It’s definitely having an impact and you’re starting to see that people don’t like it. So, they’re going further away from the Left.
Blair: Sure. I guess there’s one final question to of wrap things up in a little bow. What can conservatives maybe who aren’t associated with LIBRE, who maybe don’t speak Spanish, who don’t have these particular connections with the Hispanic community, what can they be doing to more effectively pull these voters and these people into the coalition?
Martinez: Biggest thing is, get to know our community, spend time with them. It’s just like anybody else, we want to be able to build a relationship, a friendly relationship, build that trust. It’s nothing different other than making the time to spend time with them.
And then as far as LIBRE, you can follow us online. Look us up at The LIBRE Initiative, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the whole works. And get to know that the policies that The LIBRE Initiative is pushing are policies of, again, limited government and of pro-growth.
Blair: Excellent. That was Jorge Martinez, spokesperson and director of coalitions for The LIBRE Initiative in the state of Texas. Jorge, very much appreciate your time.
Martinez: Thanks for having me.
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