Conservatives often assume that what’s needed to increase their share of minority voters is “messaging” and a focus on identity.
Joe Biden’s playing the Latino song “Despacito” on his cell phone onstage at a rally for Latino voters was a crude expression of this same belief.
But what Republican actually made inroads into the minority vote?
It was the politically incorrect Donald Trump, whose remarks about the homelands of many recent arrivals to our shores triggered the pundit class, if not the recent immigrants themselves, who after all had fled those countries for good reasons.
Trump’s increased percentage of Hispanic voters wasn’t huge—the Democrats still took most of it the Hispanic votes—but it was a significant increase nevertheless. It should have us examining what recent immigrants, and other minorities, really want. Maybe it’s what all of us want: opportunities.
Kay Hymowitz has a terrific piece this morning in City Journal arguing something like this. The left was mystified, even shocked, that it lost some Hispanic voters to Donald Trump, of all people. To explain, the left fell back on . . . identity politics:
[W]hen Hispanic voters didn’t respond to that message, “Latinx” enthusiasts were left with nothing other than an ill-equipped ideological toolkit. “All of this to me points to the power of the white patriarchy and the coattail it has of those who depend on it or aspire to it,” concluded Times columnist Charles Blow. “Some people who have historically been oppressed will stand with the oppressors, and will aspire to power by proximity.”
There is a better explanation:
What escapes commentators like Charles Blow is a simple truth: like all immigrants from the dawn of the republic, Hispanics come to the U.S. looking for economic opportunity. Enough of them succeed in finding it to keep a steady stream of strivers lining up at the border. A 2018 study from Raj Chetty and coauthors concluded that Hispanic rates of upward mobility are nearer to those of whites than those of blacks or Native Americans, and they’re on track to close much of the remaining gap in the future. At all levels of education, blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to say that they are better off than their parents were. Younger Hispanics carry on a long tradition of immigrant optimism in the U.S. Second-generation Hispanics tend to agree—and more than Americans as a whole—that you can get ahead if you work hard.
Immigrants who come to the U.S. often preserve rich cultural traditions from their former homes. They know how to do this on their own. They don’t need for condescending politicians to don Ghanaian kente-cloth stoles and kneel in Congress to make them feel accepted. What they need is the chance for better lives.
Trump’s uptick in black votes can also be similarly explained. His policies led to record low unemployment among blacks, and more than the usual percentage responded by giving him their votes. It’s only a beginning—Democrats still took the lion’s share of African American votes—but it is a move in the right direction, and it alarmed the Democratic establishment.
Now that the ravages of the Great Society, however well-intentioned, are becoming clear, the party that offers the best opportunities for advancement and independence is likely to see benefits at the voting booth.
Read Hymowitz’s fascinating piece.