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Heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition

Latino Voters Might Determine Michigan’s Choice for President

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Image credit: 1xRun / Murals in the Market

In 2016, a third of Latino voters cast their ballot for President Donald Trump, and half of Latinos stayed home. A new campaign is looking to bring those voters to the Democratic side.

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Michigan’s Latino voters could help determine whether the state as whole will choose a Democrat or Republican for president. That’s why a campaign to engage the Latino community is targeting Michigan and five other swing states.

American Latinos United was founded by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and political consultant Fernando Espuelas.

We are the insurance policy that Latinos will vote in greater numbers and will fully understand President Trump’s record.” — Fernando Espuelas, political consultant

American Latinos United
American Latinos United

Villaraigosa says in his more than 25 years in politics, he’s heard many times that a given election is the “most important.”

This one actually happens to be,” Villaraigosa says. “I think our democracy is threatened by President Trump. And the fact that, historically, Democrats haven’t really focused enough on this vote is part of why we’re getting involved here.”

He says the Democratic Party hasn’t done a good job engaging Latino voters in the past and without this kind of effort, might fail to do so this year — even as the stakes for the Latino community are so high. 

Once again, the group-think among Democrats is very clear,” Espuelas says. “Latinos have no other option, therefore they’ll vote for Democrats.”

But, Espuelas says, a successful campaign to reach the voters who turned out for Trump in 2016 has to start early and be well-tuned to the culture and concerns of the community. He cites the fact that more than half of Latino voters stayed home in 2016, and of those that did come out, a third voted for Trump.

He says many Latinos who vote Republican do so because of the parties stance on moral issues. Part of the work of the ALU campaign is to challenge the president’s policies and behavior on such issues.

American Latinos United is planning to use data-driven, regionally-relevant and culturally-tuned messages to engage the almost half a million Latino voters in the state.

Click on the player above to hear how the Latino vote might decide Michigan’s choice for President.


Sascha Raiyn, 101.9 WDET:  If the Democratic Party then has failed regularly to engage the Latino community, I wonder if there’s a part of your campaign that’s focused on engaging the non-Latino community in order to support Latino votes.

Fernando Espuelas, political consultant: Strategic focus, we believe, is critical to success. We don’t want to overextend ourselves. We want to become the total experts in what Latinos are thinking, what’s going to motivate them, what’s going to activate them. And if we maintain that single-minded focus, and we look at the math, we know we can have a serious impact.

With whatever you can say about President Trump’s behavior in office, his rhetoric, his policies, if the Democratic Party is still not a place that on its own, can effectively engage with the Latino community, It seems like an uphill fight.

The party is welcoming to Latinos. There’s no doubt about that. There’s absolutely no chance whatsoever the Democratic President, if she or he were elected, would put babies in jail or separate families or insult Latino men over and over again. But there’s no other alternative, because an incumbent president with an economy that’s doing well is almost assured reelection in normal times. Obviously, these are not normal times.

We are the insurance policy that Latinos will vote at greater numbers and will fully understand President Trump’s record. And not just his policies, but also frankly, his morality. The 30 percent of Latinos that supported him, mostly, were voting for him for “moral issues”  things to do with abortion rights and LGBTQ rights and so forth. And so, to speak to that group of people, you really have to explain to them beyond that those are not the positions of the party necessarily; it’s not abortion rights; it’s really women’s autonomy over their own body and so forth is really to have the Republican voter have to make an affirmative decision that they’re going to vote for a man that his record of personal behavior and business malfeasance is absolutely proven through court cases and so forth.

The risk to the country of another four years of Trump are intolerable, and certainly for the Latino community that has been under withering attack since before the election by President Trump, by candidate Trump at that point. This is devastating to us. We have elections for this very purpose, which is to get ethical leadership, competent leadership in our government, to make sure that the government is working for all Americans.

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Sascha Raiyn, Education Reporter

Sascha Raiyn is Education Reporter at 101.9 WDET. She is a native Detroiter who grew up listening to news and music programming on Detroit Public Radio.

sraiyn@wdet.org Follow @raiyn

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