Latinos make up 38 percent of California’s population, a larger percentage than even whites. On a national level, polls show Latinos are skeptical and even hostile towards the candidacy of Donald Trump, in part because of the rhetoric he uses to describe Mexico, Mexicans and Latino immigrants.
Nevertheless, Trump insists he will win Latino votes in the fall and could put California in play in the general election. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson explores whether that’s true with Adrian Pantoja, professor of political studies and Chicano studies at Pitzer College, California State Assembly member Rocky Chavez and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Pantoja on how California became known as a “blue state”
“The quick story is that in 1994 you had a ballot initiative, Prop. 187, which was described or considered to be anti-immigrant. It was designed to deny public and social services to undocumented persons, persons suspected of being undocumented. It also required public state officials to report to Immigration and Naturalization Services any person suspected of being undocumented. That had a chilling effect in California. For the record, Prop. 187 did in fact pass in 1984. But Latinos overwhelmingly voted against it.”
“That foundation led to anger, backlash against the Republican Party and over time, that paved the way for Latinos to become more energized more politicized, and the short version of the story is that that helped turn California into a solidly blue state. It’s not only that that type of rhetoric – the anti-immigrant, anti-minority rhetoric – alienates minority voters, but it also alienates a significant portion of the white electorate. White voters themselves reject those kinds of messages.”
Pantoja on how Donald Trump is perceived among some California Latino voters
“Over three quarters of Latinos rate him unfavorable. And that’s some of the highest ratings of unfavorability I’ve ever seen in my decades of polling Latinos, looking at candidates. In terms of history, I anticipate Trump will do very poorly among the Latino electorate, and there will probably be some deep soul-searching after this election is done.”
“As we approach November, and we’re entering the voting booth, are we Christians or are we Latino first? The question is, which trumps which?”
Chavez on how Trump’s campaign influenced his Senate campaign
“As I went around the State of California, there’s a lot of people who liked me because of my background as a Marine, my background as somebody who worked in the fields and worked his way through college. But as I continued on my race, I really picked up a very angry voice in the state. My team looked at it and said, ‘This is not the time to be running in the State of California as a Republican.'”
Rodriguez on what he would like to see Donald Trump do
“I would love to see him do a mea culpa, apologize for the ridiculous statements on the majority of undocumented individuals. These are family and church members of ours. So we know for a fact that the majority of them are not murderers or rapists. They’re actually God fearing, family loving, hard working individuals.”
“At the end of the day, Donald Trump talks about inevitably building a wall. Well, he already did. It’s a wall separating him from the Latino-American electorate, even from Latinos that have a conservative worldview. He needs to bring that wall down now, and make a bridge and build a bridge, and that’s going to take some mea culpa, some going backwards as it pertains to some of the statements – deporting 11 million people, separating families. It’s going to have to be an entire revamping of his narrative regarding immigrants and Latinos in America.”
Rodriguez on the issues Latinos care about
“There’s still a segment of our constituency that will be supporting Donald Trump. Because to that constituency, and I kind of resonate with the imperative behind it – though I’m having a difficult time swallowing the proverbial pill – is the Supreme Court. At the end of the day, there’s a bit of consternation and fear that we are losing religious liberty in America, and the next President of the United States will have at least two to three slots to fill, as it pertains to the Supreme Court.”
Rodriguez on how he will vote this fall
“As we approach November, and we’re entering the voting booth, are we Christians or are we Latino first? The question is, which trumps which? Which nomenclature, which descriptor guides us above all, what’s the primary optic? My inclination, I’m going to go in there voting with my Judeo-Christian worldview, which is a love of life, the sanctity of life, religious liberty, addressing the issues of racism in America. These are some of the ideas and values that drive me as I vote.”
- Adrian Pantoja, professor of political studies and Chicano studies at Pitzer College.
- Rocky Chavez, Republican member of the California State Assembly, representing the state’s 74th assembly district. He tweets @AsmRocky.
- Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He tweets @nhclc.