Donald Trump was the first major-party presidential candidate in decades to center his campaign on fear of immigrants. #NeverTrump and reluctantly Trump Republicans understand that this is not a winning formula in a country in which the presidential electorate becomes more diverse each cycle. So thoughtful Republicans fret: How will they persuade fellow Republicans to give up their nativism? With so many entrenched anti-immigrant voices in the GOP, how will the party survive?
Perhaps it is not Republicans who will have to do the persuading. If early-voting trends are correct, we may see a substantial increase in Hispanic voters, securing key swing states for the Democrats and impairing Republican strongholds such as Arizona.
Hillary Clinton is besting Donald Trump by an historic 30-point margin among Florida Hispanics, according to a new bipartisan poll that indicates Latinos could play an outsized role in delivering the White House to a Democrat for the third election in a row.
Clinton’s 60-30 percent advantage over Trump with Florida Hispanics overall is fueled by outsized support from voters of Puerto Rican descent, who favor her 71-19 percent, according to the survey of 800 likely Hispanic voters jointly conducted for Univision by Republican-leaning Tarrance Group and Democratic-leaning Bendixen & Amandi International.
The days of low turnout among Hispanic voters may be coming to an end. (“If the poll is right and if Hispanics cast 16 percent of the ballots in an election with 72 percent overall turnout, Clinton would build up a margin of 437,000 more votes than Trump. So far, Florida Hispanics have cast about 14 percent of the nearly 4.9 million early and absentee votes as of Thursday morning — far out-pacing their 2012 share of the vote five days before Election Day.”)
In Arizona, former governor and anti-immigrant advocate Jan Brewer declared that the GOP need not worry about the Hispanic vote. “They don’t get out and vote. They don’t vote.” A turnout of Hispanic voters sufficient to flip the state to Democratic would be especially sweet for the Hispanic community.
So how do things look in Arizona? Fox News Latino reported Thursday, “In Arizona, where more than half the votes have been cast, Democrats trail by 5 percentage points. But at this point in 2012, Republicans had opened a 10 percentage point lead.” The report continued, “Turnout rose among all races, but at higher rates among Hispanics.” Likewise, the Arizona Republic on Thursday found, “More than 1.37 million early ballots already have been returned, out of 2.3 million sent out, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. That means more than 178,000 Latinos in Arizona have already voted. There are 3.5 million registered voters in the state, which means more than a third voted early.” Given the extensive Latino voting effort, the uptick is not unexpected.
No wonder, then, that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was in Phoenix on Thursday (not coincidentally, where Trump delivered his major deportation address at the end of August). He accomplished a first in presidential politics — a speech delivered entirely in Spanish. “Hillary and I will introduce legislation for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship,” he said (according to the English translation). “Too many children in America say goodbye to their parents every morning, not knowing if their mom or dad will be there when they get home.” He explained, “Donald Trump wants to create a deportation nation. Trump wants to deport almost 16 million people. He wants to deport 11.5 million undocumented people. And he wants to eliminate citizenship for 4.5 million people who were born in the United States to parents without documents undocumented parents and deport them as well.” Kaine also touted Democrats’ plan “to connect more Latinos with good jobs that pay good wages … with more opportunities to go to college, launch new ventures, and build wealth that you can pass on to your kids,” reeling off a list of agenda items including debt-free college, easier access to capital for small business and free universal preschool.
Whatever you think of the merits of what Democrats are selling, they have made an enormous effort to register and turn out Hispanics. They are going to Hispanic audiences to talk to them, not talk about them (and threaten to kick out their grandmothers), as Trump does to white audiences. Kaine treated them not like drug dealers and job stealers, as Trump does, but like concerned citizens with specific interests and needs.
Republicans have done none of this. In fact, their nominee has gone out of his way to stereotype and frighten Hispanic voters, offering nothing but the threat that millions of their relatives, neighbors and friends will be deported. If Trump loses, it will be Hispanics who deliver the message to GOP nativists: Keep it up and you’ll never win the White House. Keep it up and say goodbye to Arizona, Colorado and Nevada’s electoral votes, just as you did to California’s.
#NeverTrump Republicans have plenty to worry about, but they should not worry that they’ll have difficulty delivering the message that xenophobia is killing the GOP. If Democrats and Hispanics have done their job, the message will be delivered on Tuesday with a decisive blow to the nativists’ dream of an anti-immigrant, white, grievance-based coalition.