Nothing encapsulates the idea that Democrats have taken the Hispanic vote for granted for years than the recent comments that First Lady Jill Biden made at a large Latino conference: “the Hispanic community is as ‘unique’ as the ‘breakfast tacos’ of San Antonio.
Tone deaf doesn’t even begin to describe how offensive it is to compare the Hispanic community to fast food.
But then again, the Democratic Party has long assumed that Latinos are a monolithic voting bloc who will vote in lockstep with the party no matter what Democrats say or how far to the Left they veer.
For proof, consider the recent election of Rep. Mayra Flores (R-Texas), who won a special election for a House seat in South Texas in a heavily Democratic-leaning district.
This trendline is manifesting itself in other ways too.
Consider what’s happening on Capitol Hill, where just this week, the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to hold a hearing determining the future of Puerto Rico — a U.S. territory since 1917. One key to passing the bill is where Republican Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) ends up on the issue.
As a Puerto Rican born on the mainland with family living on the island, it’s an issue near and dear to my heart.
Like much of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has been battered by the lingering effects of decreased tourism brought about by COVID-19. Aside from the health pandemic, Puerto Rico has been seriously mismanaged and prone to corruption and cronyism.
But despite all of this, it’s an island of natural beauty that is also rich in human capital with the potential to accomplish incredible things.
Over the years, Puerto Ricans have gone to the polls and told pollsters when asked that they desire statehood.
Unfortunately, not everyone is convinced, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Nydia Velasquez (D-N.Y.) — two representatives of Puerto Rican heritage who are slow-walking efforts to allow Congress to grant statehood to Puerto Rico.
Their opposition is twofold.
For one, it’s no guarantee that Puerto Rico would send an all-Democratic Party delegation to Congress. Contrary to what some may think, Puerto Ricans are politically diverse and have elected Republican governors.
Secondly, AOC and members of the Squad always feel like they know better than the constituents they represent. A textbook case study of this is their opposition to school choice.
In a poll conducted for the Puerto Rican Statehood Council (PRSC), Puerto Rican voters said that they think “things in the United States” are headed down the wrong track by a 70%-to-23% margin. When asked if they approve or disapprove of President Joe Biden’s performance, they responded that they disapprove at a 63%-to-33% rate with only 4% unsure.
That translates into heartburn for AOC, the Squad, and Democratic Party leaders.
It has always been a misperception that a Hispanic voting bloc is a reliable cornerstone of Democratic Party wins. Look at Congress’ work on a pending Puerto Rican statehood bill. The bill has significant support from Republicans who recognize that Puerto Rico would be a very competitive state for Republicans with the current Puerto Rican representative to Congress, Jenniffer González-Colón, caucusing with Republicans.
The bill they support is a compromise bill called the “Puerto Rico Status Act” (PRSA), legislation that would provide a vote on statehood for U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico. Although the bill has the support on paper of Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez has been perceived as a longtime opponent of statehood, while Ocasio-Cortez has never voiced support for Puerto Ricans to choose statehood as an option. Progressive Democrats are perceived as the ones standing in the way of statehood for Puerto Rico.
And that is the problem. Democrats have moved too far to the left for mainstream Hispanic voters, who are choosing the Republican Party. It may be temporary, and Hispanic voters likely will be perceived more as swing voters, yet it should worry Democrats going into the midterms that Hispanics are unhappy with the direction of a country led by Democrats and who have extra disdain for the president.