Headed into the 2020 election, the Trump campaign is hoping to cut into Latino Americans’ support for Democrats, and it seems they want do that in part by painting the left as socialists eager to implement policies like the ones that many Latinos hoped to leave behind in their move to the United States.
“Tomorrow night, many of [the Democratic Party’s] leading candidates, and the night after that, are actually going to openly advocate for an economic system that has impoverished millions,” Vice President Pence said Tuesday in Miami.
Making a reference to the various Latin American countries, most recently Venezuela, whose economies have been devastated under socialism, Pence added: “Now, Latino Americans know better than most about the cost of socialism. It’s impoverished generations and stolen the liberty of millions.”
Convincing significant percentages of Latino voters that the author of some of the most hard-line immigration policies in history is better for Latinos than Democrats will be quite a challenge.
Less than 30 percent of Latino voters backed Trump in the 2016 presidential election, according to exit polls. Even now, the president’s job approval among Latinos is 25 percent, according to Gallup.
But a relative bright spot for the GOP among Latinos is Florida, where Trump won 35 percent of the Latino vote. Hoping to improve those numbers in a state that both sides of the aisle are eyeing, Pence, an Irish American, launched “Latinos for Trump” on Tuesday in Miami, a day before Democrats debate in the state.
“We must say, as the president said in his State of the Union address, America will never be a socialist country,” Pence said.
Even though it’s not true that all Democrats are socialists (Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only candidate seeking the Democratic nomination who advocates for democratic socialism), this strategy could be effective in Florida, which has one of the country’s largest percentages of immigrants from Latin American countries where socialism was largely embraced.
As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker Glen Kessler wrote , just because the Trump team calls something socialism doesn’t make it that.
Be wary of politicians crying socialism. There is no one-size-fits-all label, given that a concept developed in the 19th century has morphed over time and evolved in successful and disastrous ways. Just because something has the word “socialist” in it does not necessarily mean it leads to dictatorship or economic ruin. (Ironically, given the intense animosity toward Trump in some parts of the country, his constant attacks might backfire and make it seem even more appealing to some Americans.)
Clarissa Martínez de Castro, vice president for policy and advocacy for UnidosUS, a civil rights organization, expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the strategy in a Tuesday statement.
“Historically, a substantial number of Latino voters have been potential swing voters not bound by party affiliation. But it is also clear that there is a shift away from the GOP, as the Republican Party has come to be seen as embracing or leading the charge on anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric and actions,” de Castro said.
Beyond Florida, Latinos are less supportive of Republicans policies, and it’s possible their dissatisfaction with Trump could increase turnout to vote him out of the office in 2020. More than 47 percent of eligible Latinos voted in the 2016 presidential election, and those numbers are expected to increase for next year’s race, according to the Pew Research Center.
Even in Florida, frustration with the administration’s immigration policies and the perception that Pence is gaslighting could lead to the exact opposite of the president’s goals.
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