Recently, during the broadcast of the radio show “Sentido Común con Carlos Serna” (Common Sense with Carlos Serna) someone in the audience asked me, “Why do Hispanics vote mostly for Democrats in the elections in the United States?”
Good thing that it is a subject that I have thought about for some time. And , believe me, the answer is neither an easy nor a simple one.
If we research a little bit of history, the majority of the immigration waves that have come to the U.S. during the course of the years have turned to the democratic party for apparent “help” or comfort or protection. Hispanics in this sense are not different, but circumstances are different now in almost every other respect. First, a lot of the new Hispanic immigrants are coming here illegally, and a lot of them would prefer to go back and forth if this was possible. Also, the main “exporter” of Hispanic immigration, Mexico, is right here a few feet from the U.S. To make it more difficult, the welfare state that in some aspect the US has become makes it impossible for poor immigrants to start contributing to the system right away. And, finally a lot of Hispanic immigrants have the hope and the desire to someday go back to their country of origin.
Let’s concentrate on the group of Hispanics that I know the best: Mexicans. I know that it is very easy and maybe simplistic to think that just because most Mexicans are Catholics we can conclude that they are going to be very conservative (family values, pro-life, etc.), but we must remember that the Catholic church can be also extremely liberal not only in economic issues but also in a few social values too. If we review the attitude of Mexicans living in Mexico towards abortion we can find that they see it in a more liberal way than most conservatives in the U.S. It is very easy to find in Mexico nudity on open TV and don’t get me started with basic cable! Prostitution is legal and open for both men and women and whatever is in between. And bribes are seen as common as any other kind of “commercial” activity, this kind of corruption is so common that it is accepted as the “norm” in some circles.
On economic issues we have to remember that Mexico has never had a single free-market, personal liberties, personal responsibilities, pro private property oriented government. It is true that there are political parties in Mexico from the left and form the right but we have to take in consideration that the Mexican left is not the kind that we can find in Europe or the U.S., it is more the kind of left that we can find in Venezuela, Cuba or Africa, a much more radical and Marxists left than the rest, and because of this we can see that the right is a very watered down version from the right that we can see in the U.S. Sometimes I wonder if the PAN (Mexico’s right leaning party) is more to the left than the Democrats in the U.S.
I have never heard a single politician in Mexico propose the privatization of PEMEX (the only oil company in Mexico and owned by the government). This would require an amendment of the constitution and then maybe private property could turn into a right of the citizens and not a concession from the government. Something we take for granted in the U.S. would be a great challenge for a true conservative to propose for a change in the economy down there.
This is just a small part of why I think most Mexicans or Hispanics living in the US have the tendency to vote democrat in almost every election. Does this mean that I think that this is going to be the case forever? Of course not! One of the big mistakes that I think conservative strategists are making is to believe that Hispanics are a single homogeneous group that can be “bought” or “lost” with a single subject: immigration, the same way that African-Americans were “bought” with the civil rights and welfare legislations. But they have to understand that not just because some people decided to call both groups a “minority” this means that they are basically the same. They have a different kind of history, a different kind of culture, and, basically, a different kind of everything.
What conservatives have to do is first and foremost make a huge campaign in which they dispel the ugly and undeserved stereotype that the right, by nature, is racist and xenophobic. Second, understand that immigration is not the only subject of importance and that national security, personal freedoms and free markets can be as important to Hispanics as any other topic. Third, conservatives have to realize that Hispanics are not going to last a long time as minority not just because of their increasing numbers but also because each year that passes by they become more American and they are going to start voting more in a regional way than in an ethnic way, i.e. Hispanics in Texas are going to vote more Republican than Hispanics in Connecticut or Vermont.
- Carlos Cerna