America’s Latino Future Is Here

Latinos are not a “sleeping giant” about to waltz into U.S. politics. They’re voting with their fellow citizens.

A sign identifies a voting station for Spanish-language voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico
A sign identifying a voting station for Spanish-language voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2018 (Robert Alexander / Getty)

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With the midterms less than three weeks away, the “Latino voter” is back in the national spotlight. But Democrats and Republicans alike still don’t seem to understand this crucial—and heterogeneous—group of voters.

But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.


The Giant Isn’t Sleeping

In the weeks leading up to a major election, Latino-voter headlines cluster like woodland mushrooms after an October downpour. A sampling from just this week: “We’re Not All Democrats” (The New York Times), “The Dangers of Ignoring the Latino Vote This November” (The Nation), “Republicans looking for gains with Latinos have lots of catching up to do on TV” (Politico), “Democrats and Republicans aren’t cutting it for Latinos, poll finds” (Axios). So established is the timing of these pre-election stories that a person could set their calendar to the cadence.

The prevailing threads in the discourse have likewise become familiar. Pundits report who’s spent what to woo the coveted cohort; others wrinkle their noses at candidates’ last-ditch “Hispandering” along the way. Others remind us that there is no such thing as a monolithic Hispanic American voting bloc, let alone a tidy “Latino vote.” Then the election passes, and the discussion pauses until the next federal campaign cycle, when a few updated polling figures are swapped in.

I have followed this pattern closely not because I’m a politics reporter or expert, but because I am a Latino voter—one of the estimated 34.5 million eligible to vote in this U.S. election. Insofar as there’s a “typical” member of this group, in many ways, I’m it. Like the majority of eligible Hispanic American voters, I am a U.S.-born citizen. I fall neatly within the largest age grouping of eligible Latino ballot-casters (30 to 49, represent!), and I live—and vote—in the state with the ninth-greatest share of Latino voters in the union. I’m also bilingual, bicultural, and—in the sense that I am frustrated with both parties—bipartisan.

Demographic affinities aside, what I suspect I have most in common with other Latino voters falls within that last point: a throb of vague irritation. We comprise the fastest-growing group of voters in the country, the “sleeping giant” of the American electoral equation. Every 30 seconds, a Latino in the U.S. becomes eligible to vote. And yet, Latino voters are seemingly regarded—then discarded—as a curiosity, a strategic nut to crack during election run-ups.

Why? One, because the idea that this giant is sleeping is wrong: We’re already the second-largest voting bloc in the country, helping decide elections. Two, although we are labeled as a giant, we are persistently, and mistakenly, treated as a niche demographic.

This is reflected in, for instance, displays of incredulity over Latino voters’ views on immigration—a significantly lower-priority issue than, say, the economy and health care. It’s also apparent in rhetoric across the political spectrum, from first lady Jill Biden’s declaration this summer that U.S. Latinos are as “unique as … breakfast tacos” to the right’s “Great Replacement” fearmongering.

More accurate is understanding Latinos as a microcosm of American identity. We embody the range of values and beliefs that define this nation’s political landscape, ideals seeded in the colonial histories of our ancestral Latin American homelands.

As the Northwestern University history professor Geraldo Cadava wrote in the March issue of The Atlantic:

When [Latinos] vote, we aren’t just casting ballots about health care or education policy. We are expressing political identities that have evolved over centuries—for and against expanding empires and nation-states; for and against more radical forms of egalitarianism—in ways that don’t always fit neatly into the rhetoric of the left-right divide.

Nearly one in five people in this country is Hispanic American. We’re a sociopolitical behemoth, yes. But we’re not outsiders, and we’re not born into any one political party—we’re Americans, as complex as any others. Candidates and elected officials would do well to acknowledge this truth—for the good of their political prospects, but more importantly, for the country itself.

Related:


Today’s News
  1. Steve Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison and ordered to pay a $6,500 fine for refusing to testify before the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack.
  2. A federal judge in Missouri rejected efforts by six states to block President Joe Biden’s student-debt-relief programs. Amy Coney Barrett rejected a separate lawsuit from a taxpayers’ association attempting to do the same.
  3. The European Union pledged to enact measures to address Europe’s energy crisis but was unable to reach a consensus on how to cap natural-gas prices.

Dispatches

Evening Read
A portrait of Taylor Swift
(Beth Garrabrant)

The Beautiful Banality of Taylor Swift’s Midnights

By Spencer Kornhaber

These days on the internet, the term theory refers to something between a rumor and a prayer: a wish so commonly expressed that it starts to seem true. And a very particular wish fueled all the theorizing about Taylor Swift’s tenth original studio album, Midnights. Fans who speculated that she was about to come out as pansexual, or make a Rumours-level masterpiece of soft rock, or finally manage to quiet down Kanye West for good all wanted the same thing: a breakthrough. Maybe Taylor Swift would be different from who she has long seemed to be. Maybe this clever and corny 32-year-old woman from Pennsylvania who likes cats and cozy sweaters could still do something radical. Maybe—please, please, please—she could free us from our own banality.

Read the full article.

More From The Atlantic


Culture Break
A black-and-white photo of Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe (Elliott Erwitt / Magnum)

Read. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study, the groundbreaking 1897 volume of African American sociological scholarship by W. E. B. Du Bois.

Or check out one of our critic’s other book selections that reconstruct moments from the past.

Watch. Blonde, the Netflix film that has lingered in the public consciousness weeks after its release and subsequent criticism for a simple reason: the enduring star power of Marilyn Monroe.

Listen. Midnights, the “aggressively normal, aggravatingly normal, and, in its way, excellently normal” new album by Taylor Swift.

Play our daily crossword.


P.S.

Although it’s true that Latino identity can’t be boiled down to a simple, comprehensive archetype, most of us feel at least somewhat connected to a broader Hispanic American community. This sense of pan-Latino affinity is something I’ve chatted about with Xochitl Gonzalez, the novelist and writer of the Atlantic newsletter Brooklyn, Everywhere. Many of Xochitl’s posts—especially her recent string of Latino-centric newsletters published during Hispanic Heritage Month, between September and October 15—offer a vivid entry point into this cultural dynamic (and, in the interest of disclosure, I’m not just saying that as her editor). Read, subscribe, enjoy.

— Kelli