Can Nevada #FeelTheBern? Only if young Latinos show up for Sanders
Forget New England. Nevada is where the real Americans live, the ones who look like where this country is going and not where it’s been.
While 95% of Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont is white, Nevada’s Democratic electorate, who will vote in the state’s caucus on 20 February, is roughly 20% Hispanic, and 13% African American , almost perfectly mirroring national percentages . If Sanders can’t make Nevada feel the Bern, he’s in for a tough time convincing the Democratic party that he’s got national appeal. He’s got eight more days to make it happen.
According to the latest, reliable FiveThirtyEight weighted polling in Nevada Sanders is behind Clinton by more than 22 percentage points, and that trend is roughly the same in South Carolina, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The site notes, however, that these numbers don’t take into account any boost Sanders might have received from his New Hampshire win this week.
A lot of Clinton’s lead comes because minority voters have a history of backing her. But Latino voters – like women – are dividing along age lines with young women getting much coverage for supporting Sanders despite second-wave feminist distress . And with more than 800,000 Latinos having turned 18 every year since 2008, the Pew Research Center says the Hispanic electorate has grown about 40% since Clinton ran against Barack Obama. Almost half of the entire Hispanic electorate are millennials .
These same young voters tend to regard Hillary Clinton with distrust, seeing her as part of the old guard that got us into the financial mess Sanders rails against. Clinton also has a more controversial voting record on immigration. In 2015, she called for deportation of unaccompanied immigrant children coming across the border in record numbers due to violence and poverty in Central America. She has since softened her stance and reiterates that her earlier statements were made to discourage families from sending their kids on the arduous journey.
Just this week, website Latino Rebels published a piece in response to Michelle Alexander’s op-ed in The Nation, Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve The Black Vote , with the not so originally titled, Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Latino Vote . The argument largely seemed to be based on Bill Clinton’s record in the White House. All policies that were continued by Obama, by the way.
This leads me to wonder: why are we even voting for anyone in this party anymore? Even Alexander calls Sanders “the lesser of two evils” .
But that, sadly, is what Americans of color are faced with at this point in history: a party that openly hates them, or the other one. (Wednesday, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who very publicly criticized Sanders in The Atlantic for saying he wouldn’t be in favor of reparations for African Americans because it would be “too divisive”, admitted on Democracy Now, with a look of embarrassment on his face , that he is going to vote for Sanders anyway.)
And let’s not forget how, at the end of last year, Hillary stepped in it with young, Latino voters when she tried to endear herself to them with a blogpost on her website entitled: 7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela . Voters saw it as pandering and began tweeting angry replies with the hashtag #NotMyAbuela .
Lest you worry that Nevada Latinos might be tempted to vote for the two Latino candidates running for the Republican nomination, I feel safe in saying those voters are part of a small minority. See my earlier column on the vastly different immigration experiences of Cuban Americans versus everybody else. Or read this Washington Post article, He’s Cuban, I’m Mexican , in which 62-year-old, retired, Las Vegas casino housekeeper Maria Herrera says, “Rubio says things that are not good for Mexicans,” adding that she supports Hillary Clinton. (I tell you, generational lines.)
Other candidates, like Donald Trump, will probably serve to improve Latino voter turnout, which historically lags behind other groups. The damage done to the Republican party’s reputation in the Latino community at this point is so extensive, you’d have to be a particularly self-loathing Hispanic American to wind up in their camp.
Of course, such people do exist. Two of them are running for president. The rest of us are busy deciding the lesser of two evils.
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