Wednesday, March 03, 2021
A Deep Dive on Texas and the Latino Electorate, featuring Chuck Rocha and Cecilia Ballí
Friends and Colleagues:
I got a lot out of this presentation moderated by Dr. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto out of the LBJ School titled, "A Deep Dive–Texas & the Latino Electorate," featuring Tío Bernie author Chuck Rocha and journalist and anthropologist Dr. Cecilia Ballí to help explain why specific counties, namely Cameron, Starr, and Zapata in S. Texas voted for Trump, as opposed to Biden—when these same counties voted for Bernie during the primaries.
Specifically, in the primary election, Bernie Sanders won both Cameron and Starr Counties by large margins with Zapata County nearly tied with Joe Biden (see USA Today primary results).
You can read Ballí's important Texas Monthly report from which she derives her analysis and talking points here.
My major takeaway is that Bernie had a good ground game coupled with a robust communication strategy that further consisted of successive investments over time—as opposed to investing in Texas in the last two months of the presidential race when many had already cast their vote.
Identity, which connects to outreach also matters. So-called Latinos from South Texas don't identify with the term, "Latino" or "Latinx," which means that messaging didn't quite resonate. Note: Nor did "Tejano" or "Chicano" resonate except for some slivers of the population.
In contrast, what did resonate were national origin identifiers like "Mexican," "Mexican American," and "Guatemalan," and so on. She attributes this to the ongoing history of migration to Texas.
Related to the ground game, personal contact that consists of political engagement and empowerment cannot be underestimated.
I really appreciate Dr. Ballí's statement that unlike what is often experienced by the African American community, people in South Texas did not have a sense of working from "a sense of collective history or shared struggle." And yet we know that fighting for the franchise, as well as for civil and human rights is very much a part of our history in our state.
The issue is that this collective memory is not only fragile but—except for Mexican American Studies courses offered as elective courses in some high schools—excluded from our public school curriculum. This despite our current curricular struggle for Mexican American Studies courses in the schools. It's shameful that this history is not already taught as a matter of course.
To this end of curricular inclusion, call whoever represents you and support Texas State Representative Christina Morales' (Houston-D) HB 1504 that call for incorporating at least a half credit in Mexican American Studies and a half credit in African American Studies.
A final takeaway is that not only that the national and state party structures need to invest in Texas' Mexican American and Latino community, but that the party itself must look more like Texas in the diversity of its leadership and membership.
There are other gems within, too, like Chuck Rocha's political analysis of the Latino electorate and why Sanders had such a strong showing among South Texas voters in the Texas primary.
Do take some time out and listen to the entire episode for yourselves.