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Voter roundtable: Listening to Latino voters from across the country

Supporters cheer as Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden speaks during a drive in rally in Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters cheer as Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden speaks during a drive in rally in Miramar, Florida on October 13, 2020. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Latino voters tend to vote Democratic.

But, it’s a folly to presume that a group that represents 20% of the U.S. population is any one thing … and Latino voters are not a political monolith.

“Latinos are the sleeping giant in this country. And yes, 70% of them still consider themselves Democrats,” Rick Sanchez says. “But their vote is still somewhat up for grabs.”

Many Latinos don’t feel completely comfortable with either party.

“They haven’t really bought into that because of the offensive nature of the Republican message,” Sanchez adds. “Democrats, on the other hand, have essentially never really understood Latinos and Latinos feel like Democrats take them for granted.”

Today, On Point: We talk to Latino voters.

Guests

Rick Sanchez, CEO of Agua Media, a podcast production company. Host of Rick Sanchez News. Former host of CNN’s Rick’s List. Former correspondent and anchor at Univision, Fox and NBC.

Veronica Lopez, vice president at Zapata National Bank. She is Mexican-American and votes Democrat.

Iris Ramos-Jones, real estate agent. Born in Ecuador, she became a U.S. citizen in 2019. She’s a registered Republican.

Doni Curkendall, executive at a startup developing alternative protein as a food source. She is Mexican-American and votes Democrat.

Also Featured

Vicente Gonzalez, Democratic congressman for Texas’s 15th District. Decause of redistricting, he is now running for the 34th district. (@RepGonzalez)

Transcript

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: Latino-Americans comprise 20% of this country’s population. That’s one in five and up from just 5% of the population in 1970. One of our guests today calls Latinos, quote, the sleeping giant of the U.S. electorate. And well, now come the midterms. So let’s hear how that sleeping giant might have an impact on the 2022 elections. I’m joined by a roundtable of Latino American voters. And Veronica Lopez is one of them. She joins us from Zapata, Texas. She’s vice president at the National Bank. Veronica, welcome to On Point.

VERONICA LOPEZ: Hello. Thank you for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: It’s wonderful to have you. Also with us today from Las Vegas is Iris Ramos-Jones. She works in Vegas as a real estate agent. Iris, welcome to you.

IRIS RAMOS-JONES: Hi. Thank you for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: And with us from Sacramento, California, Doni Curkendall joins us. She’s an executive at a startup developing fungi based alternative proteins. Doni, welcome to On Point.

DONI CURKENDALL: Hi Meghna. Thanks so much for having me.

CHAKRABARTI: I’m really delighted that all of you could join us today and I would actually just like to start by getting to know you a little bit more. And I’ll ask all of you the same set of questions. So, tell us a little bit about yourself, maybe about what you do, and sort of the values that you bring with you when you decide who and what to vote for in any election. So, Veronica, let me start with you. Go ahead.

LOPEZ: Hello. Well, I am a vice president at a bank, and I do have a college degree. And my bachelor’s is in accounting. And I have two kids. And I’m married. My three kids are actually public servant’s, I guess you would say. They are a teacher, a deputy, and my college daughter is starting for nursing. But what I look for when I’m voting is basically, I really identify with the Democratic Party. Because they are really the party that I always feel is working, is looking out for the working class. I feel that they are the party of empathy. And since I was a first-generation college graduate, I really feel that the Democratic Party kind of put that foundation up for me to attain a college degree and move my own family ahead.

I have two college graduates, but my third one is in college right now. So I really feel that that foundation is what gave me the ability to give my own kids a steppingstone as well, so they can engage in the American dream. … I live on the border. But I always come back with saying that the border crossed us, I did not cross the border, and neither did my ancestors. So I’ve been here for quite a while. But nonetheless, my hometown is a poor hometown. We are fifth in Texas as far as the poverty line, of income below the poverty line. So while we are a majority Democratic county, the Texas legislature is, of course, Republican. So I do feel we’ve been left behind.

CHAKRABARTI: Oh, left behind. Okay. So I’m going to come back to that, Veronica, in just a couple of minutes here. But Iris, can I move to you? I’d love to hear similar that your story and the values that that you bring with you as you decide who to vote for.

RAMOS-JONES: Absolutely. Good morning. I am a first generation American. I am from Ecuador, a very tiny country in South America that is being destroyed right now for the socialism policies. I am a real estate professional. I came here legally nine years ago. I became a citizen in 2019. I grew up in a family that is faith oriented. With values that are making me vote right now as a Republican, because I believe in faith. I believe in working hard. I believe in free market. I believe in life. And I have an amazing nine-year-old kid.

And as I say, I work in real estate and my business is right now suffering the consequences of these policies the Democratic Party is implementing right now with interest rates. I do belief in the American dream. I am the American dream. I live the life I have. I am very grateful for it, for this country to have given me nothing but opportunities and I try every day to give back. To everything that I have received from this country.

CHAKRABARTI: So it is I completely agree with you about your life being evidence of the American dream. Veronica. You too, as well, with you and your family. I think that’s one of the I will never give up on the United States because we can have the American dream. One of the aspects of it is that it leads to people being able to express themselves in whichever way they want.

And so, again, I will get to more of that later. I have a terrible habit of taking the conversation in different directions. But I want to stick with the plan here, Doni. Same thing I would love to hear from you. Tell me a little bit about yourself. You know, any part of your life that you think is important to hear. And then that same question of the values that help you figure out how you want to approach voting.

CURKENDALL: Yes. I’m 34 years old. I was born in Mexico City and I immigrated to the U.S. at the age of seven. I have voted in every election since I became eligible, and I’m extremely grateful to live in a country where I can vote and speak freely. I’ve lived in both swing states and non-swing states, and I’ve been at very different ends of the economic spectrum. In my career, I started out working at a geriatric center where I cleaned people who had soiled themselves. And now I’m an executive at a really cool, innovative food company.

And what I was concerned about earlier in my life was the same thing as I’m concerned about now, and that is climate change. And I’m not talking about what could happen in the distant future. I’m actually talking about the extreme weather we’re seeing right now from droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, floods. So climate change for me is the biggest, most important issue that will influence how I’m voting in the upcoming election and all elections in the future.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, so, you know, we have fashioned this roundtable, this discussion with the three of you through the framing of Latino Americans. It’s kind of like how we have to do it in the media. We’ve got to put some kind of box around people. And I’m sorry that we do that. But I’m wondering, and just I’d love to hear again briefly from all three of you, maybe this might even be like a yes, no, maybe kind of question when it comes to how you vote. I’m not sure I heard from any of you, that identity quote-unquote as being a Latino-American was a factor in how you vote. Is that right or did I miss mishear you?

CURKENDALL: In my experience, in my everyday life, the future of the planet is something that both my Latino and non-Latino friends are concerned about. So whether Democrat or Republican, Latinos aren’t really that different from others. We care about our families. We care about being healthy. We want to be able to go to work and travel. So, you know, for me personally, I love being outside. I’m lucky enough to be close to the Sierra Nevada mountains and Tahoe. But because of the wildfires, it means that sometimes I can’t go hiking. I can’t go backpacking, you know, because my backyard is on fire.

The lakes where I go kayaking with my family and my friends are drying up or they’re extremely low. My brother has to move away from my family because the smoke every summer aggravates his asthma. So even beyond my own daily life, I honestly wonder, are we even going to continue to have a livable place, you know, without water here in California, there’s no agriculture. With our agriculture, we’re going to have no jobs and no food. So drought will cause this place to be uninhabitable. And I think that we should all be concerned.

CHAKRABARTI: So, Iris, same thing to you. How does being a Latino-American factor in to how you think about voting?

RAMOS-JONES: Absolutely. As I say, I come from the country that is being destroyed from the left policies. And absolutely that definitely affects the way that I vote here. I have, as I say, am first generation immigrant and the only one of my family in this in this country, and my family suffer the consequences. And not only my family, I suffer the consequences, too, because I help everybody in my family back in Ecuador.

So definitely these policies affecting my country are very similar to the ones that we’re seeing here. And … I absolutely love this country. I hope that we don’t get to that point, too, because I haven’t been able to go back to my country for the past four years because especially my grandma is the one to keep telling me, do not come because how crime is right now. And it’s just something else right now. And that is the reason why I do vote Republican, I don’t want the same things, you know, happening in my country to happen here.

CHAKRABARTI: I see. Veronica, the reason why I’m asking all three of you this question is because, you know, we put we do put labels on people, but in a sense, we do it for simplicity’s sake. But it’s a completely unfair thing to do, especially with, you know, a group of Americans who are 20% of the country. So I’m just curious, like, do you see your Latino heritage as being a factor in and how you look at the values that you have today and how you want to express those in at the ballot box?

LOPEZ: I absolutely do. The Latino community, it is actually very conservative and it’s actually very religious. And I do think that our values reflect that, but … I feel the Democratic Party does reflect our values. Because they always go above and beyond to help minorities, help the disadvantaged. They always try to reach out and try to … live a better life. I do feel that my life experience has really taken the Democratic help. And I do believe that that is why they carry my vote. I mean, I do vote Democrat for that reason.

CHAKRABARTI: I want to bring Rick Sanchez into the program now. He’s CEO of Agua Media, a podcast production company. Rick Sanchez, warm welcome to you.

RICK SANCHEZ: Same to you. Thanks so much.

CHAKRABARTI: You’ve been listening to Veronica, Iris and Doni. I’m just wondering, first of all, tell us what you hear in their stories and their approaches that can help us understand this broader, massive 20% of the population here in the United States.

SANCHEZ: That we are a sleeping giant, and that neither party has poked the giant to wake that giant up. And they don’t, because they don’t understand Latinos in the United States. And one party, the Republican Party. Iris, I’m sure, is very familiar with Fox News. Because she sounds like she watches it a lot, goes on the air constantly and says the people crossing the border from Latin American countries are some pretty horrible things. Everything from, you know, if we allow them in, they’ll rape your daughter and they’re carrying diseases, etc.

So while Iris is absolutely right, most Latinos agree more with Republican principles. Republicans, the people who speak for the party, have said some pretty horrible things about Latinos, which make us kind of feel bad. It hurts our feelings. The Democrats, on the other hand, Nancy Pelosi last week was asked a question about immigrants and she said that Florida governors shouldn’t ship them to New Hampshire or pardon me, Massachusetts, because, after all, they can help the farmers pick their crops. Really, Nancy? Really. What Nancy is saying with that is that she thinks that most Latinos … we come here, the only skill level we have is picking fruit.

SANCHEZ: … They all they all sound like really smart, adept human beings. And it’s great to have this conversation with them. But my point is, Rick Sanchez News as a podcast to talk about the truths about Latinos that neither party is talking about. Look, I mean, a little bit of my own personal story. Yes. After working at CNN and FOX News and NBC and Univision, I decided that somebody has to tell our truth, because nobody does.

So I can’t rely on Fox News or CNN or anybody else. I think NPR is the closest to it as far as actually delivering information. Look, I own a $4.4 billion company. I don’t have to do this. I can spend time on a yacht. This is important for us to tell people. Latinos are now the fifth largest economy in the world. We’re only behind the United States, China, Japan and Germany. We just passed France, Brazil and Great Britain.

That means we are a power force in this country. The Democrats treat us like we’re just an other. People of color, whatever the heck that means, which I’ve never understood. Why we’re suddenly using color to define people. And as I said, Republicans are foolishly not embracing us as they should, because if they did, they would find that Latinos are very beholden to their principal.

CHAKRABARTI: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right about the extreme caricatures. That the parties apply to a very diverse group of Americans here. But tell me a little bit more, Rick, when you say neither party do not understand Latino Americans, what is it that they don’t understand?

SANCHEZ: Oh, my goodness. Well, here, let me just give you numbers. I mean, maybe that’s the best way to do this. 95% of Latinos under the age of 41 speak English. Most people think we don’t. 11% of Latinos, if you were to look at the common age of Latinos in the United States. It’s 11. The common age of a white European non-Latino is 58. It means we’re by far the youngest cohort in the United States. We are practically 20% of the population of the United States. When it comes to media representation, when it comes to Hollywood, we’re less than 3% of roles, cast, anchors, etc.

80% of Latinos in the United States are U.S. citizens. Oh, and by the way, Latinos were here before the Pilgrims landed, because the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Saint Augustine, Florida. 60 years before the Pilgrims had their Thanksgiving. So there’s this rich, unbelievable cultural history about Latinos as Americans. Latinos are the fiber of this country. And right now, we happen to be the economic engine of this country. That’s the data that we need to celebrate and work around. But you don’t hear Nancy Pelosi say that because she doesn’t know it, frankly, probably. And you certainly don’t hear enough Republicans saying it. So, you know, what is that expression, Meghna? A vex on all your houses.

CHAKRABARTI: A pox on all your houses.

SANCHEZ: A pox on all your houses. We need to understand that we really are underrepresented for the power that we are in, the size that we are, and that we are a real force to be reckoned with. And maybe we need to tell both parties, you know, to heck with you both, you know?

CHAKRABARTI: Yeah. Well, so here’s what I’d like to do, Rick. You know, it occurs to me that while I think I do a semi pretty decent job at hosting the kind of conversation that you’re talking about, that doesn’t happen often enough. Maybe we can give On Point listeners here a little bit more of that. So if you don’t mind, what I’d love and Veronica, Iris and Doni, if you don’t mind, I’d actually love Rick to just kind of talk with you guys for a few minutes.

So that I can listen and learn from the kinds of questions that the rest of us should be thinking about and asking, when we think about Latino Americans. So for a few minutes at least, Rick, I’m kind of handing you the host mantle here. Because, really, you’re making some very, very important points. And I’m thinking maybe I don’t have the best questions teed up to help us understand more, you know, the sleeping giant, as you put it. So I’d love to hear you talk with them.

SANCHEZ: Well, I think to a certain extent, it’s about silos. And we as Americans are siloed right now. And so we’re Latinos. And I hear in Veronica’s voice that she has a tendency to want to adhere to some of the Democratic Party principles. And I guess maybe, and Iris is the opposite. Veronica, if I could start with you. Do you feel like Nancy Pelosi and AOC and whoever else you associate with the Democratic Party, do you feel that they’re working on behalf of Latinos earnestly, or that they see us just like another subgroup, as in African-Americans, Asian-Americans, gay Americans? Like we’re all out there in that bunch.

LOPEZ: Well, I do think that if you take it to Washington, I do think every congressman thinks of us as a subset. But I do think that we have representation here. … I do think that on a broad spectrum, they do kind of want to paint us a certain type of way, which we are not. Like I said before, we are very conservative. We don’t always swing to the left on the pendulum.

So we are a mix of conservative values and liberal values. But I do think that they can do a better job. Certainly, that comment that she made, that Nancy made, was not appropriate. And it does make it seem like we’re not important. Even though we are different from the new immigrants that, you know, were taken over there. But I think that she’s kind of putting us in that same category.

SANCHEZ: Final quick question to you. Does it bother you when we’re lumped into this people of color thing, they have all these labels for us, we’re now apparently Latinx. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know who decided to make us Latinx. I don’t like it. I like being a Latina or a Latino, which is what we are, which is what our grandparents and our descendants were. But anyway, that’s my opinion.

The tendency is, especially among Democrats, to lump us into this people of color thing. So we end up with two people in the United States, white people and all the rest, who are people of color. I kind of have a problem with that. Do you?

LOPEZ: Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It just depends on the situation. Where I live, we are, you know, 93% Hispanic. We don’t see a diverse community. So it doesn’t really bother me, just because I do feel like I am a majority in my area. So it doesn’t bother me at all.

SANCHEZ: Okay. And Iris, I’m curious. Well, you sound like somebody who has from time to time, I’m sure, taken in conservative media from your own messaging. Does it bother you when you hear some of the messaging that comes out of some people, Fox News and other places, I don’t know. But conservative media, where they say some pretty horrific things about the people crossing the border and what a coincidence.

They’re always talking about the people crossing the southern border and never talking about the people crossing the northern border, even though all the terrorists who’ve come to the United States came through the northern border, not the southern border. You know, you’ve heard the comments, things like that. We are carrying diseases, that we come here to steal, that we’re going to take everybody’s jobs, that we’re rapists, that kind of very over the top language from the right. Does that bother you when you hear that?

RAMOS-JONES: Well, first of all, let me correct you. Last time I did watch Fox News was right before the pandemic, because of the nature of my business, I made a conscious decision to not watch news in any shape or form, right when we hit the pandemic. It helped me to just keep working, keep just concentrated on what I was doing for me, for my business and for my family.

And I haven’t watched Fox News, since 2020. What I have been living is every time I go to the grocery store, the prices are up. Every time I go to get gas, the prices are up. That is what is affecting me. So I would like to correct you. You are assuming that I do watch Fox News just because the message is different than what you guys are talking about.

And regarding to your question about immigration, I think it’s a terrible message that we are sending out there and letting people believe that they can come here, and they hope the borders are open. My family, my brother and sister would like to come here, and they think that they can just come here and live and pursue the American dream in the same way that I had. And the reality is different. Once they are here, they are being sent to different states.

… We’re giving false hopes to these people. What are they going to do when they come here? This is not a life they probably want. It’s very hurtful to think the Democratic Party are just giving these people false hopes. And we have child sex trafficking going on in the borders. The people are suffering, coming across the border. Again, I just find what’s happening on the border is horrific. What is the president, and everybody in the Congress, actually, what are they doing for these people? For those kids? Kids are being raped as we speak right now. What are we all doing to stop that?

SANCHEZ: So Latinos in the United States who are recent arrivals, have proven to have a record of working really hard. In fact, according to the labor statistics from the National Labor Institute, Latinos on average, whether they are documented or not, tend to work 42 hours a week, whereas the average non-Latino only works 33 hours a week. So they tend to be very, very industrious.

And every single study done in places like Texas have shown that it’s a net gain. What undocumented immigrants bring to their states, because they pay down Social Security for the rest of us to the tune of $11 billion a year. So it sounds to me like you’re saying that, generally speaking, most of the immigrants are not creating a positive environment, where the facts actually belie what you just said.

RAMOS-JONES: Well, I can say this based on my reality. As I say, I’m first generation American. I understand that people want a better life. Definitely. I understand that. I am here in this country because I also wanted a better life. But what I’m seeing, my perspective related to immigration might be a little bit different, you know, because just because we all come from Hispanic countries, that doesn’t mean then our realities are equal. I understand, for example, Mexico, it’s bordered with this country.

And that’s not the case of my country. And not every country that’s Hispanic have been suffering from communism, has been suffering from socialism. But that is my reality, as somebody that comes from the country that is being destroyed right now from left policies. So when you talk about the reality, then mainly I understand and I’m sorry if I am assuming this. But I understand that our brothers and sisters from the south border are suffering probably even more than Ecuadorians. So, it’s totally different.

CHAKRABARTI: It also occurs to me, as I’m listening, that one thing that Iris is pinpointing is, yes, as you said, Rick, the net benefit of undocumented immigrants to the communities they join might be a net positive economically, but also their lack of documentation is probably something that businesses want to keep, because they can suppress wages that way. So like net positive economically, but is it a net positive for those communities and even those immigrants themselves? That’s for another show. But that’s just my observation of that fascinating back and forth you had with Iris. We’ll be back in a moment. This is On Point.

CHAKRABARTI: Today, we’re listening to several Latino American voters from across the country. … Rick, I really was grateful in hearing the discussion with you, Veronica and Iris, but I’d love to know what you want to know more from Doni.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. This is the interesting part, Latinos have a wider-angle lens view of the world than most Americans, because we hail in many cases from countries who are our descendants, our grandparents, our parents do, from countries that have seen the world in a different way. So Doni’s perspective is a global perspective, as opposed to a more siloed perspective, like the rest of us have, you know, who live in the United States. Therefore, her view … it seems to me, Doni, and this is what I want to get at, is, that we need to have a bigger view of things.

And that sometimes our own country, our own country and its foibles in foreign policy in places like Latin America have led to some destabilization. That doesn’t mean we don’t love our country, but if you really love your country, just like when you love your child, you have to be able to say, Hey, I don’t like what you’re doing. Do you believe the younger, especially, cohort of Latinos, which by the way, is the majority of Latinos, the common age of a Latino is 11 years old. That’s crazy. Compared to everybody else in this country, we are the youngest subset. Do you believe, Doni, that the Latinos who are young are less interested in politics and more interested in that global view?

CURKENDALL: I do believe that. And it’s encouraging. Because I do get to see, given the field that I’m in, I do get to see a lot of younger people, both Latino, non-Latino, who are more and more concerned about their future. And you mentioned they’re the youngest cohort in the population. Latinos are. So we need to ensure a healthy future for them.

And I’m sure that both Iris and Veronica would agree with that, even if they vote differently. I do believe that it’s important that we take care of the population that is going to have to live with the effects of climate change. And I made the point earlier, we’re actually seeing climate change, the effects of climate change right now. I see it in my backyard in California every single year. You know, the wildfires are no longer seasonal. We see them year-round, where we’re seeing the effects of drought year-round. And I do believe that Latinos should be more concerned that their children and their children’s children are going to suffer because of it.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, actually, Rick, can I ask you a question? Because in your question to Doni, you said, are young Latinos less interested in politics and more interested in this global view? Tell me more about that, because what Doni just answered, in her answer, I heard that she’s calling for young Latinos to be more interested, if not in politics, then in the policies that can have an effect on major issues like she cares about, like climate change.

SANCHEZ: So I think here’s my answer. And that’s a great question, great part of this discussion. I think young Latinos, all Latinos, I think Latinos in general see themselves as outliers. They see themselves as outliers in the system, whether they represent a point of view, more akin to Veronica’s or more akin to Iris’s. They kind of see themselves as outliers in the system, and that’s good, I think. But the young Latinos, in particular, see themselves as outliers. They truly do believe a pox on both parties.

They truly do believe that nothing is going to get done if we allow the establishment to do it. Because you can’t depend on corporate media. You can’t depend on media in general. It’s all been bought and sold. Most politicians are crooked. I mean general philosophy. Most politicians are crooked. Don’t depend on any one party to get what we need. So I find that when I engage with them, when I do it on Rick Sanchez News … the younger Latino tends to be very much an outlier and looking more for humanistic answers, global answers than answers having to do with what we in this country have always depended on, which is, you know, the AOC’s, and the Marco Rubio’s of the world, they think are both full of duty.

CHAKRABARTI: But so then the sleeping giant is going to kind of continue to be sleeping because, you know, the system we have for now is what we have. And the way to change it is to become more electorally engaged.

SANCHEZ: But it’s not up to us to bend over backwards to accommodate either the left, or the right, or the green or anybody in between. It’s up to them to truly understand who we are and set their direction for the needs of Latinos in the United States. The pro-market needs that Iris expresses, the humanitarian needs that Veronica expresses, the global needs that Doni expects. So they need to come out and do that. But they’re not listening. They’re not having this conversation.

CHAKRABARTI: Do you buy that? That Rick says it’s up to them to come to the Latino community. I don’t know. I feel like that’s a little. Do you buy that, Doni?

CURKENDALL: I think that it’s our responsibility as citizens to bring this up, to require this of our representatives. And I will say, the reason I vote Democratic is because as a whole, the Democratic Party does take climate change more seriously. You know, until recently, many Republicans actually still denied the existence of climate change. And the ones that did acknowledge it wouldn’t admit that it’s human caused.

So, you know, climate change is not a problem that’s in the future. It’s a problem that we’re experiencing right now. But so far, the Democrats seem to be the only ones interested in actually trying to find solutions to this problem. You know, if the Republicans were willing to get behind climate solutions, like maybe promoting more plant-based eating or shifting away from fossil fuels, which they’re actually completely the opposite of that.

You know, I’d be more open to hearing what that party has to say. But, you know, a recent example is that climate change bill that passed the Senate, where the VP had to actually break, you know, give the tie breaking. Because all 50 Democrats voted for it while all 50 Republicans opposed it. So to be honest, until the Republican Party takes some course, the most pressing issue facing humanity today, seriously, I can’t take them seriously.

CHAKRABARTI: Rick, you’re taking us in this direction, is talking about how the parties, again, see the massive electoral potential electoral power of Latino voters. And what we have been seeing historically, and, Veronica, you actually pointed this out. Historically, Latino Americans have voted Democratic, but in recent elections, there have been quite significant inroads being made by the Republican Party.

And actually, Veronica, the reason why I keep mentioning you is we’ve seen that in the last election or at least the past two elections definitely going on in Texas. So we actually reached out to Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, and he told us that what he’s seeing going on in Texas is a national Democratic Party that absolutely takes Latino American voters for granted and can’t even bother to get out of Washington, to come to Texas to see what the lives and values of voters there are, and to meet Latino voters where they live.

VICENTE GONZALEZ: They need to be entrenched. They need to visit the districts and learn about the district and talk to locals and hire locals in every region. Folks in D.C. are calling races along the border without ever visiting and getting a real feel for what’s going on on the ground. In fact, some of the reports that we get are done without any real polling. Just kind of put your finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. And I find that certainly troubling.

CHAKRABARTI: So just to reiterate, we have a Democratic congressman here saying that some of the reports that he’s getting about races in Texas done by the Democratic Party are being done without any real polling. Kind of amazing. Now, Congressman Gonzalez then added this. He noted that the Democratic Party has gone so far as to stop funding its own candidate, Michelle Vallejo, who’s running for Texas’s 15th District. Now, Gonzalez used to represent the 15th, but because of redistricting, he’s now running for election in the 34th. He can’t understand why the party would give up on the 15th.

GONZALEZ: I think it’s a mistake. I think it’s a winnable district, and the Republicans have a horrible candidate. I don’t know if it’s the lack of resources. I mean, from what I hear is that the Republicans just have deeper pockets and bigger war chests than what the Democratic Party has. And we have to try to make do with what we have and stretch the dollar as far as we can. So I don’t know where that money was reinvested, where in the country that was moved. But I certainly believe that Texas District 15 is the district that we can win.

CHAKRABARTI: So that’s Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of Texas. Now, Veronica, I know you talked about how you feel that the Democratic Party overall acts in ways and advocates for policies that have a direct impact on Latino Americans. But what do you think about this notion that they’re kind of giving up on certain places in Texas? Are you seeing that?

LOPEZ: I do think that actually we are the county that went pink. I don’t say red, but we did go pink, because we’re not overwhelmingly red. But I think it was a Trump effect. But I do think that the Democratic leadership has failed, or does need to work on giving us the attention. I mean, we are from Texas and it’s a Republican state. But I do feel like, you know, they need to kind of reach out to us, come down. I do live on the border. It’s not an open border.

We have seen this issue throughout all our lives. It’s a porous border. People come through. But it’s not an overwhelmingly influx of people. I do not feel unsafe, but I do think that they need to make the time to come in and see what we live. You know, the community. We’re a very close-knit community. And it’s a very safe community along the border. I can actually see Mexico from the boat ramp. But I do think that they need to make an effort, a bigger effort.

CHAKRABARTI: Rick, do you see signs of the Democratic parties taking Latino Americans for granted?

SANCHEZ: Well, listen to what he said. If you listen to what the congressman said, he was talking about money. What he’s saying is, his answer, their answer, the Democratic answer to getting Latinos is to put more money into the races so they can win the races with better campaigning, etc., not get in there and understand them and better represent them. That’s the problem with politics in general in this country. It’s all about the money, and it shouldn’t be.

CHAKRABARTI: You know, over the course of this conversation, I’ve heard a couple of things, which I know for the sake of the time that we have are, I think, some oversimplifications. I just want to be able to clarify one of them in the last minute that we have. And Iris, I’m actually going to ask you about this, because almost everyone has said at one point in time that the Latino community, even though it has historically voted Democratic, has some large culturally conservative influences within the community.

But when I think about what that actually means, like, what does it mean? Because if you’re talking about hard work, you know, family, faith, those aren’t exclusively, you know, Republican or Democratic. So why are we calling those a conservative set of values? What do you think?

RAMOS-JONES: Well, I honestly believe that the Democratic Party right now is just way too far left. You know, they are more worried about pronouns, January 6th, abortion. Meanwhile, every family across the country are suffering because of the policies that have been implemented. And for me, especially in my business, you know, I can’t name one thing that the party have done to make my life better in the last two years.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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