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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Hispanic Support for Trump in Texas

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In our next book (title TBA), we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.

Elizabeth Pindell at WSJ:
President Trump drew more votes in majority-Latino counties on the Texas-Mexico border than four years ago.

Though Mr. Biden prevailed, the falloff of support in a historically loyal but socially conservative region signals trouble for a Democratic Party seeking to hold together a broad voter constituency. Many counties in this stretch of South Texas are more than 90% Hispanic and traditionally the state’s bluest—unlike Florida, where there are many more Republican-leaning Latinos. It is a place that Democrats counted on, and, according to residents here, didn’t understand enough to see what was coming.

Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party and resident of the Rio Grande Valley, said the group was trying to figure out exactly what happened. What seems likely, he said, was that Democrats didn’t counter Republican messaging on three issues important to Latino voters: pandemic shutdowns, oil jobs and abortion.

Aside from Mexican heritage and Spanish surnames, much of the Rio Grande Valley has more demographic similarities with some Trump strongholds in white rural communities than the nation’s urban areas. Many South Texans live in communities with lower-income and lower-education rates. In Starr County, just over half of its 65,600 residents graduated high school, and the unemployment rate of 18.5% is the highest in Texas. The region is ethnically homogenous, rural in parts, deeply religious, intensely patriotic, socially conservative and hurting economically.

There’s a lot of parallels between a community that’s 96% Hispanic and a community that’s 96% white,” said Freddy Guerra, a former mayor of nearby Roma. “Racism is not something that people deal with in Starr County because everybody’s brown. Climate change isn’t something they feel. They prefer bread on the table.”
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The president’s border wall expansion is deeply unpopular in the region, but some local Trump supporters said it didn’t matter as much as other issues because he had only small success adding sections in South Texas. Mrs. Lazo shrugged off Mr. Trump’s often-derogatory comments about Mexicans and his hard-line border policies. “I’m Hispanic,” she said, “but I’m American.”