California Latinos are poised to play a major role in what will certainly be the contentious 2022 midterm elections.
By Christian Arana
Despite a contentious and tumultuous 2020 presidential election season, the 2022 midterms are shaping up to be no different. States like Georgia and Texas are on a war footing to suppress the right to vote of Black, Indigenous, Latino and Asian American communities through early and mail-in voting restrictions.
And redistricting – a decennial process that redraws the nation’s congressional district lines – is already falling to the nefarious peddling of political parties. Absent federal legislation to safeguard voting rights across the nation, a critical lifeline is in plain view for President Joe Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress: California’s Latino community.
Mobilizing Latino voters
Early, bold and strategic investments to mobilize Latino voters across the state in advance of next year’s midterms could prove decisive in whether the Biden administration becomes a transformational presidency or yet another marked by political dysfunction. There are nearly 9 million eligible Latino voters in California, the largest Latino voting bloc in the nation.
To put that into perspective, if California Latino voters made up their own state, its population would be larger than Arizona’s.
With a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats’ maintaining control will hinge on how well they mobilize and persuade Latino voters in battleground districts in Central California and Orange County to turn out to vote, and to turn out to vote for them.
Failure to do so could result in a further divided government and hamper the president’s ability to fulfill campaign promises on issues such as infrastructure, immigration, climate change and more.
Fortunately, a playbook on how to conduct effective outreach exists.
For the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats successfully overturned seven congressional districts in California because of a multimillion dollar effort to reach voters via voter registration, mailers, digital ads and on-the-ground canvassers.
In each of these districts, from Orange County to Los Angeles County to Central California, more than 1 in 6 voters is Latino.
Biden’s goals depend on Latino vote
A litany of reasons can explain why, but there is no doubt that even with a consequential presidential vote intensifying the election spotlight in 2020, local congressional races and the need to vote down ballot fell to the wayside. We are nearly 14 months away from next year’s midterms, and the future of the Biden agenda will depend on whether Latinos in places like Delano or Anaheim turn out to vote.
As has been widely reported, Latinos bore much of the lethal brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participation in another politically charged election is hardly a priority for a community looking to heal and move on from last year’s traumas.
Any political party looking to mobilize Latino voters in California can continue to run the same playbook in reaching out to Latino communities. Ads and mailers are cost effective, but given what is at stake in 2022, these tactics by political parties are merely the start to convince Latinos why they hold the key to the nation’s political future.
Latino-led, grassroot organizations across California, long acutely attuned to the needs and wants of their communities, are additional critical pathways to make that case for voter participation.
These organizations have established the relational trust and influence needed to galvanize communities into action and toward a united purpose. This is particularly so after this past year, as they worked to vaccinate their communities and help families access much needed governmental relief.
Philanthropy, too, has a role to play to ensure that these grassroot organizations and leaders have the resources they need in the intensifying fight to protect our democracy. The Latino Community Foundation recently led a growing number of philanthropic organizations in launching the Latino Power Fund, a five-year $50 million initiative to build Latino political and civic power in California.
The 2022 midterms will be a costly, combative and critical election. But when all the votes are finally cast, the decisive power brokers may ultimately reside in the West.
For anyone in search of a path to victory, it is time to start meaningfully talking to Latinos in California. The future of our democracy depends on It.
Christian Arana is vice president of Policy at the Latino Community Foundation of San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter: @christianarana