The Morning Jolt

Law & the Courts

Who Are the Last Swing Voters in This Election?

President Donald Trump walks on stage before delivering remarks during a Latinos For Trump campaign event at the Trump National Doral Miami resort in Doral, Fla., September 25, 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

On the menu today: a deep look at Latinos, who might be the last of the swing voters in our heavily polarized political environment; Joe Biden wants a blue-ribbon commission to give him recommendations about the federal judiciary; a pretender and a contender for the title of Great Southern Democratic Hope; and a note of thanks.

In 2020, Latinos Are Perhaps the Last of the Swing Voters

Washington Post columnist Ruben Navarrette makes a sharp observation: “This was supposed to be The Latino Election. Even more so than 2016, which was supposed to be The Latino Election — but never was. Latinos were supposed to get top billing. Yet that never happened. Immigration is off the agenda, since neither Trump nor former Vice President Joe Biden seems eager to discuss it.”

It’s not that the two major candidates never discussed immigration; it’s that other hugely consequential issues squeezed immigration out of the spotlight. The coronavirus pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime menace, as is the related economic downturn. This year’s national convulsions over issues of race, crime, police brutality, and order in our cities is also impossible to ignore. If the virus in Wuhan had not escaped out into the broader population, the entire course of 2020 might have been different, and we might be in the middle of a presidential campaign that focused as much on immigration as the previous one did.

Whether or not Navarrette thinks Trump and Biden are eager to discuss the topic of immigration, does anyone have any questions or doubts about where President Trump stands on immigration issues after four years in office? If Trump wanted to make a deal on the Dreamers, it would have happened by now. We don’t have a “big, beautiful wall,” paid for by Mexico, but we have 371 miles of replaced or new border fencing. Trump made asylum rules stricter and increased Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.

Similarly, Biden may not spend a lot of time talking about his immigration plans — with all of those early lids, he’s not spending a lot of time talking about much of anything — but his plans are there for anyone who bothers to look. A path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, instant restoration of DACA, a moratorium on deportations in his first 100 days, cease the current replacement of border fencing, protect sensitive locations from immigration enforcement actions, expand the supply of temporary workers, and allow cities and counties to petition for higher levels of immigration.

As far as we can tell from public-opinion polls, there are at least two groups of Latinos that are gravitating towards Trump. The first is Cuban Americans, and if Trump wins Florida again, he will probably have this group to thank. Not only do 59 percent of South Florida Cuban Americans say they will vote for Trump, they support him across the board on a variety of issues. At least 55 percent of South Florida Cuban Americans support Trump on immigration, race relations, national protests, health care, Cuba policy, China policy, and the COVID-19 crisis. Among this demographic, 80 percent approve of how Trump is handling the economy.

The second demographic of Latinos that is shifting in support of Trump is Venezuelan Americans. “Venezuelan support is a small, new prize in Florida, a presidential battleground with 14 million votes up for grabs, that is often decided by the slimmest of margins. About 238,000 Venezuelans live in the Sunshine State, and some 67,000 were naturalized citizens as of 2018, according the U.S. Census. A recent University of North Florida poll estimated that 55,000 of them are eligible voters — and nearly 7 out of 10 support Trump over Democrat Joe Biden.”

One wonders if Venezuelan Americans will be more energized about the president in the aftermath of the report that Richard Grenell, former U.S. ambassador to Germany and former acting director of national intelligence, met with an ally of Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro in an attempt to “facilitate a peaceful transition of power.” On September 17, Grenell met near Mexico City with Jorge Rodríguez, a former Venezuelan vice president and close ally of Maduro. Obviously, whatever incentives the administration laid out to encourage Maduro to step down, it wasn’t enough.

A potential third group of Latinos who are warming up to Trump are Nicaraguan Americans, although there’s less concrete evidence of this shift: “Eduardo Gamarra, who directs the Latino Public Opinion Forum at Florida International University, said that based on polling conducted among Central Americans, he believes that more Nicaraguans support Trump today than in 2016. It’s a trend that runs parallel to that seen in Cubans and Cuban-Americans, he noted, who supported Barack Obama in 2012 in record numbers, but in 2020, favor President Trump. In focus groups of Nicaraguans, especially after President Daniel Ortega’s 2018 crackdown, Gamarra also noted more support for the American president than before.”

What do immigrants from Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua have in common? Almost all of them have experienced life under Communist or socialist dictators. For a while now, conservatives have speculated that Bernie Sanders and his supporters openly embracing the “socialist” label would spur those who had firsthand experience with socialist regimes to run away from the Democratic Party.

The Floridian Nicaraguan-American community that supports Biden is quick to emphasize its anti-Communist stance. According to the Miami Herald, “Along with signs saying ‘Nicaraguans with Biden’ and portraits of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most common car decorations for the caravan were signs that proclaimed attendees were ‘100% anti-comunista.’ The caravan drew a cross-section of voters: second-generation Nicaraguan-Americans who were first-time voters along with older Nicaraguan immigrants who moved to South Florida in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s as part of the wave of immigration sparked by the Sandinista National Liberation Front’s rise to power.”

Navarrette’s Post piece continues, “For his part, Biden never launched a ground game with Latinos. He was too busy trying to make peace with African Americans, many of whom were leery of a tough-on-crime politician who built a career protecting White folks from Black folks and wrote the law that fueled mass incarceration. The best Biden had to offer Latinos was to greet a gathering a few weeks ago by holding up a phone and playing Justin Bieber singing the Spanish-language love song ‘Despacito.’”

(On paper, a Biden presidency should obliterate wokeness as a social movement once and for all. If Democrats want to argue that Biden is somewhat less tin-eared, dated, condescending, and insensitive — “you ain’t black,” “are you a junkie?” “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent” — fine, but let’s all acknowledge that Biden is only marginally more sensitive on race and ethnicity than Trump. For a guy who’s supposedly this endless fountain of empathy, Biden keeps blurting out things that would get less powerful and famous Americans fired, canceled, or given a stern warning from their employer’s human-resources department. On paper, the double standard from the Woke Left should destroy the notion that a single racially insensitive or controversial comment should be a career-ender in American life. But it’s more likely that a Biden presidency would demonstrate that the Woke Left has an unending willingness to accept double standards.)

This morning, I began by wondering just how many swing voters were left. Who could still be struggling to decide? These two major party candidates are the ultimate known quantities. Trump might be erratic, but there’s little reason to think four more years of Trump would be dramatically different. And Biden has literally been in public office longer than the average American has been alive.

But Latinos might be the last of the swing voters. They’re splitting two to one in favor of Biden, but Trump doesn’t need to win this demographic to win another term, he just needs to not get blown out. David Leonhardt of the New York Times observes the gender gap within this group is considerable: “Among Latina women, Biden leads Trump by a whopping 34 percentage points (59 percent to 25 percent). Among Latino men, Biden’s lead is only eight points (47 percent to 39 percent). These patterns are similar across both Latino college graduates and those without a degree.”

And elsewhere in the Times, Jennifer Medina observes that “what has alienated so many older, female and suburban voters is a key part of Mr. Trump’s appeal to these men, interviews with dozens of Mexican-American men supporting Mr. Trump shows: To them, the macho allure of Mr. Trump is undeniable. He is forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic. In a world where at any moment someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self-flagellation.”

Biden: What We Need Is a Blue-Ribbon National Commission!

In an interview with 60 Minutes’ Norah O’Donnell, Joe Biden sort-of kind-of offers a further explanation on court-packing:

JOE BIDEN:  If elected, what I will do is I’ll put together a national commission of bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal/conservative. And I will — ask them to over 180 days come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack- the way in which it’s being handled and it’s not about court packing. There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make.

NORAH O’DONNELL: So, you’re telling us you’re going to study this issue about whether to pack the court?

JOE BIDEN: No, whether– there’s a number of alternatives that are– go well beyond packing.

NORAH O’DONNELL: This is a live ball?

JOE BIDEN: Oh, it is a live ball. No, it is a live ball. We’re going to have to do that. And you’re going to find there’s a lot of conservative constitutional scholars who are saying it as well. The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want. Presidents come and go. Supreme Court justices stay for generations.

If Biden thinks he’s going to find “a lot of conservative constitutional scholars” who endorse expanding the size of the Supreme Court, he really has gone senile.

The “blue-ribbon commission” is a standard Washington maneuver to do something that is not all that popular. You gather a bunch of respected retired old-timers from both parties, hold some public hearings, let their staff write up a detailed report that few people will actually read, allow them to propose the controversial idea, and then lawmakers get to support it, saying that the controversial idea has been endorsed by the blue-ribbon commission as necessary.

The Great Democratic Southern Hopes

In case you missed it yesterday, I usually enjoy mocking the wild hype-to-performance ratios of each election cycle’s “Great Democratic Southern Hopes” — the Alison Lundergan Grimeses, the Michelle Nunns, the Beto O’Rourkes. You’ve probably read those glowing profile pieces in the national political press, gushing about how this year, the Democrats have found a winner who is going to shock everyone in this or that red state. (I called O’Rourke the king of the Great Democratic Southern Hopes, and perhaps Wendy Davis should be considered the queen.)

This year we’ve got another who fits the wildly overhyped label in Kentucky’s Amy McGrath. But we should recognize that a little further south and east, there’s a genuine Great Democratic Southern Hope in Senate candidate Jaime Harrison. Harrison might not win, but he’s uncomfortably close in what is arguably the most Republican state in the country.

ADDENDUM: Thanks to everyone who ordered Hunting Four Horsemen yesterday. Several of you will be contacted shortly about receiving an inscribed copy of Between Two Scorpions.

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