Beto's Identity Politics Didn't Work on MeOpinion
OPINION — "You can't compare Tejanos with Chicanos." That was a line I heard several years ago while talking with friends about the differences between the various groups of Hispanics in the U.S., especially the difference between California and Texas Hispanics.
I don't think many in the media grasp that idea though. Over the last several months I cannot begin to count the number of glowing profiles I've read about "rockstar" O'Rourke and how he speaks fluent Spanish. Plenty of journalists have said that if the Latino population would just turn out in Texas, then Texas would turn blue. After all, he was going to abolish ICE and supported protests against our National Anthem!
But I saw a problem with that idea back in the Summer.
Full disclosure, I'm only half Tejano. I'm also half Anglo, or white. I voted for Trump through gritted teeth after voting against him in the primary. My wife, who is also mixed blood, feels about the same. But this Summer, my father started to say nice things about Trump and it made me realize that something I had assumed was just a result of my own political bias was maybe not so far fetched after all:
Texas Hispanics really are more conservative politically than the media says.
You see, my father is full-blooded Hispanic. English is his second language. He's a blue-collar, pro-union, guy with some college. According to identity politics he should be a reliable Democrat vote.
Back in 2016 I can recall him sharing Bernie Sander's posts on social media and criticizing Trump. But then this summer he said some nice things about the President and Republicans. I got the impression he didn't like the rhetoric or tweets (I certainly don't), but when it came to foreign policy or the economy he was impressed.
I'm an Iraq war veteran so I certainly liked Trump’s approach to Iran more than Obama's, and my father seemed to be thinking the same way. North Korea? Same thing. The Republican tax cut had helped my monthly budget and then my work gave me a pay raise on top of that. My father appreciated the economic changes too. We're American citizens so we're not afraid of ICE and we pledge allegiance to the flag rather than protesting it. There are plenty of Hispanic police officers here in Texas, some in our family, so the anti-police rhetoric from the Democrat side didn't resonate with us either.
When I looked at what my Hispanic friends and family were saying on social media, it was mostly the same thing. A female cousin of mine reacted positively to a post I made in support of Judge Kavanaugh.
A Hispanic friend shared a picture of two other Hispanic men wearing shirts that said "Beto. Fake Mexican, real pendejo". It was apparent to me anyway that the pandering and condescending attitude that prevails in identity politics wasn't working with most of the Hispanics I know. Sure, O'Rourke might end up with the majority of the Hispanic vote but it wasn’t an overwhelming win and that won't go as far as the Governor's race. In that race it seems that more Hispanics may end up having voted for an Anglo Republican than for the Latina Democrat.
Identity politics only works if the group you're targeting sees themselves as an oppressed minority. I know that in my household we were raised to see ourselves as Americans and Texans first. Race or ethnicity was less important. I think that's the case with many other Tejanos as well.
A good chunk of our state's history was written by Tejanos. It was the Tejano company under Seguin and Menchaca that volunteered to lead the charge at San Jacinto. The first vice president of the Texas Republic was a Tejano. We helped create this state rather than being oppressed by it. The main era of suppression here in Texas was brief and it was carried out way back when Democrats, not Republicans, were in power.
Hispanics in Texas regularly turn out for Republicans at 30% or better (sometimes in the 40-50% range), and this year in the Governor's race that number may well top 50% in favor of an Anglo Republican over a Latina Democrat. The media and Democrats won't understand that, or us, and I don't think they want to.
It's easier to play identity politics if you just assume everyone who looks a certain way or has a certain sounding name will all think and vote alike.
That’s alright. They can keep their stereotypes. We'll think for ourselves and vote accordingly.