Interview
"If Republicans want to break with Trump, it is time to do it now"
Mexican political expert Jeronimo Cortina is a specialist in Latino politics who has lived in the United States for 15 years. In an exclusive dialogue with LPO, he analyzes the results of the election and explains why the Latino vote for the Republicans did not increase as expected.

He says that if Republicans want to break with Trump, the time to do so is now. He also affirms that Texas is the anticipated face of the country that the United States will be in 20 or 30 years, and maintains that the Latino electorate is an unstoppable and unpredictable force, that is here to disrupt everything that the political parties and the media misunderstood.

Jeronimo Cortina is a renowned Mexican political scientist and associate professor at the Department of Political Science at the University of Houston. He is an expert in Latino politics, polls y migration who follows in detail the great demographic transformation that Hispanics' irruption in American life represents. He was the first to notice the data from the last census that indicated that, for the first time, this year there would be more Latinos than Anglos in Texas. Cortina has lived in the United States for 15 years and received his doctorate from Columbia, but he works as associate director of the Center for Mexican-American Studies at the University of Houston. There he spoke in exclusive with LPO and made an in-depth assessment of the elections.

What is the first reading of the result of the mid-term elections?

Overall, it was better than Democrats expected, and once again we see that flaw in predictions by some pollsters who thought there would be a total Republican dominance. Important factors, I think on the one hand the lack of appetite for President Trump's Republican Party. There were a lot of candidates who deny the 2020 results and got elected, but also had a lot of people who did not get elected, including some high-pedigree ones like Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. There are many Trumpist candidates who have gone nowhere. These could be the first steps in a divorce between the Republican Party and Trump. Obviously, the Republican Party has had 150 thousand occasions in which it could break with Trump, but has not done so, in a way for fear of electoral effects, that is, who is going to get the children at the end of the day.

Can it be different this time?

Taking into account that they had a meager result, a not very good one, regular, something like the Mexican team in each world cup, I think that can give them a guideline to say: "It is time to break up", and if they want to break up, it is time to do it now. Trump's allied press, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, are somehow stepping aside once again. After January 6th they stepped aside, then they resumed that support and right now they are withdrawing again. But let's see what they do if they win the House of Representatives, which is still undecided today and we will not know what will happen to the Senate until December.

Trump's allied press, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, are somehow stepping aside once again. If the Republicans want to break with Trump, it is time to do it now.

What was the recovery of the Democrats based on?

At the national level, the issue of women's rights played a very important role. Also the repudiation of this extreme right-wing dynamic that people just do not want to know about anymore. Republicans were helped by the economic situation and the way the party can very wisely deliver a single message from the top of the most significant race or the most local election. They are extremely disciplined and they have that very important pulse to be able to say this is the message and we are all going to repeat it. But surely, every mid-term election, the presidents lose a number of important seats. Obama lost 60-something, Trump lost 30-something and Biden is going to lose 12 or 20, depending on how it turns out. Not bad.

Sectors of the Republican establishment such as Liz Cheney questioned Trump before the election. Are there winners within the Republican Party who stand to benefit from this poor outcome for Trump?

Of course. After the presidential election that Trump lost, and until Tuesday, there had been no election. Everything was up in the air, everything was conjecture, everything was `it is going to harm us or not'. Now there is the data and it suggests that yes, it can hurt, if you continue with this, it will hurt you more and more because the internal divisions among Republicans lead to more and more people saying "well, it is enough". It is time for that total rupture to exist because this conflict is affecting each Republicans chances of winning an election.

El consultor republicano que anticipó la noche negra de Trump: "Es un cartucho quemado"

DeSantis appears as one of the great winners. Some people see him as the possibility of Trumpism without Trump, more predictable than Trump.

Definitely. DeSantis is positioning himself that way and Trump has already attacked him when he said "Ron Desantimonious". He is giving the Republican Party the chance to say let's go, and that is obviously going to suit DeSantis over the next two years.

"If Republicans want to break with Trump, it is time to do it now"

What is your analysis of Latino participation? How did they vote, what was their influence, did they do it as expected?

There are two important things. One is that voter turnout is still low, it was around 20% or 21% in Texas. The Latino electorate has grown but but there is a lack of energy in both parties, not only to register people -they have done it well-, but to guarantee that they go out to vote. That is a very big problem, but it is a national problem. The United States is the democracy in the Western world with the lowest voter turnout. It is a serious problem. The Latino vote pushed DeSantis to have that great advantage and above all it was that new Venezuelan Latino vote in Miami-Dade County. That was really the impact and the way Venezuelans retake Miami-Dade County, make it Republican and give DeSantis an advantage that he did not have in the first election.

Every mid-term election, the presidents lose a number of important seats. Obama lost 60-something, Trump lost 30-something and Biden is going to lose 12 or 20, depending on how it turns out. Not bad.

Arguably, the Latino vote in Florida surpassed Trump's support. With Trump, DeSantis had narrowly won, without Trump he won by more.

Exactly. The Latino vote in South Florida has been subject to much misinformation. It is a very complex issue, but there is a possible connection with Venezuela and what the government could do with Maduro. But putting the Democrats or Biden as communists, socialists or whatever is a huge mistake. It's light years away from something like that. Even one of the administrations that has done the most for Venezuelan community has been the Biden administration.

DeSantis even sent a contingent of Venezuelan migrants to a Massachusetts island.

Exactly. That's why I say there are things I do not understand.

The Latino vote pushed DeSantis to have that great advantage and above all it was that new Venezuelan Latino vote in Miami-Dade County. That was really the impact and the way Venezuelans retake Miami-Dade County, make it Republican and give DeSantis an advantage that he did not have in the first election.

How did the Latino vote behave in Texas?

In Texas, everything that was said about Latinos being Republicans did not happen. It can happen, but what I see from the data in South Texas is that the Republican MAGA message has no traction with the average Latino voter. Of the three major races in South Texas, only Republican Mónica De la Cruz won the 15th district. However, the media does not say that this is a redrawn district that was made a Republican district. Is that winning? In the other districts, such as 34th, where the star candidate was Mayra Flores, they did awfully. She lost by a lot with Vicente González. She was the big news in fundraising, in money, and she had Trump's support. On the other hand, it is important that a Latino Republican who was diametrically opposed to Mayra Flores won in the 118th district.

Why?

Because John Lujan is a conservative Latino candidate, but with a totally different campaign focused on community issues: maternal health, education, access to services, more security in the communities, better employment opportunities. He is a different kind of Republican candidate, and he won in an extremely competitive district. This shows that if Republicans want to increase the Latino vote, they have to do it through candidates who know the problems of the community and are not going to be extremists.

What about the Latino vote for the Democrats?

It is confirmed that in the large urban centers such as Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio it maintains an important base, but the great lesson is that they have to get more people to vote. If they do not, they will continue to lose.

Abbott se baja de la pelea presidencial para no chocar con Trump y buscará un cuarto mandato como gobernador

What is Abbott's strength? He is already in his third term, something with almost no record, and against a rival like Beto.

Beto O'Rourke was not the candidate he was in 2018, and neither was Abbott Ted Cruz. Abbott is a governor who has a much higher level of popularity than Cruz and he is not as polarizing as Cruz. It was a different kind of fight. Abbott's campaign issues are two or three: border security, migration and the economy. Up there and let's go. Democrats as always and everywhere: gun control, abortion, electricity, etc, etc. They go as we say in Mexico, of candy, chili and butter, and then there is none. The voter focuses on a very narrow spectrum of issues. So, on the one hand, migration generates that fear, that anguish. On the other, the economic issue, which everyone feels when they go to the supermarket.

Republicans are said to have a higher ground among Latinos now. Do you agree?

I do not think so. The higher ground was held by George W. Bush, who had around 45% of the Latino vote. Now, the Latino vote in some cases goes from 60 to 40, but something like the change has already been made, no. Also, the way Latinos tend to form partisan identity is more dynamic. Latinos can do split voting in an election without any problem: in one election they can vote for a Democrat and in the other, for a Republican, or vice versa. It is somewhat more complex than the partisan identity of an Anglo-Saxon or an African-American, which are very defined and very easy to predict. The Latino can scare you, he is a Di María that you do not know where he is going to go.

"If Republicans want to break with Trump, it is time to do it now"

How do you explain the Latino support for Abbott despite his harsh policy on the border against migration?

It must be understood that not all Latinos are in favor of migration and that is a historical factor since World War II. When the Bracero program started in the United States and Mexican came to work here, Mexican Americans did not like that and where totally opposed to that situation. There are other important factors: if I tell you that these immigrants are criminals, drug traffickers, and you look physically the same, you have to break with them and say: "Wait a moment, that's them, I am from here, I play for this team". Octavio Paz already said that American Mexico is neither from here nor from there. It is a sign to those who define majority like Abbott.

"If I tell you that these immigrants are criminals, drug traffickers, and you look physically the same, you have to break with them and say: 'Wait a moment, that's them, I am from here, I play for this team'".

Prior to the elections you highlighted an important fact, that this year, for the first time, there were more Latinos in Texas than Anglo-Saxons. Has this transformation not yet had an impact on political life?

Yes, it has. In the first place, transferring that population power or majority to the political factor is not easy, but I think that this population change translates into a political change by inertia. You have more people and it is over. But we must pay attention to a fact: this new growth is due to a very very young Latino base. You are talking about Gen Z and Alpha Generation, which is a population pyramid that has an extremely broad base. The trick right now is to see how they can fall in love with this new actor.

Los latinos ya son más que los blancos en Texas y serán decisivos en la pelea de Beto y Abbott

Everything indicates that it is an unstoppable and growing phenomenon.

It is done. Reproduction rates in the non-Hispanic population, except for Asian Americans, are almost below the replacement rate. It is not enough to dilute the Latino phenomenon. There is no way.

Beto O'Rourke said in campaign that Texas is one of the most restrictive states concerning the right to vote. Do you agree?

Yes, of course, and it obviously has its consequences. For example, taking an identification card to vote when it is known that racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to not have identification cards. So, you have to cast a provisional ballot, which involves going to the county office to register yourself. It gets complicated. Before there was the straight ticket voting, but it not longer exists. In addition, as we said before, redistricting is added. But there will be a day, in the next 10 years, when all these things will not be able to be done because you will already have a majority of the population that is impossible to avoid. They will be everywhere and you will not be able to make special districts to avoid them.

Sooner or later the Latino majority will prevail.

Sure, and because Latino party identification is more dynamic, you cannot even use that criteria to redistrict based on party, which is legal.

"If the parties do not try to mobilize the young Hispanic vote, there is no way to win an election"

There are people who say that Latinos are recovering, in practice and beyond their motivations, a territory that was taken from them.

At the end of the day, the Latino is incorporated or acculturated. But where is an entirely different thing. It is no longer a completely Anglo-Saxon world but more multicultural, especially in these large cities, but also even in more rural counties you see a very important presence of Latin American and Mexican migrants, because young people from these rural areas do not want to dedicate themselves to agriculture or stockbreeding. They are leaving and looking for another kind of profession. They want to be influencers, bankers, CEOs, and they have revitalized many of those counties that were on life support. It is a matter of time: we will see that change in the next 10 years. In Texas, 95% of the population growth is attributed to minorities, Afro Americans, Asians and Latinos. 50% of that growth is thanks to Latinos.

Young people from these rural areas do not want to dedicate themselves to agriculture or stockbreeding. They are leaving and looking for another kind of profession. They want to be influencers, bankers, CEOs, and they have revitalized many of those counties that were on life support.

Where does Texas rank nationally right now?

Demographically, Texas is the state that shows what the country will be in the next 20 or 30 years. It is already a multiethnic, multiracial, multicultural state by any measure.

It is the anticipated face of the country of the future.Exactly, this is how it is here and this is how America is going to be in the coming years.

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