Making Sense of the Latino Vote: The Ms. Q&A With Voto Latino’s María Teresa Kumar


Voto Latino president and CEO María Teresa Kumar speaks through the Girls’s March ‘Energy to the Polls’ voter registration tour on Jan. 21, 2018, in Las Vegas. Voto Latino is a grassroots political group targeted on educating and empowering a brand new technology of Latinx voters. (Ethan Miller / Getty Photographs)

In at the moment’s elections, races and elections are more and more coming right down to the margins. (In Colorado, Lauren Boebert might squeak into reelection by simply 600 votes.) These slender margins of victory make each get-out-the-vote effort extra pressing.

Within the final a number of years, a preferred narrative has emerged: The rise of right-wing extremism has been fueled by a surge in Latino help. María Teresa Kumar, head of Voto Latino, says that is merely unfaithful. 

Because the fastest-growing racial and ethnic group within the U.S. voters, Latinos maintain an unimaginable quantity of political energy.

I spoke to Kumar final week to attempt to perceive the proliferation of the ‘Latino Republican voter’ fantasy. As the pinnacle of a company focusing virtually solely on participating younger Latino youth within the U.S. political course of, she helped me make sense of the election aftermath, the messages she thinks Latino voters despatched via the best way they voted, and why it’s time for progressives to double-down on Texas.

This interview has been edited and excerpted for readability and size.

Roxy Szal: A lot for the pink tsunami! I do know you and Voto Latino writ massive had been sounding the alarm in regards to the salience of abortion rights and the impact it might have on the midterms. How do you’re feeling in regards to the protection within the days main as much as the election, in comparison with now? Is there a little bit little bit of ‘I advised you so’ there? 

María Teresa Kumar: Going into the election, we had been very clear-eyed. We had been attempting to inform folks in regards to the [importance of] mobilization.

In the event you recall, the final three weeks earlier than the election, there was an actual technique of attempting to inform people who Dr. Oz was up in Pennsylvania, and that Republican candidates had been doing higher than they really had been.

I’m disenchanted within the protection main as much as it. I believe that folks missed the story, and it wasn’t for lack of attempting. That story was: If younger Latinos and low-propensity voters in Arizona and Nevada don’t come out, it’s not going to be pleasant for the Democrats.

Submit the election, once more, I’m ready for the headline saying, ‘Latinos assist safeguard democracy.’ It wasn’t simply us, however we had been a really massive part of that, each in Arizona and in Nevada.

Szal: What was Voto Latino’s technique this election? What position do you assume y’all performed?

Kumar: We wish to remind of us that 61 p.c of Latinos who voted for Biden in 2020, had been first-time voters or low-propensity voters—so one of many causes that we had been attempting to sound the alarm in Arizona and Nevada, was that low-propensity voters weren’t getting contacted with this election. So we ended up focusing our complete [get-out-the-vote] technique in Nevada and Arizona. 

It was a dangerous guess. All people else was saying, ‘We’ll concentrate on Pennsylvania and Georgia,’ however we simply noticed in Pennsylvania and Georgia, that work was getting executed, however nobody was contacting low-propensity voters. Simply in Arizona alone, we ended up contacting over 300,000 low-propensity voters the final two weeks of the election. 

In actual fact, 48 hours earlier than the election, my group and our volunteers despatched over 152,000 textual content messages to those of us. The rationale we did that was as a result of we realized seven days out that 42 p.c of Latinos in Arizona, who had been registered voters, had not acquired a name but from anyone—and that’s as a result of they’re low-propensity.

The events usually simply concentrate on their base, not realizing that BIPOC communities and younger voters are the progressive base. They may at all times be low-propensity voters as a result of they’re simply beginning their very own vote historical past.

In the long run, it was Nevada and Arizona that assured a progressive Democratic Senate.

The rationale that we’re good at what we do is that we characterize the neighborhood we serve and we speak to our neighborhood on a regular basis. We’re actually good at convincing an adolescent, who on the similar time is cynical as a result of the system doesn’t actually work for them. We convincing them to present it a shot.

To provide you an concept, like, in a spot like Arizona, we registered 32,000 of us and turned them out in [2020]. Of these 32,000 that we registered and turned out, 19,000 of them had been first-time voters. Biden gained that state by 12,000 votes.

The vast majority of the progressive base is beneath the age of 29 now. It’s actually attempting to reimagine what the progressive base actually is—and it’s BIPOC and younger ladies disproportionately.

The largest takeaway: Don’t take any voter with no consideration simply because they don’t appear to have a protracted voting historical past. That’s what we’re doing now in Georgia.

Szal: If Democrats win an extra Senate seat in Georgia runoffs, what’s going to that imply for the Senate? What would you inform voters about why this race issues?

Kumar: It breaks the fever of relying on Sinema and Manchin, and it takes away their energy. 

Additionally, we’re capable of end the job. Clearly the explanation that people voted in document numbers [this election] was as a result of they felt their vote labored in 2020. And there’s nonetheless work that must be executed. We’re not completed but.

We nonetheless should make it possible for we’re lifting all votes and that the federal government is working for almost all of Individuals and never a couple of. By sending one other consultant from Georgia to the Senate, it permits the progressives and the Democrats to complete the agenda to assist shut that inequality that our nation nonetheless is affected by.

Szal: What does the media get flawed in tales about Latino voters and potential voters?

Kumar: It felt like each single publication was screaming, ‘Latino voters are defecting Republican.’ I’ve but to see any publications scream, ‘Latino voters gained Arizona and Nevada’—and I’m ready for that, as a result of that’s the trustworthy reality.

We’re very data-driven at Voto Latino. Folks had been attempting to assert that Latinos had been breaking Republican, which isn’t what we had seen. But it surely had an actual chilling impact as a result of folks didn’t wish to fund progressive efforts within the Latino neighborhood.

Latinos actually care about abortion. It’s the quantity two situation. 

So little of us within the newsrooms are of Latino descent which are outdoors of Florida. It’s simple for folks to internalize their very own biases and say, ‘Oh, no, however Latinos are Catholic.’ And I’m like, ‘We’re, however we’re Pope Francis Catholics.’

In the event you have a look at the place Beto O’Rourke gained, it’s [most of the south of Texas], the Rio Grande Valley. However reporters saved burying the lead as a result of they wished to imagine it was true that Latinos had been defecting—and that, I believe, speaks extra to the reporting class and their biases than the precise state of Latinos in the US.

I’ve but to see any publications scream, ‘Latino voters gained Arizona and Nevada’—and I’m ready for that, as a result of that’s the trustworthy reality.

Szal: Now we have plenty of readers in Texas, and lots of extra which are serious about making sense of what’s happening right here within the Lone Star State.

What do you say when folks ask you, ‘What occurred in Texas?’ or ‘What occurred with Beto?’

Kumar: Texas is the entire package and caboodle for the progressive motion, and for the center of America, and I don’t say that calmly.

Democrats constantly say that it’s too exhausting [to turn Texas blue], but it surely’s as a result of we’d like a large voter registration effort at-scale. There’s extra younger folks and extra younger folks of shade in that state, ready for alternatives for mobilization, than in another.

The get together has internalized the parable of Texas, as a result of that’s what the Republicans need folks to actually imagine. We registered extra voters in Texas than another group, and never by a little bit, however by a big quantity. That’s as a result of we’ve a dedication to Texas, and a dedication to the voters of Texas. After they take part, they do prove.

I believe Beto [O’Rourke] was a powerful candidate, however he did too many issues, too quickly. What he did do was say, ‘Look, I’m an especially liberal man in a state like Texas, and I didn’t lose by greater than what Biden misplaced by.’ 

Republicans and Unbiased and reasonable voters of Texas should ask themselves: Why is the GOP in Texas creating guidelines to prevent young people’s voice, as an alternative of competing for our vote? 

There’s plenty of vivid spots. We’re sending somebody like Greg Casar to Congress—who’s very liberal from Austin—and we’re seeing somebody like Lina Hidalgo [get reelected as a Harris County judge].

In the event you take Texas, fairly frankly, it doesn’t matter what occurs wherever else, for a progressive agenda. I’m simply talking plainly, and there’s a motive why we’ve for the final 12 years invested in Texas.

Simply between 2020 and 2024, there’s going to be over 600,000 extra Latino youth eligible to vote. That’s the margin that Beto misplaced by.

I believe in 2024, it’s a very completely different map, as a result of it permits us to begin working with them now. And at Voto Latino, we are going to.

Up subsequent:

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