Is billionaire Donald J. Trump, who wrapped up the needed delegates to be the Republican Party’s presidential candidate last week, be the second coming of former Gov. Pete Wilson?
When Wilson riled Latino voters by promoting Proposition 187 in 1994, the community responded by registering to vote in record numbers and helped just about make Republicans at the state level almost extinct.
Early reports indicate a spike in Latino voter registration, and in more Latinos becoming naturalized so that they can vote.
When Trump announced his candidacy, he talked about building a wall on the southern border and making México pay for it. He also called Mexican immigrants rapists, murderers and drug traffickers.
He has also got into a bitter battle with Univisión, which cancelled its broadcast of the Miss America Pageant, which Trump owned at the time. Trump then sued Univisión.
Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna has reached a boiling point with Trump. He has also grown tired of the excuses, shallow reasons and confusing defense from Republicans who have chosen to endorse Trump.
Last month Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a congressional candidate, said he supports Trump.
“He says things in a way, where people are like, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly the way I feel,’ without really deciding the appropriateness of how he is saying things for a person who is going to be president. But I think he kind of connects with people,” said Jones.
Serna was irked.
“I think it is the duty of an elected official to publicly call out someone who is seeking higher office when they have publicly agreed to support someone as offensive as Donald Trump,” he said.
Serna has gotten negative feedback for his criticism of Jones.
When you support a candidate for elected office, you also support his value system.
Phil Serna, Sacramento County Supervisor
“When Jones says he supports Trump and plans to vote for him – regardless of the rationale – he is saying to the electorate and his constituency that he is willing to support a racist, bigoted, misogynist, veteran-bashing mocker of people with disabilities. That is offensive and for many of us like me, a proud Mexican-American, it’s also very personal,” said Serna.
In California, where there are approximately 4,151,397 Latino registered voters who make up one of every four of the state’s registered voters (24 percent), Trump’s comments have been more than just a political platform.
Still, it remains to be known whether a continued and increasing number of naturalizations in California and across the country prior to November, will sway the presidential race.
“Just because someone applies to naturalize, that doesn’t mean that they’re applying because they want to vote. There are other nice things about citizenship that people are eager to get, like traveling on the U.S. passport, or even qualifying for better jobs,” said Sharon Rummery, public affairs officer for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Of course, it is not unusual to see variations in the numbers of people applying to naturalize from year to year,” she added.
A Pew Research Center analysis of naturalization found that the number of legal permanent residents applying for U.S. citizenship in the four months starting last October is at its highest level in four years, and it is up 5 percent from the same period before the 2012 election.
So far this fiscal year, from October 2015 to January 2016, 249,609 immigrants have applied for naturalization, a 13 percent increase over the same time period a year before. By comparison, from the full fiscal year 2011 to fiscal 2012, the most recent presidential election cycle before the current one, the number of naturalization applications increased by 19 percent.
Latinos who are naturalized citizens tend to have higher voter turnout rates than their U.S.-born counterparts. In 2012, for example, naturalized immigrant Latinos had a voter turnout rate of 54 percent compared with a 46 percent turnout rate among U.S. born Latinos.
The Trump effect is like Proposition 187 on steroids.
Phil Serna, Sacramento County Supervisor
Republicans do not know how to grapple with Trump’s rise in their party.
“I think the question that most republicans have is, how did we let someone ascend through the Republican party, who gains power and draws people to him by denigrating other classes of people and putting up walls? When was it ever a Republican thing to be anti-trade and an isolationist?” said Rob Stutzman, founder and president of Stutzman Public Affairs, a Sacramoento firm specializing in campaigns, communications and crisis management. “To let the party give in and let that ascension happen with the label of republicanism is disturbing to many of us, especially for the long term.”
What is most worrisome about alienating Latino voters from the Republican party, goes beyond Trump’s rhetoric, said Stutzman. The long-term effect of failing to attract Latinos to the party literally trumps all efforts and gains that have been previously made by the party to attract Latinos.
“We have been saying forever that Latinos are more Republican because we are good on economics and taxes, and faith. But, the ears have been closed when we demagogue culturally on the issue of immigration,” said Stutzman.
“I thought we were making progress on that collectively as Republicans, but Trump sets us back so far, so very far. And, we have party leaders that are in a difficult position because supporting him as the nominee sets us back on the gains we have made and want to make in the future.”
Republicans need to understand that the demographics of California are the future of what will see across the United States.
Rob Stutzman, Stutzman Public Affairs
Serna is not the only one who is speaking out.
Stutzman, who is Republican will continue to speak out well past the June primaries in California. Losing potential Latino voters to a candidate whom leadership in the party are adamant to support could affect the lack of votes for Republicans running for elected office at all levels of government.
“You can’t expect someone to vote for you because of your economic message if you suggest that their cousins who come here are rapists— that doesn’t make any sense and that is offensive to people of any kind of race; its just awful,” said Stutzman during a Sacramento Press Club presidential analysis talk.
Perhaps the largest group of Latinos who will be casting their vote this election cycle will be Latino millennials— those who are between the ages of 18 and 34.
In California, there are nearly seven million Latinos who are eligible to vote and 63 percent are under the age of 45 and 36 percent are between the ages of 18 to 29. Getting millennials registered to vote has been a priority for Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, a national non-profit organization working to unite the Latino community and its allies to promote social and economic justice through increased civic participation.
In California, efforts to mobilize the vote among young Latinos has been underway since January.
“Our goal is to register 14,500 in California by November. So far we have registered 4,100 (in the Central Valley). About 50 percent of those are Latino and between the ages of 18 through 24,” said Samuel Molina, state director for Mi Familia Vota.
Molina and his team have been visiting high schools across Fresno, Stanislaus and Riverside Counties and attending naturalization ceremonies and community events with the goal of getting as many eligible citizens registered to vote.
Despite continual plummeting numbers in voter turnout in both the California primaries and the general election among the youth, Molina says eligible high school students are more engaged and care more about the issues this election cycle than the general public might assume.
“Every time we ask students ‘what are the issues that you guys care about?’ Consistently and overwhelmingly, the two issues that they care about are immigration policies and college tuition,” said Molina.
It also doesn’t take much convincing to getting them registered to vote.
“They are concerned about their families. Immigration reform is an important and personal topic for them. They are worried how it could affect their families and that is one of the main reasons they have expressed to us as to why they want to vote,” said Molina.
We have witnessed a rising ‘decline-to-state’ among new voters.
Samuel Molina, Mi Familia Vota
Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project (CCEP), a non-partisan civic engagement research and outreach initiative for the state of California said its usually the enthusiasm around candidates who bring out voters.
“Competition usually brings out voters as well as press coverage that pulls people in. That is how voters get educated on the candidates and the issues and its a likely pull for getting them to get out to vote,” said Romero.
Last week, she delivered a talk on ‘The Effect of California’s New Election Reforms on Voter Turnout’ at the state Capitol. The report posed questions whether this election might bring a record voter turnout for California in the primaries and how recent election reforms will impact voter turnout in the upcoming 2016 elections and beyond.
Among the findings, the Latino share of California’s total vote in each statewide primary election has increased less than one percentage point over the decade from 2004-2014; the 2008 presidential primary saw the highest Latino share of California’s total vote in the entire decade; and the Latino and Asian-American share of California’s vote is significantly smaller than each group’s share of the eligible voter population.
The date illustrates that California has a consistently low statewide primary turnout rate. However, voter registration and engagement efforts targeting California’s Latinos could have a significant impact in terms of increasing their political representation in the state.
“Even though turnout is low, our research shows that Latinos—and voters in general, do in fact care about voting. The problem is, are they being asked to vote? Do they feel their vote matters? Do candidates or elected officials reach out to them? All of those things may come into play,” said Romero.