Predictions before the election spoke of a bigger relevance of the Latino vote and about how it would be decisive to defeat Trump. The reality is, it was important for the winners of some of the races but it was not enough to compensate an avalanche of white voters in swing states.
This should not disappoint voters who saw their candidate defeated. Political processes are long. Experience shows us that Latinos have been winning seats district by district as the numbers of voters have increased, due either to naturalization or to voters reaching 18 years of age.
At the federal level, in Nevada for instance, the Latino vote contributed to electing the first Mexican-American, Catherine Cortez-Masto, to the U.S. Senate, as well as the first Latino congressman for that state, Ruben Kihuen, who defeated the Republican candidate. New York has its first Dominican-American, Adriano Espaillat, and Florida has its first Puerto Rican, Darren Soto, both in the House of Representatives.
At the state level, the impact was felt more strongly in areas with a significant Latino presence. There, their vote made the difference in the state and local races and in deciding initiatives and propositions.
What we do not know for sure is the proportion of Latino voters who chose Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The organizations with the most experience in measuring this type of vote – Latino Decision, Univision and Telemundo – calculated that, between 14 and 18% may have gone for the Republican candidate. Meanwhile, the media consortium National Election Pool estimated it in 29 %. It is normal for the numbers coming from the English-speaking media to be less precise than in Spanish-speaking outlets because their samples are smaller and carry a larger margin of error.
The lesson for Democrats in this election is that they need to work harder on the United States’ Latino community in key states and not leave it for the last minute. For Republicans, the lesson could be as tempting as it is dangerous: You can still win by harassing Latinos and immigrants.
The proportion of the Latino vote in the U.S. electorate will continue to grow. It is a matter of demographics and much more. The result of this election should serve to awaken those who are asleep and indifferent about the need to vote and to teach them what happens when they fail to do so. That will also help us cultivate and shape political awareness for the next election.