Latinos have become our nation’s largest voting block among the minority population, and in some areas from coast to coast, they are actually the majority. So it was no surprise that Hispanics played a major role in the 2020 presidential election.
It was a bit of a shocker that incumbent president Donald Trump was the recipient of about 30% of the Hispanic ballots, substantially more than in 2016 when he called undocumented Mexicans “rapists and drug smugglers.” But Latinos are a diverse group who come in different colors and opinions. Trump won the state of Florida largely thanks to Cubans who worry that Joe Biden would take on the views of the Obama administration, favoring the island’s oppressive regime and relaxing sanctions there and in Venezuela. Their fears are not unfounded.
In Texas, Mexicans helped Trump hold serve because they care more about the economy than schoolyard rhetoric. Before COVID-19 hit, unemployment was low and many folks enjoyed the freedom of small enterprise, business ownership and the American dream. In Arizona and Nevada however, there is a different outlook. Many Mexicans who settled in California have moved to neighboring states due to a lower cost of living. And immigration reform is very much on their minds. They see Trump as the “boogeyman” who locks up children in cages, built ironically by the prior administration. The ideology runs rampant and quite frankly understandable, especially when the liberal media paints a portrait of doom. Mexicans out west are also concerned about the pandemic, particularly with the lack of testing in underserved low income barrios.
While the GOP is gaining ground with minority support, it’s clear that a choice was made on November 3rd. So what can Joe Biden do to thank Hispanics for their vote of confidence? The president-elect has promised the moon on his very first day in office, but here are some priorities that must be addressed immediately. So let’s cut the political jargon and get real. We can always rejoin the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Agreement. That can wait, but other things can’t.
A new stimulus bill
If nothing gets done in the lame duck session of Congress, Joe needs to make a stimulus package his first order of business. People need financial relief NOW, especially folks who previously worked in the hospitality industry like many Latinos. Be a leader, bring both political parties together, and agree to a bill that is mutually acceptable.
Progress on COVID vaccines.
Biden has formed his own 12 member personal task force to combat the pandemic. That’s great, but don’t interfere with Project Warp Speed, which has developed two vaccines in record time that could be made available by next month. This is Trump’s baby, so let him initiate distribution while sharing the plan with Biden’s people. Healthcare workers should be the first to get it. By the time Joe takes office, a plan is likely to be in force, but continued distribution of the vaccine will be his responsibility. Joe should make sure that minority communities move to the head of the line. That’s a promise he has already made.
Focus on DACA
Just recently, a federal judge in New York ruled that acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf did not have the authority to validate the suspension of DACA, giving “Dreamers” a stay of execution in terms of deportation. But we can’t keep kicking this can down the road. These young people deserve a path to citizenship. Even if the election runoffs in Georgia backfire on Democrats and the GOP remains in control of the Senate, this topic enjoys wide bipartisan support and is an easy sell. Once again, the leadership of Biden is clearly in play. Complete immigration reform is a necessity, including Trump’s crackdown on asylum seekers. That will trickier to negotiate depending on the political climate. Difficult yes, but not impossible.
Kickstart the economy
President-elect Biden has an ambitious Build Back Better program that would spend $7 trillion on infrastructure that would create $10 million in clean energy jobs, housing, education and health care. He cites strong union cooperation in conjunction with added government support. Whether you buy into that or not, this is a long term plan that will do nothing to get folks back to work in the short term. Joe’s “restart package” calls for small business grants provided by the federal government, but doesn’t give any details on how to apply or the amount of money that might be available. This sounds similar to Marco Rubio’s Payroll Protection Program with zero interest or even “forgivable” loans, but there was never enough money to go around. With nearly 20% of Americans currently unemployed, this plan needs to be beefed up and minority businesses getting a fair shot at some of this money.
Not to worry, folks. President Trump will concede in due time. He has to do so because it’s written in the constitution. However, we remain a divided nation. It’s a fact that over 71 million people cast their vote for Trump, and the majority are still pissed off. So, president-elect Biden needs to be mindful of this and avoid wholesale changes too quickly. Continue to meet with governors in every state, give them financial support, and strongly suggest a mask mandate. Pick the cabinet of your choice, but don’t forget to select Hispanics in that elite circle. And above all, be patient and give this country time to heal. The ability to successfully govern will depend on that strategy.