This week we feature Latina/o Studies scholars and writers Lisa Magaña, Christina Bejarano, and Daisy Hernández on the role of Latinas/os/x in today’s political climate and how the 2016 election will affect Latina/o/x lives.
Christina Bejarano, University of Kansas
Latinos play an increasingly important role in today’s political climate, both in terms of their increasing presence in the political environment and their growing voting power in the elections. Latinos are a key voting bloc of swing voters that are courted by both political parties and they are forecasted to play a pivotal role in upcoming elections. This particular election has brought a heightened sense of importance to the Latino vote. However, this increased political attention comes with both negative and positive ramifications for Latinos.
The current political climate provides several clear issues of importance for Latino communities, which can be an additional motivator for Latinos to participate this election. Latinos are concerned about multiple issues including their top concerns on immigration reform, improving the economy, and creating more jobs, as well as providing quality education and health care. This election has also emphasized the need to address mounting anti-Latino and anti-immigrant discrimination in the country, as well as police violence and inner city tensions. Many Latinos acknowledge the negative repercussions of the Trump campaign, which has created a more hostile and divided racial climate in the U.S. This campaign has included unprecedented verbal attacks on the Latino community, including Trump’s continued racial slurs against Mexicans/Latinos and Mike Pence’s dismissal of “that Mexican thing” during the debates. Latinos report this campaign has resulted in more people being more openly angry and hostile to them.
Additional negative ramifications this election include renewed attempts to suppress Latino voting power. Latino voters may face a wide variety of problems at the polls including long lines/wait times, lack of Spanish language assistance and information available, problems with identification required to register or vote, issues with voter registration, and voter roll file errors. The problems include structural barriers such as strict voter identification laws in many states (including Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina), which disproportionately disenfranchise racial/ethnic minorities, the poor, and elderly among others. There are reported problems with the implementation of the strict voter ID laws, however many of them are still in effect for the 2016 election. In addition, Latinos may also fear possible voter intimidation at the polls, which may detract some from even attempting to vote this election. Continue reading