‘Conservative Hispanic Movement Growing,’ says Summit Panel
Hispanic voters are increasingly embracing conservative politics, according to participants in a Saturday panel at the 2023 Pray Vote Stand Summit (PVSS). “We’re seeing a shift of Hispanic voters towards the right,” said Alfonzo Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. “It’s growing to the right,” agreed Nilsa Alvarez, Hispanic Division Director for Faith & Freedom Coalition. “And it’s obvious that the conservative movement is on the go.”
To support his claim, Aguilar pointed to the 2021 Virginia governor’s race, in which, after Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe “said that parents should not say anything to teachers about their kids’ education, … 56% of Hispanics gave their vote to [Republican candidate] Governor [Glenn] Youngkin.”
The next year, “39% of Hispanics voted for Republicans” in the 2022 midterm election, said Aguilar. “That’s the highest number since 1978.” The trend was particularly marked in Florida, where “the majority of Hispanics voted for Governor DeSantis and for Senator Marco Rubio,” both Republicans. Aguilar pointed out that the Republican statewide candidates won among “not only Cubans in Miami-Dade [County] … but also in Osceola County, the center of the Puerto Rican community, [of] whom the Left has always said, ‘they’re Democrats.’” Aguilar also pointed to North Carolina, a battleground state in which Hispanic voters comprise a potentially decisive 7%. There, he noted, Republican Ted Budd won the Senate race while carrying 46% of the Hispanic vote.
According to a recent study by a Democratic firm, said Aguilar, “If the elections were today, Joe Biden would only get 53% of the Hispanic vote. Donald Trump will get 45%.” To him, this suggested a nationwide trend.
In addition to their conservative voting trend, Hispanic Americans are growing more engaged in local politics and political activism, Alvarez added. For instance, recent elections have seen growing numbers of Hispanics run for school boards across the nation. “We’ve never seen this amount of Hispanic parents drop what they’re doing and run for school board,” she said. “It’s something unprecedented, yet so natural to the Hispanic community because we are, by vast majority, conservative.”
Alvarez also described how Hispanic parents actively lobbied for a Tennessee bill to prohibit drag shows and similar adult performances wherever children were or could be present. “Hispanic parents reached out to legislators and said, ‘We don’t want kids exposed to these sexual performances,’” she explained. “When one of them came to our town, our pastors weren’t shy of coming out, first with prayer warriors to pray for the whole area where this event was going to take place, and then show up with the chief of police and shut it down.”
The results Aguilar and Alvarez identified are noteworthy because they undermine long-standing traditional wisdom. “For years, the Democratic Party has operated under one immutable assumption: Long-term demographic trends would give the party something like a permanent majority as the country as a whole grows less white and more urban,” wrote Politico.
The notion comes from a 2002 book, “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” by progressive political scientist Ruy Teixeira and journalist John Judis. That book took for granted that non-white minorities, including Hispanics, would largely remain in the Democratic coalition. It forecast that non-white ethnic and racial groups would adopt an increasing share of the U.S. population, substantially driven by immigration trends, creating an increasing share of naturally Democratic voters. For 15 to 20 years, this political wisdom went largely unquestioned.
Yet in recent years, growing evidence has undermined this theory as Hispanic voters have increasingly voted Republican. All the way back in 2018, NBC News fretted, “Democrats have a Latino problem. Can they fix it in time?” A year after that blue wave election, a Columbia University professor asked in The Hill, “What if Democrats lose the Hispanic vote?”
By 2021, Teixeira himself warned, “Democrats are steadily losing ground with Hispanic voters,” and that the problem was “Not As Bad As You Think — It’s Worse.” By 2022, The Washington Post was taking the shift for granted and analyzing what impact it would have on the electoral map.
Aguilar said Hispanics’ rightward trend is due, at least in part, to their rejection of leftism. Hispanic voters are “literally afraid of this leftist agenda that seeks to promote gender ideology, critical race theory, and question the glorious history of our country,” Aguilar said. “Hispanics are American. They’re proud of our country. They believe in the American dream. They’re willing to fight for it. And they reject this extreme ideology that the Left is trying to impose on our community.”
Bishop Angel Nunez, vice president of the National Hispanic Pastors Alliance, who moderated the panel, agreed that leftist policies were provoking Hispanic citizens to get off the sidelines. “It is quite obvious what’s happening in our schools,” he said. “It is quite obvious the laws that have been changed and the persecution that has come [means] that we can’t even mention the name of Jesus without having somebody being offended.”
Hispanic voters also reject the Left’s identity politics, which classifies them based solely on their skin color. “We’re definitely not monolithic,” he said. “The Left has tried to … impose this narrative that we all think alike, that we’re ‘brown.’ But we’re multiracial, as Nilsa said, from different countries.”
Hispanics are particularly turned off by the attempts of gender activists to insert gender-neutral language into Spanish. “The vast majority (98%) of Hispanics do not want to be referred to as Latinx,” said Alvarez. “Yes, we know our genders and we are not confused about it.”
Instead of identifying as brown, or persons of color, or even as Hispanic or Latino, argued Alvarez, “47% of the Hispanic community likes to self-identify by country of origin. So, you’ll never get it wrong if you call someone that came from Colombia, Colombian, someone that came from Cuba, Cuban, they won’t be offended. They’re very proud of where they come from.”
Alvarez accused the Biden administration of alienating some groups of Hispanic voters by his policies. In particular, Biden delisting Marxist separatist group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — People’s Army) as a terrorist group was “a slap in the face to every Colombian American,” said Alvarez, while “asking the Maduro regime for oil … insulted every Venezuelan American.”
As Hispanics integrate, they’re starting to vote like average Americans,” said Aguilar. “So, we have those conservatives, who in the past were voting for Democrats, are saying, ‘Why am I voting for the Democrats? I’m going to vote Republican.’ Then we have the rise of Hispanic swing voters, but that are kind of moderate. And they’re afraid of the extreme policies of the Left.”
“Ronald Reagan said it clearly. He said ‘Hispanics are Republicans. They just don’t know it,’” suggested Aguilar. “He didn’t say it in that condescending way. He just meant if we engage them, they’re going to respond to our message because there are people of faith, there are people of family. They’re hardworking, and they’re patriots.”
One area where Republicans have an opportunity to persuade Hispanic voters is on the social issues. “We love the conservative values, and we love God,” stated Angel Jordan, director of Hispanic Initiatives for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“Certainly they’re concerned about the socio-economic policies that the Left has embraced. They come here for less government, not more,” said Aguilar. “But as important, or perhaps even more important, are the cultural issues. So, we have to speak clearly, not run away from them when we talk about the right to life. We have to talk about it clearly, not shy away from it. Twenty-two percent of all abortions are performed on Hispanic women. They’re victims.” Nunez agreed. “The great majority of the Hispanic community defends the life of the unborn. We are strong advocates of traditional marriage. It works. One man, one woman, period.”
In fact, Hispanic voters care about the economy and other political factors because of how it impacts the family, suggested Jordan. “If the government is working well, the economy is strong, the family is going to be well,” he said. “Inflation is hitting us very hard. We are struggling to survive and put food on the table,” observed Nunez. “While the media and the politicians are telling us everything is okay, we go into the supermarket and we can’t even find a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk because, not only is it not there, but if it is there, it is expensive.”
Additionally, a strong border “resonates with the Hispanic community,” said Aguilar. “The open border policies of the Biden administration have facilitated mass migration, which is a new form of slavery. … This administration has lost 85,000 kids. They don’t know where they are. And many of those kids are being trafficked sexually.” Alvarez agreed. “It’s our Hispanic community that’s at the forefront of the exploitation. It’s our people that are being sold and recycled at the border.”
The panelists agreed that the best chance for Republicans to win over persuadable Hispanic voters was through persuasion, not pandering. “We need to remind our Hispanic community,” said Alvarez, of “the way that this [Biden] administration is treating us and treating the countries we come from.”
Additionally, Nunez pleaded with conservatives not to talk down to Hispanic voters. “It’s important to understand that when you are approaching our people, it’s not because we don’t know,” said Nunez. “Not all Hispanics are uneducated, here illegally. We have many of our people that are extremely educated, prepared, have master’s, doctor’s degree, business folk.”
That means that these Hispanic conservatives have something to contribute. “I’ve been invited to too many tables and then they don’t want you to speak. They just want you there for a photo op,” lamented Nunez. “I don’t need a photo op.”
Nunez added, “I need somebody to roll up their sleeves and say, ‘Let me invest in the community so we can save this country from what is happening in this present moment, especially in these coming elections.’” Aguilar agreed with the need for long-term investment. And “it has to be done now. We can’t wait till three months before the election.” He urged conservatives to “create a permanent presence” with various Hispanic communities.
In particular, Aguilar endorsed “conservative Spanish language efforts,” particularly investments in Spanish-language media networks that would challenge the Left’s dominance in Spanish-language media. “With Spanish-language Hispanic voters, we’re still lagging behind … by even as much as 40%,” he said. “And Spanish-language Hispanics constitute a third of the Hispanic electorate.”
“Our media is very censored in Spanish. It’s all owned by the Left. So, if you want your message to resonate, invest in Hispanic media,” pleaded Alvarez. “If you have nothing in Spanish, you’re leaving out the fastest growing minority in the nation.”
Alvarez also urged conservatives to run Spanish-language ads on Spanish-language media outlets. “Every election cycle, I get phone calls from general managers of Spanish media stations saying, ‘We need ads from the Right because the Left will have three ads every hour.’ And where are the conservative organizations?’” she said. “Our absence in this media circuit is allowing our opposition to grow the ranks.”
And “please make sure that you get someone that knows how to write and speak in Spanish,” Nunez offered. “It is so disheartening to look at a commercial on television by someone that doesn’t even speak Spanish. … Hire a Hispanic to do your Hispanic commercials.”
Additional strategies suggested by the panel involved targeting Hispanic candidates, churches, and youth. “We also need to raise up Hispanic candidates to being [on] school boards,” said Jordan. “I want to see somebody like me that is going to represent well.”
Regarding churches, Aguilar said, “They’re the witness of truth at the grassroots because all the Latino grassroots organizations are controlled by the Left — except the churches.” Nunez added that churches were a crucial area for civic education. “Many in our congregations do not understand the system that operates here,” he said. “They come from different countries, from different mindsets. They don’t know what the American system is like — submitting something, being in committee, voting it out of committee, taking it to the floor. A lot of these things they don’t understand.”
Additionally, Jordan said, “We need to reach the youth because that’s the person of the future. … The youth is looking for education.” He proposed engaging Hispanic youth with “scholarships, economic empowerment,” and “political empowerment.”
Last but not least, Jordan endorsed prayer. “Somebody asked Billy Graham what was his key for success in his crusades,” he said. “And he had three key points. And he was saying, ‘Number one, pray. Number two, pray. Number three, pray.’ So don’t forget about that. Jesus is our hope.”
The nugget of truth underpinning the Democratic majority theory is that Hispanic Americans are increasing in numbers and influence, growing in economic and political power by the decade.
There are “record levels of Hispanics engaging in American politics,” said Alvarez. The Hispanic vote “is getting stronger every single election cycle.” Aguilar added that Hispanics now constituted potentially “decisive” percentages of voters “not only, say, [in] Arizona or Nevada,” but in Georgia, North Carolina, and even Wisconsin, due to how closely those states have been divided in recent elections.
“$2.8 trillion is the GDP for the Hispanic community,” which “as an independent country would be the sixth or seventh strongest economy in the world,” said Jordan. “We are also youth because one out of four Hispanics are children. So, a big percentage of the population is from Gen Z, 32% of the population is Gen Z.” As Hispanics grow as a proportion of the U.S. population, PVSS panelists suggested the conservative Hispanic movement is growing, too, so long as conservatives can employ persuasion by appealing to shared biblical and family values.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.