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You know that “Wow!” emoji, with the wide open mouth and eyes? Here’s some political news genuinely deserving that reaction. Remember how all the presidential election exit polls last November showed significant gains by Donald Trump among Latino voters? And how so many analysts attributed this progress to the former President’s “macho” appeal to Latino men – an appeal that was so strong that it overrode Trump’s supposedly obvious anti-Latino racism and xenophobia?

Well, at the beginning of this month, a major survey of Latino voters found that, actually, the Trump Latino vote was driven by women.

Big deal,” you scoff? Absolutely. Because the results indicate that these voters’ backing for Trump didn’t stem mainly from his personality traits, which are not only pretty peculiar to him, but which repel at least as many voters of all kinds as they attract. Instead, the findings suggest that Latinos’ growing Trump-ism owes more to support for his economic message and record (including on immigration) – which signals big opportunities for other Republican/conservative populists not saddled with Trump’s often -putting character, but who focus on issues that will remain crucial to much of the Latino and overall electorate long into the future.

Examples of the “macho” theory include this piece from the New York Times and a later article in the Washington Post Magazine. And they nicely illustrate how it also reenforced the impression of Trump voters generally as “deplorables” that’s been spread relentlessly by the former President’s opponents of all stripes, and that conveniently strengthens the case for seeking to ignore and marginalize them.

It’s true that both these analyses recognized that Trump’s own business experience and the state of the economy for most of his presidency also attracted many Latino males. But their greater emphasis was on how these voters liked the fact that, as the Times piece put it, Trump is “forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic. In a world where at any moment someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self-flagellation.”

The Post Magazine article was much more nuanced and even-handed, but the author nonetheless described a not-trivial number of Latino men (using his own father as an example) as “archconservatives” and “conservative talk radio” fans. He also presented plenty of analyses from supposed experts likening them to low-status males desperately clinging to any patriarchical life-saver to preserve their remaining self-esteem, and consequently as prime suckers for any “self-made man” and any other bootstraps-type myths contributing to the brand Trump cultivated.

The Post Magazine piece also contrasted these Latino male views with

the experiences of Latinas, many of whom are running their households, managing child care or employed as front-line and domestic workers — nurses or caretakers for the elderly. ‘They are making sure their kids are prepared for Zoom school,’ [one expert] explains. ‘I think there’s a fundamentally different experience that Hispanic men and women have in both what they experience day to day and what information they consume.’”

In other words, Latino men: kind of neanderthal and delusional. Latino women: nose-to-the-grindstone essential workers and heroines who are not only staffing the front lines at work, but keeping ther households together. Therefore, even if you were willing to hold your nose and wanted any opponents of conservative populists to reach out more effectively to Latino men, you’d have to admit that many are too unhinged to be reachable.

Significantly, the new findings – by a data firm called Equis Research – don’t dispute that Trump did better among Latino men than among Latino women. Equis did, however, generate data showing that, between the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, the Trump Latino male vote grew by three net percentage points, but his Latina vote grew by eight percentage points. That’s what’s called “statistically significant.” And poll skeptics should note that Equis interviewed 41,000 Latino voters in battleground states, and studied voter file data, precinct returns, and focus groups.

Equis didn’t endorse any explanations for this Latina shift, although a Democratic analyst named David Shor believes that “the concentration of Trump’s gains among Latinas is consistent with his hypothesis that ‘defund the police’ influenced Hispanic voting behavior since, in his polling, women rank crime as a more important issue than men do.”

But to me, the new findings matter most for a more fundamental reason:  They further debunk claims from Never Trumpers in both parties that Trump’s Latino gains resulted from appeals to some Americans’ worst (i.e., most sexist) instincts (as mentioned above), or from simple misinformation, or from the Democrats’ alleged failure to court Latino voters ardently enough – that is, from problems that either shouldn’t be fixed, or that can easily be solved without compromising the party’s strong shift to the hard Left on issues across the board.

Instead, Equis’ report adds to the case that  a huge part of the problem is the shift itself – and with Americans of all races, colors, and creeds.

Special thanks to old friend Ruy Teixeira, a distinguished opinion analyst in his own right, for calling this news to my attention. And for a very good summary and analysis of the findings, see this piece from New York magazine (in which you’ll find David Shor’s arguments).