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Are we reaching a tipping point? Author Malcolm Gladwell defines it as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” After nearly two years of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies such as the separation of children from their parents at the border, are Latinos finally ready to fight back?
The test will be on the midterm elections taking place November 6. The tired cliché of the sleepy giant finally stirring has never been more apt. In states like Arizona, Texas, Nevada and Florida, the Latino vote will be decisive in several close contests. Nowhere is that clearer than in our home state of Texas. As Valerie Menard points out in Showdown in Tejas (p. 20), Beto O’Rourke is running neck and neck with Ted Crews in the race for the U.S. Senate, which would have been unheard of a few years ago. At a recent debate, the policy differences of the two candidates were stark. Cruz favors building a wall and deporting Dreamers, while O’Rourke favors an immigration policy “as big-hearted as Texas.” Latinos could well make history by putting Beto over the top and sending Cruz packing.
At the tipping point, little things can have decisive impact. If just a few more Latinos head to the polls, it would shift control of both the House and Senate to the Democrats, turning the tables on the president who began his campaign declaring that Mexico was “not sending its best people across the border.”
But sadly, Latino turnout is lower than ever. In 2014, only 33% of voting age Latinos went to the polls, a 20% turnout gap compared to whites. There are many reasons for this, but no easy fixes. It can’t be explained by voter suppression laws, or lack of resources for political advertising or voter registration drives, though these are certainly factors. Can it be that after serving for so long as Trump’s piñata, and being the butt of so many tweets and taunts, Latinos have lost faith in the political system, or simply don’t care?
As this issue of LATINO goes to press, we are nearly halfway through Hispanic Heritage Month. At no point in time has the dismal round-robin of galas, conventions and parties taking place in Washington, DC seemed less relevant to our community. But what is relevant is our economic clout. According to data compiled by telecom executive Sol Trujillo, Latinos are the drivers of the New Mainstream Economy, having generated nearly one third of the country’s growth in real income since 2005, and annually producing nearly $2.2 trillion in GDP, making U.S. Latinos the world’s 7th largest economy. This economic power won’t be translated into political power unless Latinos make their voices heard, not just as consumers but voters.
Here we present a number of perspectives on this issue, from an election preview by Patricia Guadalupe, Will Latinos tip the Scales (p. 12) to a profile of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by Roberto Santiago, Rising Star (p. 32). Ana Radelat explores the reasons why Central American refugees are braving the perilous trek through Mexico to cross the border in Roots of the Problem (p. 24). And our cover story features chef and humanitarian José Andrés, whose fabulous restaurants in our nation’s capital and around the country have fed many LATINO readers. ¡Gracias!