Tomorrow, I will be participating in a panel about the role of race and immigration in the 2016 elections at the University of Connecticut with professors Evelyn Simien (UConn) and Natalie Masuoka (Tufts University), and moderated by Prof. Shayla Nunnally (UConn). The event is sponsored by UConn’s El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, The Africana Studies Institute, The Asian American Studies Institute, the Department of Political Science, and the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center.
I want to share what I consider the three main issues Latinos and other people of color face in the United States:
● Nostalgia politics has peaked in this election season: The importance of nostalgia in the narrative of the 2016 election is cultural and economic. Cultural nostalgia drives much of the anti-immigrant sentiment that has bubbled to the surface with not so subtle arguments about how much better the country was when there were fewer people of color, especially Latinos. Economic nostalgia emerges in the discussion about the importance of manufacturing work in the creation of the American middle class. It ignores the fact that the service sector is where most Americans are employed these days. Similar to the cultural nostalgia on immigration, there’s a racial aspect of economic nostalgia. As Demos’s own Tamara Draut notes in her book Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America, women and people of color are the core of this new service-oriented working class and they have historically had less power than the predominantly white male working class politicians reminisce about.
● Immigration continues to shape Latinos’ attitudes toward political parties: As immigration becomes a major subject of debate in the public discourse, Latinos are paying attention. There’s evidence from survey research that Latinos’ recent voting patterns are related to the major parties’ positions and narratives about immigration. Words matter, but actions matter too. This explains why, even as the Latino vote continues to become more homogeneous, there is still skepticism about how much politicians care about the community.
● Other issues matter too: As a very young population, Latinos also care deeply about other issues. The Latino population shows high levels of concern about the threat of climate change. Once considered a very conservative group on social issues, Latinos now favor same-sex marriage in large numbers, leading the charge on a very fast shift in the nation’s cultural consensus about same-sex relationships. Finally, the economy is still the top concerns of Latinos and all Americans. Much of Latinos’ wealth was wiped out by the economic crisis. As the market has proven ineffective in solving our collective problems, Latinos consider that government should step in and help build a country where everyone has an equal chance in our economy and equal voice in our democracy.
I look forward to share my thoughts with the other panelists and the audience.