This year, a projected 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote, making them the largest racial or ethnic minority ever to participate in a presidential election. And for the first time, Latinos will outnumber Black voters, according to the Pew Research Center.
The power of Latino voters is evident in states such as Florida and Arizona. Had the Latino turnout been higher in those states in 2016, Mr. Trump might not be president. But over half of all Latinos eligible to vote didn’t do so, and consequently history was written in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Despite the racist insults he hurled at Mexican immigrants during his last campaign (“They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They’re rapists.”) Mr. Trump won 28 percent of the Latino vote. Though not even close to the 66 percent that voted for Hillary Clinton, it was enough to win him the election. Clearly, even insults couldn’t convince that small slice of the Latino electorate that Mr. Trump, who promised economic opportunity, a wall and a crackdown on dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela, was unfit for office.
I myself have surfed the great Latino wave. When I arrived in the United States in the early 1980s, fewer than 15 million Latinos lived in this country; now we number more than 60 million. And in less than three decades we will be at 100 million, according to estimates.
These numbers mean no candidate will be able to achieve power in the United States without Latino support. Karl Rove, chief adviser to President George W. Bush, understood this perfectly. In 2004, Mr. Bush won 44 percent of the Latino vote, more than any other Republican presidential candidate ever. It was the first time Republicans tried to divide the Latino vote and prove the phrase attributed to Ronald Reagan: “Latinos are Republican. They just don’t know it yet.”
But instead of continuing their efforts to court Latino voters, Republicans turned their backs. As a candidate in 2016, Mr. Trump announced he would build his wall at the border, and that Mexico would pay for it. This is not how to win the hearts of Latinos.
The Latino vote is increasingly powerful, diverse and sophisticated. And in exchange for that vote, which can make or break a president, the Latino community expects concrete benefits. A few words in Spanish and a few empty promises are no longer enough.