The Democrats’ Latino Problem Isn’t Just the Word ‘Latinx’

The Democrats’ Latino Problem Isn’t Just the Word ‘Latinx’
A bilingual sign stands outside a polling center at public library ahead of local elections in Austin, Texas, on April 28, 2013. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Charlotte Allen

When Republican candidate Mayra Flores, an immigrant born in Mexico, flipped a congressional seat on June 14 in a part of South Texas that had been a Democratic Party stronghold for generations, pundits were calling the election a referendum on the word “Latinx,” progressives’ new favorite moniker for people of Latin-American descent.

One Twitter wit waxed sarcastic: “But her opponent [Democrat Dan Sanchez, far behind at 43 percent] won the Latinx vote.”

It’s a well-known fact that the neologism “Latinx,” coined in the mid-2000s and nearly universally adopted by academics and the mainstream media because it sounds fashionably “nonbinary,” in contrast to the highly gendered “Latino” and “Latina,” is nearly universally hated by Latinos and Latinas themselves. A 2021 poll showed that only 2 percent of people of Hispanic descent preferred to be called “Latinx,” and 40 percent found the word downright offensive. Even among 18 to 34-year-olds, the millennials and Zoomers most likely to have been brainwashed by their colleges and the woke media, only 4 percent call themselves “Latinx.”

It’s an ugly word for starters. In print, it looks as though it rhymes with “sphinx”—not a pretty sound—so you have to go through a mental gyration to pronounce it as a word with three syllables: “Latin-X.” And this makes no sense in Spanish, where the letter “x” is pronounced “equis” and almost no words end with an “x” following a consonant. Not surprisingly, many Americans of Hispanic descent consider “Latinx” to be a gringo invention displaying gringo condescension toward the Spanish language.

Equally unsurprisingly, some of the Democrats who only recently embraced the word are now quietly backing away from it. Chuck Rocha, a former senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), told Politico that he advises candidates to reserve the word “Latinx” solely for talking to “activist” groups “on the left.”
But the “Latinx” misstep isn’t just about the ridiculous word choices of over-educated liberals come a cropper. It’s about the general decades-long misunderstanding on the part of liberals, especially Democratic Party operatives, of Latinos themselves, once considered a solidly reliable Democratic constituency (71 percent voted for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential race) and now trending distinctly Republican. Hispanics are now America’s largest ethnic minority at 19 percent of the population, and in California, with 39 percent of the population, they are the largest ethnic group, period. It’s a misunderstanding with potentially catastrophic consequences.
A December 2021 Wall Street Journal poll showed Hispanics evenly split between Democratic and Republican candidates in the generic congressional ballot for 2022. Other polls have tracked a markedly increased Latino support for Donald Trump from 2016 to 2020. In the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race Democrat Terry McAuliffe actually lost the Latino vote. And now the catastrophic-seeming disapproval percentages for President Joe Biden in heavily Hispanic Texas, long regarded as the demographic “battleground” that would pivot America toward a permanent Democratic majority. The “Latinx” fiasco is merely a symptom—and a symbol—of what has gone wrong for the Democrats.

Their first mistake has been to lump all Latinos together into a single monolithic culture of “people of color,” all presumably victimized by a white overclass and thus primed to lean left. In fact, Latinos comprise a variety of Iberian- and indigenous-influenced subcultures—Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, and so forth—that all have their own distinctive folkways, music, artistic traditions, and cuisines. My late mother, born Maria del Rio in Lima, Peru, was a perfect example. Some of her relatives looked like Inca kings, others like Don Quixote, but they couldn’t imagine being mistaken for Guatemalans or Argentinians.

Latino political attitudes vary hugely, too, with Cubans being the most reliably conservative owing to their home country’s experiences with socialism, and Puerto Ricans the most reliably liberal (although the needle is inching rightward for them, too). Democrats have typically ignored these differences and pitched generic anti-white-establishment positions that they’ve assumed will appeal to all Latinos. Such as relaxing restrictions on illegal immigration and offering pathways to citizenship for those who arrive illegally. But the attitudes of American-born and legal-immigrant Hispanics are complex. In fact, a 2021 Pew Research poll showed that substantial majorities in both groups don’t favor citizenship pathways for illegal entrants, and 56 percent of naturalized-citizen Latinos favor increased border security to deter illegal crossings. This isn’t surprising: the Mexican-Americans who live in border states are mostly working-class, and they don’t want to see their jobs jeopardized by illegal immigrants willing to work for lower wages. It’s telling that Mayra Flores’s husband is a Border Patrol agent.

Another favorite cause of progressive Democrats, “Defund the Police,” is unlikely to garner much support in Los Angeles, California, where Hispanics make up 49 percent of the police and county sheriff’s forces—a figure that corresponds to their representation in the general population. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who cleared a crime-ridden homeless encampment from Venice Beach in 2021, is an immensely popular figure.

Democrats’ second mistake has been to assume that the prominent and decidedly left-wing political organizations quoted by the media as speaking for Latinos actually do speak for them. Such organizations as La Raza (now UnidosUS) and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), both products of 1960s radicalism, are still the go-to sources for lazy journalists looking for a “Latino perspective.”

UnidosUS bills itself as “the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization,” but if you visit its website, and that of MALDEF, you’ll see that their chief concerns right now seem to be the standard obsessions of white progressives: gun control and abortion access—as well as virtually uncontrolled immigration. There’s no mention whatsoever of  Hispanic-Americans’ top actual concerns right now (revealed in a March 22 Axios poll): inflation and crime.

If the Democratic Party wants to stop losing Latinos and halt the election of more Mayra Floreses in its traditional strongholds, it needs to stop listening to the woke media and the progressive academics who form its base. And it needs to dump once and for all that ghastly word “Latinx” that the media and the academics have concocted.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Charlotte Allen is the executive editor of Catholic Arts Today and a frequent contributor to Quillette. She has a doctorate in medieval studies from the Catholic University of America.
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