Left-wing lawmakers and activists may not think “socialism” is a dirty word but elected officials have noticed the effects it and other buzzwords made on Hispanic voters in this year’s election.
In a year when most Democratic primary candidates supported socialized medicine and radical slogans such as “defund the police” dominated national conversations, minority populations that Democrats have long relied on for votes turned out not to be slam dunks at the polls after all.
“Defund police, open borders, socialism — it’s killing us,” Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, told the New York Times. Gonzalez narrowly won reelection in Texas’s 15th District with 50.5% of the votes, compared to his more comfortable 59.7% in 2018 and 57.3% in 2016.
Gonzalez noted that the “average white person” may think of Scandinavia when they hear the word socialism, but Asian and Hispanic immigrants are more likely to recall tyrannical governments from which they or their families escaped.
Gonzalez’s district includes counties along the southern border, and so do many other counties in the state. Residents of Zapata County, in the 28th District, made their thoughts known in the presidential election. While Hillary Clinton won 65% of the votes there in 2016, Joe Biden won just 47% in 2020.
Their congressman, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, does not believe this is a sign that Democrats are gradually losing control as they still won their races, but he does believe that President Trump and his campaign demonstrated a greater understanding of the people whose votes they were courting.
“The Trump campaign got this better and understand the Hispanic vote is not monolithic,” Cuellar said in a phone interview with Fox News.
Cuellar pointed to the differences between Hispanic populations who live in and came from different places. In border counties, he said, many live in rural areas where people are “socially conservative, very patriotic,” and were also concerned about what a Democratic administration would mean for the economy and law enforcement.
He warned that his fellow Democrats “can’t just think in terms of ethnic identities,” because the cultures, values, and priorities are not the same across the entire Hispanic population. In his district people are hurting economically, he said, so they were concerned about another shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many of the people work in border patrol and other law enforcement agencies, Cuellar said. When he traveled his district two days after his reelection, he noticed that people were afraid of the “defund the police” movement.
“I asked the question what was it that resonated here, and law enforcement was one of them,” Cuellar said. He described how people were very worried that a Biden victory would mean money would be taken away from local law enforcement. He assured them that would not happen.
Referring to how different people respond to different issues, Cuellar said in Zapata County a big talking point that the Trump campaign focused on was oil and gas. Zapata County was once the number one producer in the state, so when Trump hammered Biden for wanting to transition away from the oil industry, people there noticed.
Cueller said that while Trump’s campaign included attacks against socialism among their strategy in his district, it was not nearly as pronounced as it was in Florida, where the Hispanic population draws from Cuban and Venezuelan immigrants—people whose families have firsthand knowledge of what socialism is like.
“They were able to micro-target,” Cuellar said.
Republican National Hispanic Assembly's Florida political director Glenn Parada told Fox News earlier this month that they primarily looked at “why we came here to America, why a lot of people immigrated here.”
He added: “We view Biden and Harris as socialists. … That's one of the main reasons why people didn’t vote for Biden and Harris.”
Cuellar said he is not concerned for his future, even though he won his 2020 race with 58.3% of the votes, down from 84.4% in 2018 and 66.2% in 2016. He said in 2010 he had similarly low numbers. In that year, he attributed this to the rise of the Tea Party movement. This year, it was “the Trump effect.”
“Do I see a political realignment? No,” he said.
Still, he said this year’s election should tell Democrats that they “can’t take Hispanics for granted.”
Fox News' Evie Fordham contributed to this report.