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Book Review: Pollster who wrote ‘The Latino Century’ says both political parties get Hispanics wrong

Mike Madrid, author of the new book “The Latino Century,” is better situated than most political consultants to comment on the U.S. Latino electorate because of his job experience and upbringing.

Growing up in a Mexican American family in Southern California, Madrid says he became a Republican in his heart at age 9 when Ronald Reagan was first elected president in 1980. A longtime GOP member, he has advised high profile candidates at the state and national level..

A critic of former president Donald Trump since he launched his 2016 campaign with an attack on Mexicans, Madrid is also co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project.

Madrid says both Republicans and Democratic operatives are getting the Latino electorate all wrong in the lead up to the 2024 presidential cycle, when Hispanics could play a crucial role.

He says jobs and the economy are consistently the top issues for Latinos, and it’s a mistake to assume they are simply an aggrieved minority focused on immigration, farmworkers and the border. He also notes that many U.S. Latinos are not immigrants, and plenty don’t speak Spanish at all.

But Madrid says Latinos should play a larger role in U.S. democracy as a fast-growing, optimistic group that now represents about 19% of the country’s population. That’s larger than any other racial or ethnic minority.

Madrid proposes the idea of a multiethnic, pluralistic democracy in which the fight is for something, not against something. He also calls for both parties to take into account the views not only of naturalized Latino immigrants but also their U.S. born children and grandchildren, who see policy more in generational than ethnic terms.

The consultant faults Democratic Party advisors for sometimes incorrectly assuming their party speaks for all Latinos, He also sees a partisan bias among some Democratic research firms that have missed the rightward shift of Hispanics voters while oversampling of Spanish speakers and naturalized immigrants. While most Latinos are still Democrats, the party has steadily lost support among Latinos as it focuses on white, progressive, college educated voters who are more interested in cultural issues than working class concerns.

As for Republicans, Madrid says the GOP needs to understand that the rightward shift by Latino voters in recent elections has little to do with its efforts. Instead, it reflects the assimilation of a group of people whose families have been in the U.S. for years, if not generations.

He says that the GOP’s almost exclusive focus on white, non-college educated voters is not helping the party with Latino voters. Nor is its use of racial wedge issues such as demonizing Latin American immigrants.

If Republicans would move beyond white grievance and became more pro immigrant, they could actually win more Latino support and win more national elections, Madrid argues.

The GOP, he says, also instead focus more on the traditional economic policies that Latino voters care most about: cutting taxes and slashing government regulations.

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AP book reviews: https://apnews.com/hub/book-reviews

Anita Snow, The Associated Press