From the New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1WqmZ6g
The Real ‘Trump Effect’ for Young
By ROBERTO SURO MAY 27, 2016
DURING a swing through California earlier this month, Hillary Clinton tried to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a rally in East Los Angeles, the Mexican- American heartland where she won overwhelming support from Latinos of all ages in the 2008 primary. But this year, everything is different. Hecklers interrupted her repeatedly,and on the street her supporters faced taunts from a gantlet of demonstrators blaming her for President Obama’s deportation of some Central American asylum seekers.
The disaffection and distrust evident in so much of the American electorate festers with special ferocity among young Latinos, the fastest growing segment of the American electorate. Looking at them we can see what this campaign is doing to all of us.
The laws of physics, if not elections, suggest that the Republican Party’s embrace of white identity politics will provoke an equal and opposite reaction among nonwhites. But don’t look for young Latinos to adopt traditional minority group politics as practiced by the Democratic officeholders, the corporate diversity officers and advocacy groups that constitute the Latino establishment. We all know by now that 2016 is a bad year for establishments.
Millennials, measured as adults born after 1981, make up 44 percent of
the Latino electorate, a far greater share of eligible voters than among any other racial or ethnic group. Every year 800,000 native-born Latinos reach voting age. About half of those voters are the children of immigrants — they’re animated by Donald J. Trump’s bullying and some are fighting back, as they have at some Trump rallies.
Democratic primary exit polls show that Mrs. Clinton has won Latino voters over Senator Bernie Sanders by roughly two-to-one so far. In California, however, surveys show a tightening race in the June 7 primary. A close look at the data reveals a generational divide. Young Latinos are strongly supporting Mr. Sanders, while their parents’ generation backs Mrs. Clinton.
Latinos have a poor record of voter turnout, and young Latinos are the worst among them. But regardless of their effect on Mrs. Clinton’s immediate prospects, Latino millennials will change the ways we think about identity politics. They may finally explode the myth of a monolithic Latino vote. They are pressing policy demands, not easily satisfied with token appointments and the other palliatives offered to minority groups.
“El viejito,” the affectionate term for an old man being applied to the Vermont senator, appears to have energized young Latinos with his demonization of corporations, banks and the politicians he casts as their servants, according to the polls. His impact could manifest in the ways young Latinos approach immigration.
For more than three decades, efforts to overhaul the immigration system have followed a “grand bargain” approach. Until Mitt Romney broke the pattern in 2012, presidential candidates of both parties endorsed a reform strategy that offered some kind of legalization for unauthorized immigrants in exchange for giving employers access to foreign workers through legal channels. Enforcement would increase along the way.
The grand bargain has been trashed in this year’s campaign. The two most prominent Republican proponents, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, didn’t make it
past March. And, although he supports comprehensive immigration reform, Mr. Sanders relentlessly attacks the kind of deal-making between business and government that a bargain represents.
A nationwide survey by Latino Decisions, a firm that works for the Clinton campaign, shows that young Latinos by margins of two-to-one compared with older Latinos find Mr. Sanders more pro-immigrant than Mrs. Clinton and that they are more likely to vote for him because of his immigration stands.
After flocking to Mr. Sanders, young Latinos should be less likely than ever to support a future deal that trades legalization for worker visas. Many have already rejected a view of immigrants as an economic commodity, a labor input, to be bartered. Rather than responding to Mr. Trump’s tribalism with tribalism of their own, they are invoking foundational truths.
The new approach was born during President Obama’s first term with campaigns on behalf of the Dreamers, unauthorized migrants brought here as children who are now in college or the military. Seeking legal status, they present themselves as “Americans in all but name,” as people meeting society’s expectations by studying and serving. They provided the impetus behind Mr. Obama’s executive orders, now tied up in a Supreme Court case, which would give some parents of United States citizens temporary reprieve from deportation.
When they demonstrate wearing caps and gowns and carrying American flags, Dreamers are proud Latinos, but that is not the basis of their demands. They are pledging allegiance to a traditional form of American civic engagement because they believe they have earned the privilege.
The number of legal immigrants becoming United States citizens has surged since the campaign got underway, and although the data is still preliminary, some advocates see a “Trump effect” at work. This suggests that broad segments of Latinos have responded to the Republican nominee’s embrace of white identity by embracing a version of American identity that is
not based on ethnicity but on principles.
Last week, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, was faced with hecklers as he delivered a commencement address at Georgetown University. The “UndocuHoyas” protested deportation orders against Central Americans who had been denied asylum in rushed hearings with no chance for legal counsel. Mr. Johnson acknowledged the protests graciously, saying, “in this free country, you have an important role, your views matter.”
These protests are not about language, nationality, skin color or any other kind of group identity. Instead, the fight is over the universal right of the individual to have claims fairly adjudicated by the state.
Young Latinos are responding to Mr. Trump’s vision of Americans as a people of kindred blood with a vision of the United States as a place of kindred spirits. Those young Latinos are putting forward a message that might help us out of the mess we’ve made this year. If they turn out at the same rate as white millennials, they would bring an estimated more than a million new voters to the polls and might affect the results as well.
Roberto Suro is a professor of public policy and journalism at the University of Southern California.
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A version of this oped appears in print on May 29, 2016, on page SR3 of the New York edition with the headline: The AllAmerican Values of Young Latinos.
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