Sen. Bernie Sanders and local candidates urged the crowd to vote in the upcoming mid-term election.
A voter registration sign in Spanish. Photo by Chris Stone

Here we go again. The political focus on what Hispanics will do in the Nov. 8 election by media tarot card readers never ceases to amaze.

Anglo reporters talk to a handful of people in South Florida, a couple of partisan hacks with PhDs, and pontificate based on one South Texas county with just 14,000 people. 

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Once in a while someone points out that of the 62 million Hispanics in the country, the vast majority — over 60% — are of Mexican origin. They hold in their hands a gob of presidential electoral votes.

There is only one state in which non-Mexican Hispanics can seriously influence a statewide vote count. That is Florida where Cubans and South Americans are a solid voting block that can direct 29 electoral votes. The Cubans and other Hispanics changed the solid Democrat tradition they found. With Cuban help Florida has gone solidly Republican at the state level and pulled away from Democrats by voting for Donald Trump.

By contrast, Mexican Americans in California have swamped Republicans since Gov. Pete Wlson flooded televisions with ads demonizing supposed masses of “illegal aliens” swarming across the border. Of course, the TV spots were not of Mexicans flooding California, they were of Moroccans fleeing into Spanish enclaves in an attempt to escape poverty. 

The problem was Wilson’s financial and political support of an unconstitutional state ballot proposal that would have denied every single Mexican American in California — millions of them — the constitutional rights that we are all born with.

The proposition was so illegal that seven — repeat, seven — state and federal judges enjoined the proposition from being enforced in the days following the election. 

In California, millions of people of Mexican origin directly influence who gets California 53 electoral votes — one fifth of the votes needed to elect a president.

When reporters, writers and researchers look into the Hispanic vote the first thing they should do is remember this fact: there are more people of Mexican origin in sight of Los Angeles City Hall than all the Cubans and Puerto Ricans living in the 49 other states together.

Moreover, there are growing populations of them in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and Nevada. Most are not immigrants but native-born American citizens.

In Nevada, the Mexican-American population is growing so fast that Clark County — Las Vegas — is projected to be 50% Hispanic perhaps before the next census in 2030. 

Commentators who attempt to tell us what is going on in Hispanic America need to look at all the states where Hispanics live, not just South Texas and Miami.

They need to conduct focus groups in the various counties and states to truly examine the political atmosphere — in a proper context.

They need to know and understand the history of ethnic and immigrant groups that have come to the United States since Irish Catholics started arriving in the 1840s.

They need to understand that many characteristics of various Hispanic groups can be seen in previous immigration from Italy and Eastern Europe. There’s not a whole lot of difference between the experiences of Italian and Eastern European immigrants and Mexicans and other immigrants from south of the U.S. border.

Take religious solidarity. Most Eastern European immigrants were Jews who needed to escape deadly pogroms. Today immigrants from Tierra del Fuego north bring their Catholicism with them, as did the turn-of-the-19th-century immigrants from Italy. 

Though Jews and Catholics have been in Colonial America and the United States since the 1600s, their numbers were not large until the immigration flood from Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe began.

Immigrating to America has historic commonalities among all immigrant groups. 

The Irish Catholics became Democrats first, so did the Italians and Eastern Europeans. Traditionally, immigrants to America became Democrats because they mostly came as poor looking for opportunity or religious liberty. Over time, however, their children and grandchildren became Republicans.

The same is true of Hispanic immigrants. They came as Catholics and some have drifted off to Protestantism. Ditto their politics. Democrats first and then Republicans.

Education and upward economic mobility. These pure American factors work every time over decades.

Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine veteran, political consultant, prolific author and host of the Contreras Report on YouTube and ROKU.