The G.O.P.’s ‘Wildest Dream’ – The New York Times

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Latino voters have recently shifted towards the Republican Celebration. Most nonetheless vote for Democrats, however the margin has shrunk.

One signal of the shift is in Texas’ majority-Latino thirty fourth Congressional District, which not too long ago elected Mayra Flores, a conservative Republican, to serve out the remaining time period of a Democrat who resigned in March. To place Flores’s election in context of the bigger shift, immediately’s publication talks with Jennifer Medina, a Instances reporter who writes about nationwide politics and profiled Flores this week.

Ian: How did you meet Flores?

Jennifer: I met her nearly a yr and a half in the past after I went to the Rio Grande Valley, in South Texas, to attempt to perceive why Latino voters there swung toward Donald Trump in 2020. I got here throughout a whole group of women who drove numerous the change. They’d organized “Trump Trains” and completed Hispanic outreach for the Republican Celebration. Lots of them, together with Flores, had been married to Border Patrol brokers and used that because the supply of their power and assist for Trump.

Flores won her special election last month fairly simply, regardless of being a first-time candidate operating in a traditionally Democratic district. She appears to represent Republican hopes that Latinos will more and more assist the social gathering. How was she obtained in Washington?

She was handled like a rock star. After her swearing-in, she did a press convention with Kevin McCarthy and different Republicans. The placard on the lectern stated “Historic.” Republicans have been criticized for being anti-immigrant, clearly, and right here’s a lady who not solely is an immigrant however who labored within the fields alongside her mother and father as a farmworker.

Flores has described herself as Democrats’ worst nightmare, however she was additionally Republicans’ wildest dream. She’s the primary Mexican-born lady in Congress, and the Republican Celebration fully embraced her.

Flores has voiced conspiratorial views, suggesting that the Jan. 6 assault was a “setup.” You repeatedly requested her whether or not President Biden received the 2020 election, and she or he stored responding that he was “the worst president.” Was that awkward?

I don’t suppose it was a shock to her that I requested. I believe she’d been requested that query earlier than, knew what she wished to say and caught to the script. I gave her a number of alternatives to make clear. I really stated, “I’m not making an attempt to be cute, I’m actually making an attempt to know.” She stated, “That’s my assertion.”

Flores advised you she voted for Barack Obama in 2008, however grew disillusioned with Democrats and enthusiastically backed Trump. Have voters in her district equally shifted?

Flores received a low-turnout election, so we’re speaking a few smallish slice of voters. However, nearly by definition, she obtained assist from individuals who voted Democrat up to now.

I met a retired couple who, in contrast to lots of her most ardent supporters, had been devoted Catholics, not evangelicals. They had been heat and alluring, and I sat on their sofa for an hour listening to their political trajectory. They’d voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and thought of themselves moderates. However the husband, particularly, had began to really feel like undocumented immigrants had been getting welfare advantages that they shouldn’t, and that Democrats had been more and more hostile to anyone who was anti-abortion. They voted for Trump in 2020 and felt like Flores represented what they wished to see: anyone fed up with Democrats and prepared to criticize them loudly.

You describe Flores’s district, which borders Mexico, as “politically liberal but culturally conservative.” What does that imply?

It’s a spot the place legislation enforcement is revered. For lots of people, legislation enforcement — not solely the police, but in addition the Border Patrol and sheriffs — is the most effective path to the center class. Church buildings are crowded on Sundays. Lots of small evangelical church buildings have opened up and are rising. You see American flags on the backs of vehicles or in entrance of homes and companies.

Individuals are linked to their households. They get collectively typically. Many residents see these beliefs mirrored extra within the Republican Celebration than within the Democratic Celebration. Flores’s slogan — “God, household, nation” — spoke to numerous voters.

Immigration looks as if a posh problem there. Flores is an immigrant who campaigned on border safety, and lots of of her voters have household who sooner or later crossed the border.

Lots of them hint their ancestry again to Mexico. The border is of their on a regular basis lives. To listen to Flores inform it, the border is in disarray, although not all people in her district thinks that approach. Individuals who assist her and assist Trump make an enormous distinction between legal and illegal immigration. They are saying a model of, “No one who’s coming in now’s doing it the appropriate approach. Individuals ought to get in line and do it the way in which we did it.”

Additionally they sofa their assist for closing the border or placing up a border wall by way of human trafficking, medicine and gangs. There’s a way that Mexico and the border are extra harmful now. However lots of people I talked to, together with Republicans, have empathy for immigrants. Even when they despise present coverage, there’s a notion of “We wish to assist them.”

Latino voters’ rightward shift isn’t only a South Texas phenomenon. What different elements play a task nationally?

That is the query that I’m consistently making an attempt to determine. You possibly can’t overgeneralize. What’s true about Mexican Individuals within the Rio Grande Valley is probably not true about Latino voters in New Mexico, South Florida, Virginia or Pennsylvania. In Florida, there’s anti-socialism sentiment. The border is a matter elsewhere.

However I believe numerous it has to do with faith. A rising section of Hispanic evangelicals feels way more tied to the evangelical motion than to any kind of Latino political identification.

Extra about Jennifer: She joined The Instances 20 years in the past as an intern after graduating from the College of Southern California. She has coated schooling, immigration and the 2020 election. She lives in Los Angeles and considers herself a dedicated Zumba and hip-hop dancer.

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