Joe Biden has a remarkable opportunity with Latinos. Although the former vice president rapidly soared to lead in the Democratic presidential primary behind a broad base of support, many still question his ability to bring with him the diverse segments of the Latino electorate. It’s clear that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee needs to borrow some pages from the playbook of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who captured Latinos’ hearts and minds with his policies and the people he put in the field.
Sanders provided the Latino blueprint. It is now up to the Democratic Party to learn from it.
The Sanders presidential campaign didn’t speak only about issues that matter to Latinos. They did so in our neighborhoods, in Spanish, and they invested consistently. They pumped $3.3 million into Nevada and $4 million into California for Latino voter outreach. The campaign also embedded more than 200 Latino staff in Latino neighborhoods in California and Texas, including border regions like the Rio Grande Valley. Sanders and campaign operatives spoke with the Latino community by knocking on doors and organizing culturally competent events, including soccer matches and house gatherings.
The Sanders campaign demonstrated what Latino Victory Fund has known to be true about the Latino electorate — when you invest in Latinos, we vote. Sanders won the Latino vote in California and Texas, the two states with the highest Latino electorate (one-third of the electorate is Latino), and must-wins for the next presidential nominee. In California, Sanders carried the Latino vote with 49 percent, and in Texas he won 41 percent. In Nevada, a key presidential battleground state, where Latinos are 30 percent of the population, he got 73 percent of Latino voters.
Sanders resonated from the podium. He voiced a clear vision for the Latino community.
Latinos need more access to quality, affordable health care, and Sanders took it one step further with his ardent push for Medicare for All. Latinos are disproportionately affected by the adverse effects of climate change and environmental health hazards, and Sanders showed us that it is possible to propose an ambitious plan that meets the urgency of the moment with the Green New Deal. Latino students are burdened by crippling college debt, and Sanders ushered a proposal that has changed the conversation around student debt-free tuition, debt cancellation, and a billionaire investment in minority-serving institutions.
The stakes couldn’t be any higher: The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these challenges for our community. Early infection and death-rate data show an outsized impact of the pandemic on Latinos.
Democrats must now focus on forging an inclusive coalition. While our issues may vary in breadth and scope, they all have the same origin. We want to build on the work of our predecessors to continue bringing forth a just society for all. As Biden said, “Bernie did not just run a political campaign; he created a movement.” To beat Donald Trump, Democrats must carry this movement forward, and that begins by listening and learning from those who crafted Sanders’ policies, executed on his robust engagement, and reimagined how campaigns operate.
Biden can win the Latino vote in key battleground states, which he demonstrated when he won Florida and Arizona in the primaries. He also has the commanding support of Latino leaders, including dozens of members of Congress, state and local elected officials, activists, and community organizers. Throughout his career, he’s supported key issues that Latinos care about, such as access to affordable health care, safeguarding the environment, protecting DACA, gun violence reform, and jobs. Biden’s inspiring life story and commitment to his family are values that are close to the Latino community’s heart. His message is there, and now we have to make sure our community hears it.
Latinos clearly want to oust Trump, and one only needs to look at Sanders’ legacy to know that when candidates engage us, we will turn out to vote.
Weeks before Biden soared to the top of the 2020 presidential race, Latino Victory Fund became the first national Latino organization to endorse him because of his experience and support for issues that matter to Latinos.
Now that Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee, Team Biden must work with our sisters and brothers who carried the torch of Sanders’ movement. We already walk on common ground; now, we must walk on a path of unity.
Luis A. Miranda Jr. is chair of the Latino Victory Fund board. Nathalie Rayes is president and CEO of Latino Victory Fund.