As much as I would enjoy having Senator Elizabeth Warren be Hillary Clinton’s running mate — on a historic female presidential ticket, no less — it would be a missed opportunity for the party not to choose a Latino candidate.
The move would transcend symbolism and provide many practical advantages to the presidential ticket. And it’s not like there aren’t several qualified picks: There’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro and Labor Secretary Tom Perez. But my money would be on California US Representative and House Democratic Caucus Chair Xavier Becerra, the highest-ranking Latino member of Congress. His personal story — the son of a woman who emigrated from Jalisco, México, and became a clerical worker, and a father who never made it past the sixth grade — would help galvanize the Latino vote.
The Democratic Party needs to embrace demographic reality. There lingers a growing sentiment among Hispanics that the party takes their support for granted. Just last month, Latino leaders cautioned the Democratic Party that it cannot count only on Donald Trump’s derogatory comments on illegal immigration for Hispanics to show up at the polls. And who better to confront Trump’s inflammatory remarks on immigrants, his delusional idea of building a border wall, and his insane and unprecedented attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel with the right degree of nuance than a seasoned Latino politician like Castro or Becerra? (Becerra was quick to call out House Speaker Paul Ryan for denouncing Trump’s comments about Curiel as racist but also expressing support for him as the nominee.)
Indeed, a Latino pick creates a necessary counter-balance in a racially charged election. In the scariest news of the week, The Upshot demonstrated the path — albeit a narrow one — for Trump to win without major support from minority voters. Part of the evidence is that exit polls in past presidential elections have underestimated the number of white voters. Of course, this phenomenon works both ways. Another piece of evidence is a recent report — which surprised not a single person of color that I know — that said Trump’s support is largely driven by racial anxiety, not by concerns about the economy. This suggests that Trump will only have more incentive to double down on his attacks and derogatory comments toward Latinos and minorities to appeal to and energize his base.
Democrats need to show they’re ready to fight back.
The good news is that those presidential exit polls probably underestimated Latino support. And Hispanic immigrants are becoming citizens in record numbers, including here in Massachusetts. And Democrats need to appeal to young Latino voters, who overwhelmingly support Bernie Sanders and who represent almost half of the Hispanic electorate. They may not be ready yet to embrace Clinton. That’s why Democrats need a strong presidential ticket to maximize the number of Hispanic voters to show up at the polls on November 8.
Ignoring the growing electoral power of Latinos would put the White House at risk for Democrats — and it will leave the door wide open for Trump.