What Biden Must Do to Build Latino Support in Colorado and Beyond

President-elect Joe Biden as seen in our 2012 slideshow "Joe Biden at Arvada West High School."
President-elect Joe Biden as seen in our 2012 slideshow "Joe Biden at Arvada West High School."
Photo by Brandon Marshall
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Although Colorado's presidential electors are scheduled to formalize the state's support of Joe Biden around noon today, December 14, the president-elect's margin of victory was narrower than predicted here and in many of the states that wound up in his column, owing in part to incumbent President Donald Trump's unexpected popularity among Latinos. While voters grouped in that demographic generally backed Biden, Trump earned far more support than anticipated, especially given his persistent and virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric and record. In Colorado, for instance, statistics cited by Americas Society/Council of the Americas calculate that Trump collected around 35 percent of the Latino vote.

AS/COA also offers evidence of a pronounced gender gap in multiple states around the country, with Trump's appeal frequently greater for Latino men than Latino women. In Nevada, for example, Latino men opted for Trump 48 percent to 45 percent, while 66 percent of Latinas cast their ballot for Biden.

For Colorado, updated demographic information from NBC is less than definitive on the subject; it shows Latino men in this state preferred Biden over Trump by a less-than-overwhelming 53 percent to 44 percent, but contends that there's not enough data about Latinas for a definitive percentage.

Since the election, there's been widespread speculation that many Latino men voted for Trump because of his macho persona. But Ean Thomas Tafoya, co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum, questions this thesis and suggests that Biden's weaker-than-anticipated performance resulted from his campaign taking Latino support for granted.

Ean Thomas Tafoya is the co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum.
Ean Thomas Tafoya is the co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum.

"I certainly don't think Latino men voted for Donald Trump because he's a strong man," Tafoya says. "He saw an opportunity and he went after those people. I received text messages about Donald Trump, and I certainly didn't opt into his campaign."

Meanwhile, Biden didn't do enough to connect with the Latino community, says Tafoya, "and that went all the way up to the top. You had Julián Castro, an indigenous Latino man who ran for president, and Biden not really using him as a proxy definitely hurt him. He could have done more to lean into us."

Tafoya stresses that "organizers of color helped deliver this election, from Colorado to Nevada to Arizona." But when Biden officially takes residence in the White House, he can't simply assume that he will receive Latino support no matter what he does.

"I think people should only vote for Democrats if they're serving them," Tafoya allows, "and no matter who's in power, they have a responsibility to reach out to us and our community. They need to understand that we're not just a monolith. We're many different, local groups — like the Colorado Latino Forum, which speaks from a progressive angle."

Tafoya sees the Colorado primary, which was won by Bernie Sanders, as a case in point: "He connected with young Latino men and women hungry for economic solutions and an education system that provides us with equal opportunities — and we want environmental activism that really meets the challenge. I hear Democrats tout bipartisan legislation like methane regulations, but if we don't stop extraction, we're not going to feel the impact. We need to fight for real climate justice."

As Tafoya sees it, "Any party that wants to win has to deliver for the people, so that we can really have a shot at the American Dream everyone talks about."

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