This strategy of bringing in new voters of color, rather than trying to change the minds of frequent voters, paid off. Mr. Pearce was recalled in a special election in 2011 and replaced with a more moderate Republican.
Then, a number of groups turned their attention to removing Sheriff Arpaio, who had been in office since 1993. He ran a sprawling outdoor detention center he once referred to as a “concentration camp” where he subjected detainees to cruel theatrical practices like chain gangs.
But with scores of young people turning 18, Joe Arpaio’s empire was shrinking. In 2016, the leaders of LUCHA, Puente and Poder in Action created a campaign called BAZTA Arpaio, featuring neighborhood canvasses that were more like block parties. Mary Ramirez, a powerful señora originally from Hidalgo, Mexico, invited women to “Zumba vs. Arpaio” before they knocked on thousands of doors. The goal was not to reach the entire electorate, but to continue to prove that investing in communities of color could make the difference in a close race.
Of the billions of dollars the political industry will spend before Election Day, a negligible amount will go to grass-roots groups. But for the left to achieve 2020 electoral victories and long-term governing power, the entire political industry — donors, party elites, campaigns, voters — must invest in authentic grass-roots political organizations.
Early investment allows voter-engagement programs to be bigger and more effective. Year-round investment lets groups prepare for the next election cycle, rather than suffering through the boom-and-bust of last-minute get-out-the-vote funding.
Presidential candidates are spending tens of millions of dollars on TV ads that communities of color either won’t see or won’t pay attention to. They should put this money toward face-to-face voter contact instead. And they would be wise to hire local people to do this engagement who know sending a message in Spanish using Google Translate isn’t going to cut it, but canvassing with cumbia and banda music just might.
If the Democratic Party’s old guard learns nothing else, it must stop using a majority of its resources to chase white swing voters and instead pay more attention to the millions of voters of color. For too long, they have treated us like cheap laborers who can knock on doors to deliver them 51 percent of the vote. In exchange, they run candidates who are out of touch with Latinos. In Tucson’s mayoral primary, the old boys’ club endorsed a white man over Regina Romero, a popular and highly qualified Latina who eventually won, even though the city is almost half Latino.
The story of Latino political power is playing out across the country. Latino voters had a bigger increase in turnout than white or black ones between the 2014 and 2018 midterm elections. They will be the largest minority group in the electorate next year. But demographics are not destiny, so groups like the Texas Organizing Project, the New Florida Majority and the New Georgia Project are building the electoral power of communities of color. And LUCHA now travels to Texas and other states to teach others how to create ballot initiative campaigns and help everyday people become elected officials, as well as leaders of campaigns and nonprofit groups.
Defeats did not destroy this movement and victories will not end it. At the vigil in 2010, Latino people found safety in numbers. Since then, they have proven that their power will always be in rooted in their community.
This content was originally published here.