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Record Latinx Turnout Boosted Biden — White Voters Are the Ones Who Leaned Trump

Latin Americans far exceeded expected voter turnout, while white voter participation barely increased from 2016.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appears to be inching toward victory as counting continues in several key states that could put him over 270 electoral votes, the threshold needed to win the Electoral College and take the White House. President Trump and his supporters, meanwhile, have attacked the process and falsely claimed Democrats are stealing the election, and the Trump campaign has launched a barrage of legal challenges in swing states related to ballot counting. With the results closer than many pollsters had predicted, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González says “a false narrative” is taking root that Latinx voters were primarily to blame for the weak Democratic result. “The main story is that people of color, especially Latinos, flocked to the polls in numbers that far exceeded what the experts had expected, while the total number of votes cast by white Americans barely increased from the last presidential election,” says González. “How come none of the experts are asking why white voters underperformed the Democratic Party?”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is closing in on securing enough electoral votes to win the election, after news outlets projected him winning two key states in the Midwest: Wisconsin and Michigan. According to the Associated Press, Biden has now secured 264 electoral votes. He will reach the needed 270 if he wins any of the four undecided races: Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina or Pennsylvania. Biden briefly spoke on Wednesday.

JOE BIDEN: And now, after a long night of counting, it’s clear that we’re winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to report, when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.

AMY GOODMAN: Trump made multiple false claims on Wednesday, suggesting Democrats are stealing the election. At one point, Trump wrote on Twitter he was claiming, for electoral vote purposes, the states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan, even as votes are still being counted. The Trump campaign also filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, and has requested a recount in Wisconsin. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf criticized the Trump campaign’s lawsuit.

GOV. TOM WOLF: This afternoon, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit to stop the counting of ballots in Pennsylvania. That is simply wrong. It goes against the most basic principles of our democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the election and to look at who turned out to vote in this historic election, we’re joined by Democracy Now!’s own Juan González, who’s been closely looking at who turned out to vote. He’s joining us from New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he’s a professor at Rutgers University.

So, Juan, it is astounding, what has taken place in this country. We are talking about a record-smashing number of voters. It is believed over 150 million people voted. Can you talk about the demographics of the vote? In the last days, the main narrative has been, before the election final day on November 3rd, that African Americans and Latinos were not coming out to vote for Joe Biden to the extent that it was believed they would be. But this is a narrative right now you are refuting. Can you talk about your findings?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, Amy. And I’ve been poring over the numbers and trying to make sense of what happened in this election. And this developing narrative that Latinos and, to some extent, African Americans shifted more toward Donald Trump in this election, that they underperformed for Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, I believe, is a largely false narrative. I think the main story of this election, as you mentioned that saw record turnout — we won’t have the exact numbers, but it looks like about 158, 59, 160 million people — close to 160 million people voted. The main story is that people of color, especially Latinos, flocked to the polls in numbers that far exceeded what the experts had expected, while the total number of votes cast by white Americans barely increased from the last presidential election, and, most importantly, that white voters, including white women, voted at higher percentages for Trump this year than they did in 2016. So, how come none of the experts are asking why white voters underperformed the Democratic Party?

And let me be a little bit more specific. There does appear to have been some areas of the country where there was an increase in the percentage of the Latino vote for Donald Trump, specifically in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and in the Miami-Dade County, both of which, I should note, for those people who know the voting patterns of the Latino community, have always been relatively conservative areas of the Latino community in terms of voting. Even though South Texas is largely Democratic, it’s always been a moderate to centrist or conservative Democratic voting bastion. But my analysis of the numbers shows a completely different story when you look at the country as a whole.

And I’m doing this based on the exit polls that most of the networks use, which is the Edison national election poll, which has always been — it’s been criticized in the past precisely because it doesn’t give correct numbers or doesn’t give valid numbers on the Latino community, but it’s still the only massive exit poll that we have, until we get more scientific studies that come maybe months later or a year later.

So, first of all, the historic turnout, right? If we take the number of 159 million, last election was 136 million people voted, so we’re talking about an increase of 23 million voters compared to the last election — phenomenal increase. Who were those 23 million people, and where did they come from? So, I think — I have a chart here. I hope the producers are able to put it up here. But you’ll see that, according to the exit polls, 13% of the vote came from Latino voters, Latino Americans. That represents 20.6 million Latinos voted in this election. That is an incredible increase, 65% over the last election, which was already a record for Latinos when it was only 12.6%. For the first time in U.S. history, because Latinos have never voted at more than 50% of the eligible population — they’ve always been 45, 46 or even less — for the first time, about two-thirds of the eligible Latinos came to the polls. Eight million more Latinos voted in this election than voted in the last election.

Then come the Asian Americans, a phenomenal turnout in the Asian American community, 3.6 million more votes than voted in 2016. And then African Americans also had an increase. They went from 17.1 million who voted in 2016 to 19 million, about 1.9 million. So that’s an increase, but it’s not as increased as you might have expect after a year or two years now of massive racial justice protests and the pioneering candidacy of Kamala Harris, but it’s still an increase.

So, what about white voters, the largest sector of the electorate, but a diminishing portion? In 2016, 100 million whites voted in the election. In this election, 103 million voted — just 2.7 million increase in the total white vote in the country.

So, the bulk of the increase of the vote in this election came from people of color, largely Latinos. So, now people say, “Well, but there was a slight percentage increase among African Americans and Latinos for Trump.” Well, percentages don’t win elections. Votes win elections. Right? And that’s what you’ve got to understand. Would you rather have 70% of 12 million votes, or would you rather have 68% of 20 million votes? The increase has been so large, whereas the percentages have stayed roughly the same, that there has been — there was enormous increase in the vote by Asian Americans, Latino Americans and African Americans for Biden and the Democratic Party.

Why was this? And I think the enthusiasm and the turnout of the Latinx community was fueled by four years of constant Republican scapegoating and attacks on Latinos, from the disastrous response to Hurricane Maria for the Puerto Rican community, to family separations, and also to the terrible response of the Trump administration to the coronavirus. And it is why Arizona and Nevada and Colorado are likely, it seems, to go for Joe Biden. And what has happened now is that there is a new Brown Belt voting bloc that is developing in the Southwest, that includes Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and very soon Texas, as well.

So, the real underperformers in this election were white voters, who not only did not have a qualitative increase in their vote totals — they dropped from 71% of the electorate to 65% of the electorate — but they voted in an even higher percentage for Trump this time than last time or than they did for John McCain in 2008. And this is especially true among white women. So, now, how is this possible, given the years now of sexual — of allegations of sexual assault against Trump, his denigrating of women, his family separation policies, that white women increased the percentage of the vote that they gave to Donald Trump? What’s up with that? Why are all the commentators not dissecting what the heck is going on in white America and with white women in America? Unfortunately, it seems to me, looking at the numbers, there is no gender gap. There’s a racial gender gap, in that African American and Latino women are voting so overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party, but not white women. And I think that needs to be analyzed more.

And finally, I think the key issue here is that the United States, being the world’s prime imperialist power, with no real competition, no real adversaries who threaten it, and only China who can compete economically with the United States, that we are a country that is increasingly moving to a situation where the Republican Party is moving more and more to be the party of white people in America, and the Democratic Party is increasingly becoming the party of the new multiracial majority of the American people. That’s what I take from the results of this election, no matter who ends up actually winning the election or what happens with the Senate or what happens with the Congress. It’s the developing trends in the electorate of America that are showing enormous racial division between the two parties and who they represent.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Juan González, Democracy Now! co-host and professor at Rutgers University, doing a deep dive, even as we’re waiting to hear who has won the presidency in the United States, into the data. And, Juan, maybe you can talk about the kinds of narratives that developed over 2016, the misinformation that continues to this day about who votes, like the more than half of white women who voted for Trump in 2016. You’re exploding all of this.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes. Well, the exit polls were actually — last time around, were considerably off on the women’s vote. In fact, the Pew Center, later on, and several other groups did more extensive studies and found that in the 2016 election there was roughly an even vote between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton when it came to white women. I think was 47 to 48%, because, of course, there were third-party candidates back in 2016 that took a portion of the women’s vote, as well. So, it was 47 to 48.

This time around, there is a clear majority that is showing that white women are voting for Trump. And I don’t think that there’s been any real analysis of what’s happened there, and certainly no questioning by any of the political commentators that I’ve seen of why has Trump’s support among white women increased since 2016, and I think that — while it has not, or barely, increased among African American and Latina women. I think that that is something that’s really got to be looked at.

You know, but I think that, generally speaking, if you look at the historical trends, it’s about two-thirds of Latinos, going back to George Bush — George Bush was the last Republican candidate that was able to get 40% of the Latino vote. And Ronald Reagan, back in the ’80s, got about 40% of the Latino vote. But back then, it was a much smaller pie. It was a much smaller vote. Now it’s a much bigger vote. And so, when you’re in the 28, 29, 30% as a Republican candidate, that’s really not a substantial change in the vote. You’ve got to get up into the 35 or 40%, where you can claim there’s actual real movement occurring in the Latino community.

So, the historical trend has been Republicans generally get about between 25 to 35% of the Latino vote, because, remember, Latinos are a very disparate group. They’re many nationalities. Because of migration, there’s constant change. People are saying, “Well, South Florida voted more for Trump.” Well, the South Florida of today is not the same South Florida of 10 years ago, because South Florida has increasingly become the base area for all conservative Latin Americans, whether they are Nicaraguans fleeing social change in Nicaragua, Colombians, increasingly Venezuelans, and, of course, the old-style Cuban community. It is the refuge area for all people fleeing social upheaval and social revolution in Latin America. So it’s no surprise that there may have been a conservative increase of the Latino vote in South Florida. And that’s not a surprise at all. It’s only a surprise to the people who don’t pay attention to the evolution and the dynamics of the Latinx community across the country.

But I think the key area is what’s happened in Wisconsin, what happened in Pennsylvania, what’s happened in the Midwest, what’s happened in Arizona, Nevada, where the bulk of the Latinx community exists — and, of course, Texas — where the bulk of the Latinx community lives and votes.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, I wanted to ask you about Native Americans. I was communicating with someone last night from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and they were talking about the big story in Wisconsin around Native Americans, although it is harder to track — is that right? — because of who’s identified demographically and who isn’t.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes. Well, I think, certainly, the Native American vote, not only in Wisconsin and in Montana and also in Arizona, has probably played a very big role in Arizona, along with the Latinx community. People talk about Maricopa County as being decisive in what happens in Arizona. Well, Maricopa County is 31% Latino. And so, it’s the biggest county, and it has a very big share of the vote there. So, I think that — but in Arizona especially, I think, and in a few other states, the Native American vote will be crucial. But getting the hard numbers is going to take some time, because the sample that these pollsters use is so small that it’s going to take a lot more digging to get the actual results.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Juan, even though, as you say, it’s very surprising that white women voters voted for him in greater — for Trump in greater numbers in this election than they did in 2016, given Trump’s consistent assaults on women of all kinds, I guess the thing that’s striking is also the fact — I mean, Trump did win over 60 million votes, 68 million votes — that given what he’s done and said to and about African Americans, Asian Americans, the Latinx communities, that any increase — first of all, that any people would vote for him, and on top of that, that there would be an increase at all, even if marginal.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes, well, I agree with you, Nermeen. I think the issue to understand — again, that’s why I raise the nature of U.S. imperialism. I do not think that we should underestimate the reality, because everyone knew why they were voting in this election. There was no — there were very few undecided voters. And I think one of the things that still has to be answered is how, once again, the polls were so wrong, not about necessarily about the vote for Joe Biden, because most of the polls gave Joe Biden about 51, 51, sometimes 52% of the vote, or 50, which is more or less what he’s been getting, but that there was a severe underestimation in all the polls, once again, of how many Americans were voting for Trump. And I think that we’ve got to understand, increasingly, these polls are highly suspect and cannot be trusted.

But I think the key thing to understand is that, unfortunately — and I’ve been saying this now for years, when I get a chance to do analysis rather than just ask questions — is that there is a significant portion of the American people, including among African Americans and Latinos and other groups, who are perfectly happy with the United States being the world’s imperial power, and who, to some degree or other, believe that they are invested in the continued national chauvinism and expansionism and bullying of America around the world. So, this vote also represents, even if Joe Biden wins, that there are many Americans who are perfectly happy with our country being a rogue state in the world and lording over the rest of the world and insisting that its interests are first. There is a national chauvinist movement in America and a movement that believes authoritarianism is the way to go.

We cannot underestimate this, and hopefully the progressives will attempt to organize, understanding that. And the work that has to be done, though, is in the white community, is in among white Americans. That’s where the organizing needs to be done, because that is the population that is increasingly shifting more and more to a national chauvinist and a white supremacist view of the world. And I don’t think that we can sweep that under the rug and act like it’s not happening, because it is happening. And that’s, I think, the key lesson, that, yes, Donald Trump got more votes this time than he got last time, and there’s a reason for that.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Juan, I mean, as you say, Trump did get more votes, 4 million at the moment, 4 million more votes this year in this election than he did in 2016. And in 2016, when he won, there was almost universal consensus that he was an aberration — in other words, he was eccentric to what the Republican Party had been, what it stands for — whereas it’s not really possible to hold that position now.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Right, because I believe that he’s an aberration in his personal conduct and in the way he carries out the office, but not in the policies that he is implementing. The policies that he is implementing are pretty much in lockstep with conservative Republican policies that have been developing for decades. And that is why so many Republicans, who really can’t stomach the man, still vote for him, because he is implementing the policies that they believe is where the country should go, whether it’s deregulation, whether it’s on the climate crisis, whether it’s on immigration and so many other policies. He’s implementing the policies on taxes. He’s implementing the policies that the conservative Republican establishment want. It’s just that he does it in such a corrupt, venal and personal manner that it’s hard to stomach him at the same time.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan González, we want to thank you for being with us — see you tomorrow on Democracy Now!Democracy Now! co-host and professor at Rutgers University, speaking to us today from New Brunswick, New Jersey.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we head to Phoenix, Arizona, Arizona a key battleground state. It was red. Is it turning blue? Stay with us.

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