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Every time a Harvard preceptor, adviser, or administrator describes me as “Latinx,” or uses the term in my presence, I get a distinct feeling that somewhere, off in the distance, four Spanish voters each register with the GOP in Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and Florida, respectively.
Congressman Ruben Gallego, a Hispanic Midwesterner-turned-Harvard-graduate who currently represents Arizona’s capital in the House of Representatives, spoke out in 2020 against “the word” in the wake of his party’s down-ballot shellacking that year. One midterm election cycle later, and I’m inclined to believe that his words fell on deaf ears among Democratic leadership. I’ve been stunned to see “Latinx” continuously re-appear in official party campaign language to this day; in fact, one of these instances occurred earlier this month on social media. (In that case, the Democrats used “the word” in an infographic that broke down successful judicial confirmations into racial groups.)
I have no novel arguments of my own to make about the problems that arise from the “Latinx” neologism in this column - and besides, the matter has already been litigated many times in the past by national commentators across the ideological spectrum. (Some particularly recent examples include a writer at The Atlantic, the editor-in-chief of the National Review, pundits at POLITICO, and a columnist at The Washington Post.)
What I will argue today, however, is that the Spanish language is far from the only thing being rewritten in modern-day 2022 Hispanic America. For the first time in the history of modern polling, Latino voters are expected to cast their ballots roughly equally between the Democrats and the Republicans this year in a clear shattering of the so-called “demographics as destiny” theory. The rightward shift of Hispanic Americans in post-2020 is an electoral development that The New York Times belatedly identified as a “political earthquake” only two months ago (although writers affiliated with the neighboring Wall Street Journal have eagerly characterized the Hispanic-GOP union as a “natural” pairing for a while now).
Such a pari passu manifested in the voting intentions of Latinos this year has immediate implications for short-term control of both Houses of Congress — indeed, the nation's eyes have already turned to states like Arizona, Nevada, and Florida (all of which enjoy particularly high Hispanic American populations) as we head into the November midterm election. The defeat of an incumbent senator in any of these three states this year — Democratic or Republican — would almost assuredly upset the upper chamber’s current 50-50 delicate balance.
My home state of Indiana is not exactly well-known for its Hispanic culture and community relative to the aforementioned Sun Belt states; neither, of course, is the American heartland relative to other regions of the country. Still, Hispanic Midwesterners do, in fact, exist. And as one of these Hispanic Midwesterners in question, I vehemently believe that — perhaps to the chagrin of Carvillian “demographics as destiny” supporters — the post-2020 Hispanic “swing voter” tendencies currently observed in the Sun Belt and in the South will soon come to the Midwest as well.
I’m sure that political scientists nationwide harboring similarly-minded theories are gathering empirical evidence in support of that proposition as we speak. My own rudimentary reasoning, though, emerges from the Hispanic cultural values — family and hard work especially — that I am intimately familiar with. Gut feeling is admittedly another important motivator as well; call it a Hoosier hypothesis, if you will.
Speaking of conjecture, it’s also worth noting that it’s anyone’s guess as to which party is favored to either hold or re-take either national legislative chamber come Election Day. The only thing I can say on that front with confidence is the following: members of the Hispanic community nationwide are clearly paying closer attention to what candidates for office on both sides of the aisle — not just one — have to offer as policy solutions. Are those candidates — and perhaps more critically, their respective political parties — returning that attention in kind as they try to get their respective messages across to potential voters and win over the Hispanic American electorate? Only time will tell.
Aldo D. Aragon (formerly Medina) ’24 is a History and Literature concentrator in Eliot House. His column “A Hoosier at Harvard” appears on alternate Fridays.
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