Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, was featured in a Sacramento Bee article discussing many California Latinos’ hesitations about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. While vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been shown to be safe and effective, a history of deceitful government practices involving communities of color has left many hesitant to receive the inoculations. “There’s been a storied legacy of the way that the U.S. government has rolled out medical and scientific experiments on non-white bodies,” Diaz said. Recent allegations of forced hysterectomies at an immigrant detention center in Georgia have contributed to the erosion of trust between communities of color and government institutions, she said. “More must be done to ensure these communities, who are overwhelmingly on the front lines of this pandemic, have accurate and culturally tailored information to trust that the vaccine is indeed something that will make their lives and their communities safer.”
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, co-wrote a CalMatters commentary on the importance of voters seeing themselves reflected in their government representatives. Diaz and co-author Michele Siqueiros, a higher education advocate, praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for two groundbreaking appointments: Secretary of State Alex Padilla as California’s first Latino U.S. senator and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as its first Black secretary of state. “Today’s winning coalition of voters will continue to shape American politics,” the authors wrote. “Newsom’s dual appointments met their unapologetic expectations that our elected officials better reflect the country’s racial and ethnic diversity.” Diaz also spoke to the Sacramento Bee after Padilla’s selection, noting that he is likely to focus on immigrant protections and environmental issues. And she spoke to Elite Daily about the importance of engaging young Latino voters, whose political power will expand in the coming years.
Neighborhoods in California whose populations are majority Black, Latino or Asian benefitted less from the $500 billion in forgivable loans distributed nationwide through the Paycheck Protection Program amid the pandemic, according to a new UCLA report. The findings, published by the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative and the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, found that the lack of federal support will likely widen economic inequality in communities of color, which already had fewer small businesses and jobs than majority-white neighborhoods. The analysis was based on data from the Small Business Administration, the Census Bureau ZIP Code Business Patterns Dataset and the American Community Survey. The researchers write that future federal pandemic relief efforts should earmark a percentage of funds to directly benefit businesses in disadvantaged communities, which the report finds generally have higher concentrations of residents of color. The report found that stimulus funds helped majority-white neighborhoods retain 51% of their pre-pandemic jobs, compared to 44% in majority-Latino neighborhoods and 45% in majority-Asian neighborhoods. Although the program helped retain 54% of pre-pandemic jobs in Black neighborhoods, that figure is somewhat misleading because those neighborhoods typically had a smaller job base to begin with. When standardized on a per-resident basis, the federal loans supported 5.8 jobs per 100 residents in Black neighborhoods, compared with 8.1 per 100 residents in white communities. The authors also found that Latino and Black neighborhoods received less funding per capita than white neighborhoods. Latino neighborhoods received $367 per resident; Black neighborhoods received $445 per resident; white neighborhoods received $666 per resident; and Asian neighborhoods received $670 per resident, the study found.
Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to KPCC’s Take Two about California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s nomination as U.S. secretary of health and human services in the Biden administration. Becerra has “the dynamism and also the experience to get us through the pandemic,” Diaz said in an interview beginning at minute 10:30. “As much as health care is a policy, it’s also politics,” she said, noting that Becerra fought to protect the health of his constituents both as the state’s chief law enforcement officer and during his long tenure in Congress. Diaz earlier wrote a Univision opinion piece calling on President-elect Biden to build a Cabinet that reflects the face of America. “In 2020, it’s no longer acceptable to build a senior team or Cabinet without including Latinos in a meaningful way,” she wrote. “The lack of representation at the pinnacle of the country’s leadership … sends a message to the Black, Brown and Native American communities that power the economy as essential workers and serve as the core of the Democratic Party that their contributions are not valued.”
Join voting rights practitioners, expert witnesses and legal scholars from around the country for sessions and workshops on procedural pathways to protecting the right to vote during the 21st century.
Keynote speakers include:
- California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who has strengthened voting rights by increasing voter registration and overseeing the transition from the traditional voting model to vote centers through the Voter’s Choice Act.
- Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who has worked to pass automatic voter registration; during her tenure, there has been a 64% increase in general election turnout among voters 18 to 20.
- Texas Congressman Marc Veasey, who has represented his state’s 33rd district since 2012 and founded the first Congressional Voting Rights Caucus.
December 8 sign up link: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/
December 9 sign up link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/
This event is hosted by the UCLA Voting Rights Project, UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to the New York Times about California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s deliberations in filling the Senate seat held by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Choosing a Latino for the powerful post would help reverse California’s history of neglecting the influential constituency, Diaz said. Latinos make up 40% of the state’s population, yet its voters have never elected a Latino senator or governor. In addition, the state’s voters have supported anti-immigrant policies such as Proposition 187, which has been blamed for creating a nativist road map for other states. “If we’re being honest with ourselves, California has a role to play in the invisibility of Latinos,” Diaz added in a New York Times newsletter. Going forward, she said, Newsom has the opportunity to turn the tide by elevating a powerful “Latino figurehead” who could help grow a bench of Latino leaders around the country.
By Mary Braswell
The pivotal role that Latino voters played in this year’s battle for the White House provides a roadmap for engaging with the diverse and growing constituency in decades to come.
To chart the way, experts from UCLA and elsewhere are digging into data from the 2020 vote to find answers to questions still lingering after Election Day.
Which issues resonated with Latino voters from state to state, in urban and rural communities, and from different ethnicities and age groups? How did President-elect Joe Biden build a winning coalition — and why did President Donald Trump make unexpected gains among the Latino electorate?
A Nov. 24 panel hosted by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program took aim at these questions, shining a light on the path ahead for both Democrats and Republicans.
“Latinos want to feed their families, they want security, they want a president who’s going to deal with this pandemic, and we saw that in our polling across the board,” Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the virtual audience.
But the panelists emphasized that the biggest takeaway from 2020 is that Latinos do not vote with a single mind.
‘The youth in our community is transforming our electorate, and so we need to reach out to them, get them engaged.’ — UCLA Professor Matt Barreto
“There are things that bind us together, but our politics are unique,” said Matt Barreto, a UCLA professor of political science and Chicano/a studies who advised the Biden campaign. “At the end of the day, Latinos want to be engaged, as Latinos but also as Americans.”
Finding ways for candidates to connect with this complex electorate is a top priority given its rapid growth — more than 16 million Latino votes were cast this year, compared to about 7.5 million in 2004, Barreto said. The trend will continue, he noted, saying that in Arizona alone, 175,000 U.S.-born Latino high school students just missed the chance to cast a ballot this year but will be eligible to vote in 2024 and beyond.
“The youth in our community is transforming our electorate, and so we need to reach out to them, get them engaged, let them feel heard and massively target voter registration campaigns,” said Barreto, who also serves as faculty co-director of LPPI, which is based at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
One notable trend in 2020: Trump’s campaign message that the U.S. economy would be stronger under his watch hit home with both the white, non-college-educated males who formed his base as well as with U.S.-born Latino males under 40 — but “Latinas were not having any of this nonsense,” said Mike Madrid, former political director for the California GOP and co-founder of the Lincoln Project, which was launched by disaffected Republicans working to unseat the president.
“Trump had stronger numbers than anybody anticipated, and we’ve got to recognize that if we’re going to be honest about what’s happening in the community,” said Madrid, who remains a member of the Republican Party.
Broadcast journalist María Elena Salinas, the moderator, said that several other GOP analysts were invited to participate on the panel but declined.
Madrid said the conservative economic, foreign policy and moral platforms that originally drew him to the Republican Party have been replaced by “white identity grievance politics.”
“I believe that the majority party in the next 20 years will be the one that captures the economic aspirations of a multicultural middle class,” he said. “The Republican Party has a significant problem with that because they’re not interested in a multicultural anything. The Democratic Party, I think, really needs to refine some of their economic messages.”
That messaging was met with skepticism on rural stretches of the campaign trail, said panelist Rudy Soto, a Democrat who lost his recent bid to win a congressional seat in the red state of Idaho.
He recounted one conversation with a Latino father and son who asked, “ ‘Why are you pushing to give everything away for free?’… That doesn’t represent what we are actually about,” Soto said.
“In rural America and much of suburban America, where Hispanic communities are at the forefront of growth,” Soto said. “We’re seeing a lot of struggles when it comes to the Democratic Party’s message connecting with people,” Soto said.
Perez predicted that the Biden administration would be quick to enact policies that benefit the Latino community, building support for the Democrats’ agenda.
As the record turnout in this year’s race showed, “Latinos are difference makers across the country,” helping to tip the scales in tight races from Arizona to Wisconsin to Georgia, he said.
During this election cycle, Democrats used sophisticated modeling tools to tailor messages to multiple Latino audiences, a strategy that has long been used to parse the white electorate.
“For the better part of the 21st century, campaigns have had efforts to micro-target and understand different segments of the white vote: suburban women, non-college-educated men, young, sort of hipster Portland types, whatever it is,” Barreto said.
The Biden campaign used the same technique — massive sampling and community-driven outreach — to zero in on issues important to diverse Latino segments, he said.
U.S.-born children of immigrants who are voting for the first time likely have different priorities than families rooted in their communities for several generations, he said. And voters with ties to Cuba, Venezuela, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico and elsewhere bring their own lenses to the American experience.
Democrats are now studying the lessons of 2020 to position themselves for future engagement with the Latino electorate, the panelists said. This includes building up the infrastructure to more aggressively combat misinformation, lobbying for fair maps in the next round of redistricting, and grooming Latino candidates for office up and down the ballot.
“Latinos, like other voters of color, cannot be taken for granted by either party, candidates or campaigns,” said LPPI Executive Director Sonja Diaz in remarks ending the webinar. “The campaigns that inspire Latino turnout will be rewarded with winning margins.”
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative and Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program launched a partnership to highlight the importance of the Latino vote in 2018, following the U.S. midterm elections. Read more.
Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, has been appointed to the commission that will redraw Los Angeles City Council district boundaries to ensure that constituents are fairly represented. “As a fourth-generation Eastsider, I am humbled to serve the city as we seek to uphold diverse communities’ fundamental right to elect their candidates of choice,” said Diaz, a civil rights attorney with extensive experience in voter protection efforts. “I’ve focused my career on advancing equitable policy solutions, and redistricting is a critical component to ensuring front-line communities have leaders that will fight to keep them safe, housed and visible in the new decade.” As part of the redistricting process, which takes place every 10 years after the U.S. Census is completed, commissioners closely analyze demographic data and offer members of the public opportunities to weigh in. Their proposal for a new electoral map for Los Angeles must be submitted to the City Council by June 2021. Diaz was appointed to the commission by Councilman Kevin de León. “Sonja has long been an advocate for equity in Los Angeles, using her voice to protect the civil rights of countless Angelenos,” de León said. “As we redraw the invisible lines that unite our diverse districts into a cohesive city, Sonja’s leadership and deep knowledge of the Voting Rights Act will be critical to ensuring more equal and reflective representation … for the entire city of L.A.”
Sonja Diaz, director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, joined an episode of Latino USA to discuss the role of Latino voters in Arizona. For the first time since 1996, Arizona flipped blue in the 2020 presidential election. Diaz pointed to Arizona as an example for campaigns to follow on “how to recruit Latino voters and why they need to start today.” While the Latino electorate is often misconstrued as a monolith, Diaz explained that “the 2020 election brought to bear the diversity, the complexity and the myriad of interest groups that characterize the Latinx electorate.” She criticized “political pundits [who] continue to act like they know about these voters who they deem Hispanic” when in fact “Latinos are both mystic and incomprehensible to all of them.” Diaz concluded, “The victory on Nov. 3 was because of the work of Latino mass mobilization in response to failure of policy in so many key states.”
UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura spoke to El Diario about the impact of Latino voters on the outcome of the presidential election. Segura noted that Latino participation was “very strong” in Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Colorado — states that were crucial in Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. According to Latino Decisions, a political opinion research firm co-founded by Segura, Biden had particularly strong support among Mexican and Puerto Rican voters. The pandemic, which disproportionately affects Latinos, and the economy were important factors in mobilizing the Latino vote. “Work has become the most important thing for the community, and not the political parties,” Segura said. El Diario also cited Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, which is researching Latino engagement in the election. “In counties with high Latino density, many of them key in this count, Latino voters opted for Vice President Biden,” Diaz said.