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.”
Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky joined UCLA’s “Then & Now” podcast to discuss the aftermath of the presidential election. On the day Joe Biden was declared winner of the election, “I was not euphoric,” Yaroslavsky said. “I was very happy that Biden won. … I was not happy that 72 million people voted for an incumbent president who spent four years trafficking in racism and bigotry.” He argued that Trump’s refusal to accept defeat is “calcifying the divide and inability of either side to come together and work on behalf of the people in this country.” However, this issue should resolve itself as responsible people move forward in a rational transition process, Yaroslavsky said during the podcast produced by the Luskin Center for History and Policy. “Biden won the presidency, but less than 100,000 votes could have swung the election in another direction,” he said. “This should be a wake-up call that there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Professor of Public Policy Mark Peterson spoke to Elite Daily about President Trump’s refusal to concede loss of the 2020 election. The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in battleground states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, claiming that the Democrats are trying to “steal the election” through fraud. According to Peterson, these suits have been brought without evidence. “Donald Trump as an individual just cannot accept loss, and no one around him wants to take on the force of his personality, internal hurts and capacity to lash out,” Peterson said. He sees the “simulated controversy” as a last-ditch effort to save face and an opportunity to keep money flowing into the Trump campaign to pay off debts and finance the Republican National Committee. He added that the GOP needs the conservative base in Georgia to “remain highly agitated and energized” for the high-stakes Senate runoff elections in January.
Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, was featured in an NBC article discussing voting trends among Asian Americans. Early exit polls indicated that Asian American voters heavily favored Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. While Biden performed well, the data suggests that Trump’s level of support among Asian Americans did not decline. During the pandemic, anti-Asian sentiment across the country contributed to hate incidents as well as an increase in Asian American unemployment and business closings, Ong said. He expected Trump’s use of xenophobic and discriminatory language, such as “kung flu” and “China virus,” to decrease support for the president among Asian Americans. Instead, he noted that “changes have only happened marginally, and not a massive shift.” Ong concluded that “the racialized political divide has hardened, and we face a difficult next four years.”
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.
Public Policy Chair Martin Gilens spoke to UCLA Blueprint about the anti-democratic nature of the electoral college. In 2016, Donald Trump became the fifth candidate to be awarded the presidency despite having lost the popular vote. Gilens explained that the electoral college was originally created by the Founding Fathers to “give greater influence in choosing the president to slave states without actually allowing slaves to vote” as well as to “insulate the choice of the president from ordinary voters.” While Gilens considers a constitutional amendment eliminating the electoral college to be unlikely, he explained that the “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” — an agreement among states to award all of their electors to whichever candidate wins the most votes nationwide — would make it possible to select the president by a majority vote.
Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to CNN about President Trump’s recent efforts to court Latino voters. While Democratic nominee Joe Biden has been criticized for being slow to commit resources to reach Latino voters, Trump has ramped up efforts to improve his standing among Latino constituents. “What appeals to Latino voters who are supporting Trump is the same thing that appeals to voters who support Trump,” Diaz said. “It’s likely that Latino males will support Trump in 2020 at higher rates than Latinas. And you see that generally in terms of the trends of white voters and white males in particular.” Diaz pointed to Trump’s appeal to male voters in general, saying, “I think that there’s something around masculinity and misogyny that is really galvanizing some voters who identify as men. And I don’t know that there is a cultural component to it. It’s just an American male phenomenon.”
Assistant Professor of Public Policy Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld spoke to Zenger News about the growing role of social media in recent election cycles. Social media engagement with stories about Joe Biden hit a high the week the Democratic presidential candidate named Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. Social media has become a more significant part of the political process than in previous election cycles, Steinert-Thelkeld explained. This increase in social media engagement makes it difficult to draw comparisons with Donald Trump’s selection of Mike Pence as his running mate in 2016. However, Steinert-Thelkeld highlighted the differences between the vice presidential candidates. “I think it’s more about the person that people are responding to as opposed to the four-year difference,” he said. “Pence is not that exciting. Pence is like the Biden now, and Kamala is like the Trump then.”
Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly was featured in a Bloomberg article discussing how economic issues in California are swaying voters in favor of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign. In the run-up to the California Democratic primary, surveys indicated that Sanders’ promises of housing and health care affordability resonate with many Californians who are frustrated by rising rent and a lack of affordable housing across the state. According to Tilly, “There are two sides to the story of the health of the L.A. economy.” Even as incomes rise and the unemployment rate is at an all-time low, the costs of daily life for Californians are rising faster than wages. Tilly explained that low unemployment and steady job growth “reflect the wider U.S. economy, but there are people being left out and who are being caught in the gap between what a lot of jobs pay and what housing and other expenses are.”
Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to the Guardian about the political climate surrounding the California Democratic Party Convention, a three-day gathering that took place in San Francisco. Fourteen Democratic presidential candidates for the 2020 election converged at the convention in hopes of securing support from California voters. Yaroslavsky described California as “the leader of the resistance to Trump,” where voters “care more about replacing Trump than about where someone fits ideologically.” Yaroslavsky predicted that California will play a critical role in the 2020 election, explaining that “whether it’s on healthcare, the environment or offshore drilling, disaster aid or a woman’s right to choose, from A to Z, [President Donald Trump] is always looking for ways to punish California. … There’s a lot at stake for California in this election.” According to Yaroslavsky, “California is up for grabs and it’s likely to be up for grabs for some time.”
America’s largest and diverse non-white voting bloc has made it clear that they are important actors in American politics, from Pennsylvania to Arizona.
Effectively mobilizing the Latino electorate is critical to the success of any campaign, from the White House to down-ballot. As we continue to confront our nation’s intersecting crises on our path to economic recovery, understanding the electoral preferences of Latino voters is essential to highlighting the nation’s policy priorities in a new decade. This conversation will highlight how record levels of Latino turnout impacted the outcome of key races, including in this cycle’s marquee battleground states, and what it means for the coming year.
Join us virtually for a powerful conversation moderated by María Elena Salinas, award winning-journalist.
Matt Barreto, professor, Political Science & Chicana/o Studies, UCLA
Tom Perez, chairman, Democratic National Committee
Mercedes Schlapp, senior advisor, Trump-Pence 2020 Campaign
Rudy Soto, former Democratic nominee for Congress
Presented by the Aspen Institute’s Latinos and Society Program and the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative based at UCLA Luskin.