GOP Seeing Red About The Minority Red Mirage & The Media Is Blushing
by Richard Cameron
GOP Seeing Red About The Minority Red Mirage
& The Media Is Blushing
Brace yourself for this old banality, “If I had a dollar for every time I,” ( … fill in the blank).
Up until election day and even during the election eve coverage, If I had a dollar for every time I heard or read that “Republicans, election analysts are telling us, have made significant gains with minority voters, particularly Hispanics” – let’s just say I would be walking around with a nice pile of spending loot.
As it turns out, though, the GOP is walking around with a nice pile of something else that smells pretty bad and they can’t pass it off on anyone but themselves and online and broadcast media is trying to round file their irresponsible reporting that led to some false expectations.
Am I taking a victory lap? Do cats complain about virtually everything but Temptations cat treats?
I wasn’t the only one to notice it. “We’ve seen all these articles, all these narratives, I mean, the post-mortems were written before [Tuesday],” said Victoria McGroary, the executive director of Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) campaign arm.
It was sliced and diced in many variations, but the storyline was consistent and some of it was entirely devoid of nuance, such as “Latinos are deserting the Democrats.”
There was a lot of badly camouflaged hand wringing and pearl clutching about it across the mass media in the months leading up to the midterms. It dovetailed with the broader prophetic pronouncements about “the midterm curse” and the virtual certainty, the politicos inside and outside the media nodded their heads in collective agreement that the Democrats were in serious trouble.
Bill Schneider wrote about this in The Hill:
I once figured out a way to formalize the expectations game. It was during the 1998 midterm election, at the peak of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and President Clinton was facing impeachment. I decided to canvass about 50 columnists, pundits, political reporters and talking heads. They are the people who set expectations. With the help of CNN’s staff, I asked each of them one question: What do you expect to happen in the midterm?
The people we canvassed lived in a bubble. They read each other’s columns and watched each other’s commentary. We discovered after a handful of calls that everyone was saying the same thing: they expected the Democrats to lose between five and ten House seats in the election. They all knew that the president’s party loses House seats in a midterm. That had been true since 1934. With President Clinton in disgrace, it was bound to happen again.
Schneider went on to record what the fallout was when in spite of the unanimity among what he called “the chattering class”, not only did Democrats not lose the House, they actually picked up half a dozen seats. This year’s midterms wouldn’t (and subsequently did not) follow the script of the chattering class either, as I outlined a couple days before the election.
And, needless to say, the GOP – whatever that actually is at this point, is ruminating and recriminating that the Minority edition of the Red Wave didn’t materialize as they supposed it would. And rightly so, because the reality as opposed to the media hype, is that Republicans are broadly losing ground not gaining it, especially in states where the Latino population has been and continues to grow, particularly the Southwest.
Most of the speculation about this electoral shift (I almost left out the ‘f’), began surfacing in September. late October and early November, in the days prior to the election. Here were some of the link previews:
The Atlantic – “Why Democrats Are Losing Hispanic Voters”
NPR – “Democrats are losing Latino voters as Republicans eye opportunities these midterms”
Financial Times – “Democrats fear loss in Nevada as Hispanic voters turn to Republicans”
Vox – “Democrats lost ground with Latino voters in 2020. Will the midterms be worse?”
Deseret News – “How Latino voters could make a red wave redder”
and then there was this from CNN back in late April, “It’s not just Latinos and younger voters. Democrats are slipping among Black voters too.”
Even PBS in Arizona, got in on the act, “Hispanic voters drifting more toward GOP.”
None of this was accurate. Virtually all of these scenarios were based on polling, which as we predicted, was going to be found defective in a variety of regards and were equally based on groupthink among pundits, exemplified by the short list of references shown above.
Bold PAC Chair, Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), distilled it all quite accurately, saying, “If you had been watching CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and listening to other political pundits, you would have thought that this was going to be, obviously, a different election. Instead, Latinos came out because it was important to them.”
Gallego added, “I think Latino Democrats don’t listen to pundits. And I think that’s the reason why they just came out and voted in their own self-interest.”
The other elements were really quite weak sauce and many actually featured data that called into serious question the premise that the narrative was teasing to begin with. For example, in the Vox article, the Voto Latino opinion researchers were cited, with polling that identified strong support among Latinos for infrastructure spending, the child tax credit, a permanent residential status for DACA recipients and responding to climate change. Those policy preferences would never be picked out in a GOP legislative initiative lineup.
Voto Latino also reported that after the mass murder at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas and the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, 81 percent of Latinos in red states were shown to favor reforming gun ownership laws, and 68 percent supported keeping abortion legal. Again, doesn’t at all echo GOP objectives, especially since the base, rural Whites, want nothing to do with them.
Seeing as these talking points that signaled trouble brewing for Democrats were anchored to selective polling data, the excuse of course, at the conclusion of the election results is, “well, the pollsters got it wrong – it’s not really our fault”.
You could say that this is the overarching message – a warning on assessing election outcome on polling. But some curious aspects still remain unanswered. One is that with few exceptions, the reports on falling support for Democrats among Hispanics, came from what MAGA Republicans would deride as “the mainstream media.”
What’s going on here? What then, was the point of the reporting to begin with? Was it to light a fire under Democrat voters? Unlikely. Mass media outlets are not nearly as partisan biased in favor of the Democrat party as the conspiracy subscribers on the right, imagine them to be.
My example there, is the thrashing that President Biden experienced at their hands for the upward ticking inflation numbers. No – mass media, whether televised or online, is about numbers of viewers, in the form of ratings or web traffic, because those numbers translate into advertising revenue.
Might there have been a different agenda? Was it then to discourage Democrats from voting? Again unlikely for the same reason. Outlets like Fox News spent little if any time propagating the doom scenarios for the Democrats in the midterms. That’s because Fox News and the other tag a long tooloos, are demonstratively partisan and as such, concentrated on energizing Trumpublican viewers to vote.
Anything that cast doubt on the urgency to vote, would have been viewed by the GOP election machine as counterproductive and FNC would have caught hell for it. Equally, anything, such as bullhorning that the “elections are rigged”, has the potential effect of demoralizing the base turnout. That was amply demonstrated in the Georgia special election for U.S. Senate in 2020.
So the lopsided, or misleading picture on minorities and their status as a key component of the Democratic electorate, can only be explained as motivated by the intent to promote the sort of angst that drives certain news consumers to follow these alarming storylines.
A term, two terms actually, have recently entered the English lexicon to describe the psychological dynamic that exists between news consumers and the media that delivers the product – “Doomscrolling” and “Doomsurfing”.
Whichever term you use, the basic concept involves both the behavior – scrolling through the news feed or television channels for reporting that heightens our sense of apprehension – and the process on the supply side of media, creating articles and reporting that is artfully sensationalized as to elicit deep concern.
Pamela Rutledge, director of the California-based Media Psychology Research Center, notes that doomscrolling “really just describes the compulsive need to try and get answers when we’re afraid”, but points out also that, “unfortunately, journalism to some degree plays to that tendency.”
I would argue that this is an understatement, because ginning up doom is a marketing device that is time tested and is seen as a sort of perverse news consumption erection pill by the internet platforms as well as broadcast media, both cable and networks.
It’s not a major leap from the facility of mass media strategies of triggering doomscrolling generally, to the specific utility of it to pull patrons of news coverage into a morass of speculation about what the dynamics of an election could be and what the corresponding effect on the outcome of these factors – (again, primarily polling), might result in. Election cycles, after all, generate enormous revenue on both broadcast and online media. Here at National Compass, they don’t.
Generally, the arguments about slipping influence among Hispanics with Democrats, came from members of the GOP, the most characteristic example being this from South Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who when raising perceived voter concerns about such as energy costs, inflation, public safety, and public schooling, asserted:
“All of these things are basically directly caused by the policies of the Democrats who control Washington. The American people are wise to that,” Diaz-Balart told me. He added that Democrats will get little love in vehicle-dependent Florida for the recent easing of gas prices. “People say, ‘Well, the war in Ukraine hasn’t helped.’ And that hasn’t helped, but it started before that. It’s directly tied to the policies of this administration.”
Diaz-Balart’s observations were relevant to Florida, but as election data showed, not at all elsewhere. There is a remarkable amount of data that has been collected post election, that has shown the reporting about the GOP dramatically gaining ground with Hispanics and Blacks to be not only speculation, but really irresponsible, but we’ll look at a few aspects of it from a 30,000 foot view.
Again, I want to emphasize that the gloomy forecasts about minority voting, were based on the same faulty polling as the predictions of the “Red Wave”, which as I predicted in the article below, never materialized – and this column was published the first week of September, which was long before the spooky political weather forecasts about major Republican gains, hit their stride.
The GOP’s Midterm “Red Wave” Now Looking Like A Crimson Puddle
First, let’s dispose of Florida. I don’t mean get rid of it entirely, but I mean, let’s look at the voting habits of the majority of Hispanics, (Cubans and to a lesser extent, Venezuelans) in that state and how they contrast with the rest of America. Hispanics in the largest population centers are majority GOP and this has been true for several decades.
The first generation of Cuban immigrants, fled the authoritarian regime of Fidel Castro and as a result, Republicans have only to include one of two words in any campaign message, Communism and Socialism and the outcome is pre-determined.
The same is also true of the first wave of immigrants from Vietnam and Cambodia, who break predominantly GOP in places like Orange County, California, although the effect of that is rapidly diminishing as congressional seats and local officials are now in the majority, Democrats.
It’s worth mentioning that the second largest group of Hispanic voters in Florida are Puerto Ricans, who are nowhere near as magnetically attracted to the GOP as Cubans, in fact they vote majority Democratic. But for 60 plus years, the gravitational center of the Cuban immigrants is Miami – Dade county and Cuban Americans there are in a political echo chamber.
“Florida is the outlier,” said Gabe Sanchez, vice president of the Los Angeles-based polling firm BSP Research, which conducted the Latino portions of the larger 2022 Midterm Election Voter Poll . Sanchez said that the poll’s accuracy was confirmed by the actual election results, telling NPR’s Tampa Bay area affiliate WUSF Media that, “At the end of the day — despite the narrative that we were going to see a huge red wave somewhat fueled by Latino movement towards the Republican Party — that simply did not materialize in this election.”
And in fact, when we look in the direction of the Southwest, we see a much different picture that that of the outlier state of Florida. New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona have substantial Latino populations – New Mexico with 49%, Arizona with 31% and Nevada with 29%. Collectively they account for six U.S. Senators, all of which are in the Democratic column.
Two of the three (Arizona and New Mexico) have incoming governors and all three have Democrat Secretaries of States, the elected officials who oversee the election apparatus statewide. After an official recount in Arizona, there will likely be Democrats serving as Attorney General in each state. The Democrats taking both U.S. Senate seats and the Governor’s mansion in Arizona, is something that hasn’t happened during the past 70 plus years in that state.
NBC News spoke with Chuck Coughlin, a GOP pollster in Arizona, who attributed the presence of MAGA Republicans up and down the ballot to the GOP’s problems with Latinos and pointing to the campaign of Republican gubernatorial nominee, Kari Lake and fellow sore loser, Secretary Of State candidate Mark Finchem as two examples of the problem.
“I’ve not seen since ‘16, a MAGA candidate win with that constituency. It just doesn’t happen,” Coughlin said. “It’s about telling you you’re not accepted here. Literally, it’s like Kari Lake throwing McCain Republicans out of the room. Well, she got her wish.” “Without a change in direction, Republicans are going to continue to lose,” he added.
NBC also took a closer look at the Republican party and its vaunted ‘outreach to Latino voters’ in Nevada, particularly in Clark County and discovered it to be largely fictional.
Several members of the Nevada Republican Party, which is run by the national party, touted their local community center in Las Vegas, but when asked, they couldn’t identify its location. Spot visits on five occasions at different times of the day came up short: The door to the one-room, storefront office was closed.
When NBC News finally found it open and walked in, it was mostly an empty room, aside from a staffer seated at a table with a puppy that wandered over and had an accident on the floor. The staffer appeared startled by a visitor, then directed the reporter to another location to ask questions. At that location, another staffer offered a phone number for an official who did not respond to a request for comment.
On September 25th, the Financial Times quoted Mike Noble, chief of research at OH Predictive Insights, a non-partisan polling firm, describing Nevada as “potentially the best pick-up opportunity for the Republicans”. Noble’s pre-election poll showed the Democrat in the Senate race, with only a five-point lead, with Noble boldly and unequivocally asserting that, “It really shows that shift in Hispanic Latinos towards Republicans.”
Post election, however, it was learned that 60% of the Latino vote went to the winner of the U.S. Senate seat in Nevada, incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto. This despite prior to the election, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, telling NBC, “I think the engagement that we’re seeing with Hispanic and Asian voters in Clark County is going to be a difference maker.” Apparently not.
Polling is rapidly becoming an analog for the old maxim about data science involving computers and software, “Garbage in – Garbage out.”
The House delegations in New Mexico and Nevada are majority Democratic and Arizona is in a more gradual transition phase, although Democrats are inching very close to majorities in the State Assembly (29D, 31R) and State Senate (13D, 17R).
Another Western state to the North – Colorado, also has a significant and growing percentage (22%) of Latinos and there, both senators and the governor, as well all the other statewide officers, are Democrats. Democrats have majorities in the U.S. House delegation and in both chambers of the state legislature.
Republicans claimed momentum with Latinos in the state, but as elsewhere, it never materialized, in fact, quite the opposite. In Congressional races across the state, 72% of Latinos across the state voted for Democrats.
Similar majorities of Latinos voted to reelect Governor Jared Polis, Secretary of State Jena Griswold, and Attorney General Phil Weiser. Pro immigrant policies, addressing climate change, dealing with gun violence and improved access to healthcare, all polled well over 50% with Latino voters.
In Texas, the voting trends of Latinos, which were touted as moving in favor of Republicans prior to the election, demonstrated otherwise. For example, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, who though he lost his election statewide, won the 93 percent Hispanic Hidalgo County with a 60-40 split, roughly the numbers Hispanic advocates expected to see there.
On the House side, Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez, who represent two of Texas’ deeply Hispanic border districts, won their seats, in spite of heavy spending on the GOP side in support of Republican Latina opponents.
Republican Monica De La Cruz was the sole Latina in the region to secure a seat, winning a redrawn district by 9 points. But Gonzales defeated erstwhile incumbent GOP Rep. Mayra Flores, who had earlier in June in a tightly contested special election, temporarily occupied the seat.
If the most referenced analysts in the media maintained the notion that Republicans made inroads with Latinos, Flores herself, most assuredly did not.
“The RED WAVE did not happen,” Flores wrote after midnight on election night, blaming Republicans and Independent voters for staying home. “Do not complain about the results if you did not do your part!” she added in capital letters.
Flores’ campaign even received assistance on the ground with a Republican sock puppet advocacy group called the Hispanic Grassroots Alliance who staged an event at the border with her and their astroturfed sales pitch fell flat, as it did in Arizona with some of the candidates they were pimping there.
“Republicans should not be pleased with their performance,” said Gabe Sanchez, vice president of BSP Research. He added the GOP did not pick up nearly as many House seats yet as projected earlier, partially because the Latino gains they predicted did not materialize. “And although it was a relatively good night for Democrats, I don’t think they can celebrate the numbers that much, either,” Sanchez said.
Kristian Ramos, a Democratic political operative factored the collapse of the fictionalized pivot toward Republicans to their party’s takeover by Trumpism. “That’s because Latinos rejected MAGA, period. MAGA is toxic to Latinos,” she said. It seems to be, everywhere other than Miami-Dade.
And just for a moment, let’s take a look at the Golden State. California has the third largest percentage of Hispanic or Latino population (39%) in the U.S, with New Mexico and Texas leading slightly at 49% and 40.2% respectively.
Pundits also hit alarm buttons about California. What were they losing their mud over? That in the past two years, Republicans picked up – brace yourself – Republicans picked up 0.9 percent in California cities where the population of Latinos was 90 percent and above and Democrats lost 0.3! Oh, the humanity!
Time to panic? Not if you, like me, consider 0.9% a rounding error and not much else. I can personally attest that party affiliation as reflected by voter registration, is not a one to one correlation to how the individual will vote in any given election.
In most all of these articles and reports, cautionary notes that might temper the assertions of the headlines, were found near the bottom of the columns, if at all.
Where some party strategists were quoted, the basic idea was that yes, although Latinos in the younger voting demographic statistically favored Democrats, these potential voters were less reliable as voters and likely would not participate in enough numbers to blunt the sort of trends that exist in midterms.
The larger takeaway from all of this, is a note of caution to voters that media speculation on election outcomes serves as little more than entertainment posing as news reporting. It might seem that I have taken a club to mass media writ large and that what I have outlined is intended as a general indictment. It is not.
Ginning up drama about upcoming elections is just in the DNA of election coverage. It is a leap of logic to extrapolate that our critique regarding election coverage equates to news outlets lying about everything they cover. That’s not the case and that is not what we are attempting to imply. And the coverage we have illustrated is not lying per se, it is more like crafty and cunning innuendo.
The only conclusion we intended to drive home is that polling is the main and virtually exclusive ingredient in election coverage, and polling is neither the equivalent or a substitute for facts and polling does not drive or decide elections. Voter turnout does.