Tag Archives: presidential race

Julian Castro Drops Out. I’m Angry.

Secretary Julian Castro has dropped out of the Democratic primary for president. I’m deeply saddened by this. It feels crucial now for Latinx people to be seen as leaders in this country. It is a matter of life and death for many that people see us as human beings, leaders, communicators, that people open themselves to the concept that they can be led by us and inspired by us.

Castro’s been the only candidate who kept his eye on immigration throughout the campaign. He had more actual, specific policy on the table than any candidate except Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He pointed out the overlooked brunt of risk that trans people of color face in multiple debates. He correctly called former V.P. Joe Biden out on the vast difference between an opt-in and opt-out health care plan. He was able to communicate how infrastructure matters to people’s daily lives. He’s the only candidate I’ve seen engage the incredibly risky position of rural hospitals and health care services.

I hope Latinx children who face so much in this country today have seen that they can be leaders, that they belong on that stage. I hope they saw that they should call out a lie when it’s told to them, that they should walk into any situation knowing that they’re human, and defying anyone who tries to gaslight or diminish them as if they’re not. I hope they see a strength that they can build upon as a foundation, that the adults in their lives – Latinx and otherwise – can help them build upon.

This will be posed as a failure because that is what the media likes to pose us as, that’s the narrative they sell about us – never mind that in the end, more than 25 other candidates will have dropped out of the race or been beaten.

Don’t buy what they sell for a second. Build on this. We live in a world where we get one try for their thousands of opportunities, where they define us with one failure and excuse their thousands of failures as false starts and bad luck. Don’t feed into that, don’t reinforce it, don’t believe that we can’t overcome that. It is neither destined nor the way of things; it is faulty and flawed.

Use Julian Castro’s run to lift the Latinx people in your lives, to acknowledge and witness that among us are leaders, too. Among us are leaders and teachers and inventors and doctors and artists and in spite of colonization and genocide and wars and lynchings and forced sterilization and repatriation, we still belong on that stage with everyone else. Know that.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

The featured image comes from an NBC News article here.

Why the Same Numbers Mean “Winning” Voters of Color, and “Undecided” White Voters

The narrative goes that Joe Biden’s secured the support of voters of color. Except – wait! The new narrative is that Bernie Sanders might be leading among voters of color. What does this mean? Usually it means that someone is “winning” us because they poll at 20-some percent among nonwhite primary voters, and that’s slightly more than the next person who polls at 20-some percent.

White voters have polled at similar numbers for candidates like Biden and Elizabeth Warren. Why aren’t they “secured” or “wrapped up” or any of the other descriptions we throw around for voters of color?

Biden has the support of a plurality of Black voters in polls. That means more support than anyone else, but not more than 50-percent. That’s often been misrepresented as a majority. In turn, that transforms into a majority of people of color. People don’t bother to look up how Latinx voters, or Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters are polled.

Biden’s squarely hung around the mid-20s in terms of Latinx support. With a split field, that’s meant that he still leads by a few percentage points in most polls. Sanders also polls strongly. Warren does in some polls, and hovers nearer 10% in others. Mid-20s is absolutely not a majority. The leader in Latinx polling is often still Undecided.

Add to this that there are barely any polls taken of Latinx voters in the first place, and nobody really has much of a clue – indicators are all over the place and the aggregate itself is shaky.

Websites like Common Dreams and Truthout have run with the notion that Bernie Sanders has just taken the lead among voters of color. Why? Because of a single NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll that places Sanders at 29% and Biden at 26% among nonwhite voters.

That poll holds value, but it doesn’t magically upend all other polls that also hold value. Most importantly, NPR points out about their own poll, “the margins of error with these subgroups are too high to draw any definitive conclusions”. Yet that’s not stopping Common Dreams and Truthout from drawing definitive conclusions.

This is somewhat galling given how insistent Sanders was that voters of color were prioritized too highly in the 2016 primary. Hillary Clinton won 78% of Black voters and 65% of Latinx voters in that primary – a record margin in a primary among people of color – and this was often downplayed as unimportant or only having to do with loyalty.

The idea that anyone – Biden, Sanders, or anyone else – should claim notable support from voters of color because they poll at 20-something percent in an election that has yet to take place is insulting when voters of color voted for a candidate at 70+ percent in the last primary, and this was made to seem thoroughly unimportant.

It makes us into props, easily set aside when inconvenient, but valuable when we help to set the scene for the narrative you want to tell.

Biden and Sanders seem to be ahead of the field among voters of color, sure, but let’s not award them some sort of mandate for polling in the 20s. And let’s certainly not do so when a record margin of support that was 50 points higher has been downplayed and ignored since then by both those candidates.

There are several things going wrong in this thinking. The first is that polls of Black voters represent polls of all voters of color. This is not true. Black voters and Latinx voters sometimes vote in concordance and sometimes support different candidates. That may happen this time.

Terms like “people of color” and “voters of color” have a precise use. They include Black people, but the terms are not interchangeable. You can’t take information about Black voters and say it represents information about all voters of color. That’s just a convenient way for someone to erase groups of people like Latinxs. Not specifying that you’re referring to individual groups is also too often used as a way of co-opting other groups’ narratives without having to be accountable to them. That’s what’s happening here.

Biden has a notable lead among Black voters, though it reaches a plurality and not a majority of those polled. Biden does not have a notable lead among Latinx voters, and there haven’t been enough polls of us to know much for certain. Biden may have a lead among AAPI voters, but these polls are so infrequent that pollsters can’t assure much accuracy and can’t observe shifts in preference over time. Nobody polls Native voters because the media figures there’s not enough interest, instead of it being their job to teach why it should be important – so nobody really knows who different Native groups will support.

It is true to say that Biden leads among Black voters in opinion polling. It’s also important to listen to why. Yet that same information cannot then be extended to apply to other groups simply because you lack information about those groups. A plurality among Black voters should not be represented as a majority of Black people, nor as a majority of all people of color.

Biden doesn’t hold the same advantage among Latinx voters that he holds among Black voters. It is not accurate to say he leads among people of color when what you mean is that he leads among Black people. Biden may win other groups’ support, and he may not.

What should make you wary of this whole line of thinking is that white allies often like to come up with narratives that describe what people of color will do, why they’ll do it, and what it will mean…without people of color even having done it yet. It allows a co-optation of our actions before we take them, usually to claim a support that we haven’t yet decided.

Look at two white candidates whose campaigns are battling over having a mandate from people of color. Biden is using Black support to claim he leads among people of color. Sanders is using Latinx support to claim he leads among people of color. Meanwhile, both of them only poll in the 20s among all voters of color. No mandate has been given. No support is clear. Nobody’s even voted yet.

There have been polls where either Biden or Warren lead among white voters at about the same numbers. Where are all the claims that either has white support wrapped up, or a white mandate? Where are the claims that white votes have decided already? They don’t exist because there’s no political advantage to claiming that one or the other has white support secure.

If Black voters favor Biden in polls yet are still pretty split, and Latinx voters are largely undecided, that makes us all pretty similar to white voters right now. Yet no one’s declaring that anyone has white voters sewn up. That would be perceived as ridiculous, despite white voters also having favorites and being more decided than Latinx voters are right now.

Yet when that same logic is applied to voters of color, alternative media pushes the narrative, mainstream media takes the bait, and suddenly too many white allies are acting like it’s a narrative to be taken seriously, instead of the exact same level of ridiculous.

Nobody has us sewn up. There are favorites in some communities, just like among white voters, but nobody’s applying the same narratives or making the same claims about them that they are about us.

We get it. We’re useful for your candidate’s narrative. But if you want more than that, if you actually want that support to develop once voting rolls around, your candidate has to be useful to our reality. Work less on the narratives you sell, and more on the policies that help us.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

The feature image comes from a Boston Globe opinion piece here.

Let’s Start Pretending to Know Where Kamala Harris Supporters Will Go

Theoretically, Sen. Kamala Harris dropping out of the Democratic primary is great for Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former V.P. Joe Biden. This is because they’re polled as the two biggest second-choices for Harris supporters. It’s bad for Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who lag behind in these polls.

I say theoretically because this is all based on polling. Polling is accurate within a certain range, but it is incredibly misunderstood. Polls are often treated in the media as predictions of what people are going to do. They’re not. They’re snapshots of how people respond to specific questions. These indicate how respondents say they feel about a question at that moment in time. That’s it. That can be valuable, but not when the results are misapplied.

What’s more, this form of “second choice” polling doesn’t have a lot of history for the purposes of comparison. It’s done sparingly and irregularly, and there’s not a broad historical reference to be able to assess pollsters’ different approaches for accuracy. This also means we don’t have a great record to understand how second choices evolve over time.

Most importantly, Harris had her best numbers among Black and Latinx voters. That means the best chance for a specific impact is one that will go unseen and unrecognized. Polling of Black and Latinx communities is generally not focused on despite the fact they’re core to the Democratic base.

You may read that Harris’s voters are likely to go hither and thither, but the reality is that no one really has the information or polling to determine this. Any theory someone comes up with is one they’ll never have to provide a burden of proof to support. There won’t be enough information about the voters who prefer Harris to compare it to.

A lot of claims will be made about who her voters like or don’t like. They will all be based on opinion or – at best – cherry-picked polling information without any kind of real aggregation. These claims are going to teach really bad lessons about how to read polls. They’re going to rely on speaking for Black and Latinx voters without having the snapshots recorded about what Black and Latinx voters actually want.

Many of these claims will want clicks from fans of whichever candidate they say Kamala Harris supporters really, super-secretly liked that only this or that writer knows and can tell you. These will just reinforce bias about who the readers clicking already prefer. Many of these stories will seek to drive a narrative in order to sway Kamala Harris supporters over to their candidate.

Prepare for nearly every candidate to suddenly be Kamala Harris’s best friend and the natural recipient of her supporters. The media may only start to treat Harris as an important and legitimate candidate now that she’s dropped out and her narrative can be hijacked.

That may seem like a lot of effort for someone who was only polling at 4% nationwide, but it’s about where her better polling was concentrated. Ten-percent of California primary voters alone is worth that effort, let alone her decent polling in the rest of the Southwest and the South. That includes states that are early in the primary process, such as Nevada and South Carolina.

The truth is no one will really know who Kamala Harris supporters choose now that she’s dropped out of the race. Pollsters haven’t been interested in gathering information about the communities that most preferred her.

Anyone who tells you they do know is probably going to pitch you their candidate or poll. Ask for evidence. Point out when it’s not provided. Make your choice – not one someone else tries to sell you by treating your preference for a candidate as a commodity.

The feature image is from Rep. Jahana Hayes’s endorsement of Kamala Harris published in Essence here.