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OPINION: If Democrats Don’t Engage Latino Voters, Republicans Will

A table of merch and documents and a tablecloth that states The Libre Initiative with a logo that represents the sun
The Libre Initiative, a conservative voter engagement group, had a presence at the recent Charlotte Peruvian Festival. (Photo by Jennifer De La Jara)

We’ve all heard the statistics: Latinos make up 15% of our area’s current population, and maybe more importantly, they make up 30% of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ student body. There is no doubt that the future of Mecklenburg will be heavily influenced by Hispanic thought-leaders. 

Still, there exists an even more compelling argument of why Democrats need to engage Latinx voters: because the Republicans are absolutely laser-focused on it.

I’m out and about a lot in la comunidad. I see the clever marketing of conservative groups like The Libre Initiative (pictured above). Libre, meaning “free,” has a charming appeal. The group is organized with smart marketing materials and friendly faces on hand to discuss how less government in our lives will give us more opportunities to chart our own courses. 

This messaging fares well among many Latinos in our community who escaped oppressive regimes — right-wing and left-wing regimes — in search of a better life in el norte.

We know this group is heavily tied in with right-wing extremists who are aligned with the Donald Trumps and Mark Robinsons of the world. As I attend Democratic/liberal events across our county, I’m struck by how few Latinos are engaged with us. There is no time to assign blame. Let’s just acknowledge it for what it is and make decisions to do things differently. 

I’m calling on the Democratic party to consider what our messaging is to attract Latino voters. I’m calling on Democrats, from the heavily engaged, never-miss-an-election members to the occasional liberal who shows up every four years, to consider the long game. 

Engaging Hispanic-Americans does not mean we have to ignore the historical struggles of our Black ADOS brothers and sisters. We can and absolutely should continue to fight for anti-racist policies.

I’m simply suggesting that we also embrace a current reality: Latinos are a significant segment of the present and future of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and indeed our nation. Democrats will serve our collective mission by pulling them into the fold sooner than later. Make no mistake, the GOP already knows this and is acting on it with precision. 

With less than 5% of eligible registered voters showing up for the Sept. 12 primary, Democrats have not a moment to lose in engaging both Black and Latino voters who make up the majority of our local community.

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