News From Washington November 2023

Administration November 2023 PREMIUM

Hispanic voters in the United States are a growing and diverse group, impacting politics with varying concerns. At the same time, conflicts surrounding free speech on college campuses are discussed, as well as how the Government shutdowns are taking place and being perceived.

The Hispanic Vote One Year Out 

“Hispanic voters are now the second largest group of voting-age Americans and are playing an increasingly defining role in the political landscape,” Clarissa Martínez, Vice President of Unidos’ (formerly Concilio de la Raza) Latino Vote initiative, said in an ABC interview on Oct. 2. About 34.5 million Hispanic Americans will be eligible to vote in the 2024 election – an increase of 4.7 million since 2018. But even most media reporters today understand that the Hispanic demographic is not monolithic. “Latinos are very diverse and changing,” many reporters now say. In November [2022], 60% of Hispanic voters cast ballots for Democrats and 39% for Republicans. In 2018, 72% of Hispanic voters favored Democrats and 25% supported Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center. Hispanic votes for Democrats or Republicans are not determined by the numbers but by the issues.

Economic issues are polled as tops for all demographics. In national polls, Republicans are seen as better at managing the economy than Democrats. But for those with huge college loans, Democratic support to fund student loan forgiveness is a party advantage. According to Celinda Lake, a top Democratic party strategist and pollster, the two winning issues for Democrats are abortion rights and preventing Donald Trump from being president again. However, it’s not clear that Hispanic voters share these two priorities. Polls show most Latinos support traditional family values and limited abortion (a 12-15-week cap, as in Europe). But Democratic leaders will not accept a cap. “Any limit is a ban,” Democratic abortion advocates told Lake at a feminist conference in DC.

 The same kind of strong party split can be seen in immigration positions. The unrelenting surge of some 20,000 migrants a month over the Southern border – to whom the Biden administration has given parole status – is strongly opposed by Republicans and is now beginning to hurt Democrats in big sanctuary cities. Sanctuary cities guarantee that all migrants, regardless of status, will be protected from law enforcement and given free housing, food, health care, and education. Those promises are costing billions of dollars and cutting into city welfare budgets. Black leaders in New York and Chicago have gone from demanding federal aid to demanding the Biden administration stop the flow. The wars in Ukraine, Israel and Gaza have raised everyone’s concerns about how easy it is for unvetted terrorists to enter the USA. But Democrats refuse to talk about strong border controls.

Most voting experts agree that even “just” a year away from the elections, it is too early to tell how the majority of Hispanic voters will vote. But undoubtedly, both parties will up their efforts to attract them, especially in battleground states that are seeing an increase in Latino voters, especially Nevada and Arizona.

Freedom of Speech on Campus

The war in Gaza between Palestinian Hamas and Israel has exacerbated the conflicts over free speech on college campuses. Incidents of student violence against speakers, professors and guests who represent a different political or social outlook than the protestors (usually conservative) have increased. The canceling of non-liberal voices on campus often takes the form of tearing down posters and flyers announcing the controversial event. Some protestors believe they are protecting the campus from hate speech. Others say that the very depiction of gruesome photos of kidnapped Israelis and killed Palestinians only fuels antisemitism or islamophobia. But others insist that the ability to hear and even argue with a controversial speaker is the epitome of democracy and freedom of speech. Last week, videos of students at New York University tearing down and carrying off massive numbers of flyers about a pro-Israel rally went viral. One student who was caught on tape apologized for her “misplaced anger”. On Sunday, after the Hamas attack in Israel, photos of a wall in Georgetown University’s free speech area called “Red Square” showed it covered with dozens of red-bordered flyers headlined “Kidnapped” and showing the faces of mainly young victims. Twelve hours later, a personal inspection there found only a few black and white flyers requesting medical support for Palestinians. A large banner, “Free Palestinians,” had also been removed. 

Government Shutdowns: a Halloween Trick or Treat?

With all the cliff-hanging about the “government shutdown,” many Americans undoubtedly believe that the government is not functioning. The failure of the Republicans to agree on the leader of the closely split House of Representatives only adds to this perception, especially when the media focuses almost solely on the “fight” for consensus. But as anyone knows who has ever visited Congress for even a day, the House Chamber is almost always empty. That’s because the vast majority of Congressional work is not done there. Legislators and their staffs spend most of their time meeting with constituents, lobbyists, issue experts and funders in offices on the Hill, in their state headquarters and around the country. Most of that work continues; in fact, government shutdowns are only partial. Only a small proportion of “non-essential” workers are “furloughed” – their access keys are taken and their pay halted temporarily.  In addition, a 2019 law assures that they will be reimbursed – maybe with interest – for any lost pay due to any so-called government shutdown. Banks and debtors are quite assured these government borrowers will have the money. And because so many government workers are still working remotely two to three days a week at least, the visual impact of a “shut-down” can be minimal.  

Meanwhile, the work of legislation – the meetings, the handshakes, the writing of the bills, often not in the Capitol and often by lobbyists – goes on, knowing hearings will eventually be held, mark-ups of bills will take place and be approved, and legislation – the formal work of the legislative department – will move forward. Leaders in Executive agencies - like the Department of Education - will watch their backs even more during a proposed shutdown, to make sure their budgets are not whittled down to give another agency funds to pay for the latest presidential executive order (such as student loan forgiveness -- where it is unconstitutional for the President to create new money for any discretionary actions he orders and must take it from the allotted budget). Most cabinet secretaries do not come under the purview of a government shutdown.

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