Politics and Latino Rise in 2020

Twenty-five years ago, California voters passed a ballot measure designed to save taxpayer dollars by denying public benefits to immigrants who were in the country illegally. Mike Madrid, editor and publisher of California City News and keynote speaker at the 7th Annual BizFed Political Luncheon, began his presentation by reminding the audience about Proposition 187, which led to the political awakening of Latinos and the demise of the Republican Party in the Golden State. 


Political impact of Prop 187

California was once a GOP stronghold and home to presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Passed in November 1994 by a 59/41 margin, Proposition 187 not only remains as one of the most divisive measures in California history, but also instigated the “blue wave” that shifted the Golden State to the solidly Democratic territory it is today.

According to Madrid, three key factors ultimately led to the demise of the Republican party here:

  • Collapse of the cold war economy
  • Rise of the internet and digital economy 
  • Awakening of political power of the Latino vote

When the Cold War ended, the state’s aerospace industry collapsed and the manufacturing base deteriorated. As a result, many middle-class engineers and blue-collar workers left California to look for jobs elsewhere. At the same time, the burgeoning tech industry attracted many employees to the state who are more progressive and left-leaning.

When the Prop 187 campaign happened in California, Madrid was an undergraduate student in Washington, D.C. studying Latino politicization. Today, as a Republican strategist and partner with the California-based political consulting firm, GrassrootsLab, he stresses the impact the measure had on Latino mobilization.


Latino awakening

Since 1980, the Latino vote turnout rates have increased from 6.6% to 11.5% in 1994 and now up to 35.9% as of 2018. Latinos were 20% of the statewide voter base in 2016, which, in turn, led to an increase in the number of Latinos that have been elected statewide. Madrid anticipates record voter turnout in California in 2020 and the overall sentiment will be extremely anti-business.

Madrid says that many Republicans in California are changing their affiliation as Decline to State (DTS). Any Californian who wishes to vote Republican for president cannot be registered DTS. In fact, three parties, The Republican Party, the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party all require voters to be registered with their party to vote in the primaries; they do not allow cross-over voting.

Now that the Latino voting bloc is wide awake and engaged, Latinos are experiencing an unprecedented rise in power in California and that trend is only growing. Yet, there is also a growing dissonance between class and race. The Right/Left divide is quickly becoming an Up/Down divide. This is a major cause in the rise of populism in both parties.