A Privilege to Vote: A Hispanic Perspective

As Hispanic believers we want to be good citizens of this country, whether it is our country of birth or adoption.
A Privilege to Vote: A Hispanic Perspective

I was visiting my family in Rio Grande City, Texas, a small border town across from the Mexican town where I was born and where I spent the first 15 years of my life. We were visiting around the family table, but the TV was on in the background. Donald Trump started to give his speech announcing that he was running for president. After he finished his speech, one of my family members asked me what I thought. I said “Oh, it is just a publicity stunt, nobody will vote for him.” I have been proven wrong by millions of voters who chose Donald Trump as the candidate of the Republican Party.

In the Spanish edition of CTHoy we have included two articles by Ron Sider and James Dobson where they explain their reasons for supporting Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Every election has a certain level of anxiety associated with it, and this election certainly does. The issues of race, ethnicity, and religious affiliation contribute their part to that sense of anxiety.

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 78 percent of white evangelicals prefer Trump, while 17 percent prefer Clinton. So, even tough the general voter is a lot more conflicted about whom they will support with their vote, white evangelicals seem to have already made up their minds solidly behind Trump. In spite of all the issues Trump has related to morality and his character, white evangelicals still find him the most attractive candidate.

The black community has unequivocally rejected Trump as a candidate. One poll has 1 percent of blacks voting for trump, while another poll gives him 6 percent of the black vote. The vision for the future of America that Trump presents has no appeal to the black voter. Added to that is the fact that the black vote has consistently been on the Democratic side for decades.

The Hispanic vote is a little more nuanced. According to the Pew Research Center’s poll, 80 percent of those who prefer Spanish or who are bilingual favor Clinton, while 11 percent favor Trump. Hispanics who prefer English resemble more the patterns of the overall voter with 48 percent in favor of Clinton and 41 percent in favor of Trump. One can see that the anti-Hispanic rhetoric by Trump has impacted the Hispanic voter. Because Trump’s anti-Hispanic rhetoric has an anti-immigrant focus, it is understandable that the farther away you are as a Hispanic from the immigrant community (in terms of language and culture), the more the Hispanic elector is willing to overlook the overall anti-Hispanic tone of the Trump campaign.

One of the characteristics of the Hispanic population in the United States is that we have a lower rate of registered voters, 58 percent, compared to Blacks who have an 87 percent rate, and whites who have a 95 percent rate, according to a gallop poll. This places our Hispanic community at a serious disadvantage in terms of getting a hearing and impacting the election process. We represent 17 percent of the population, but we make up only 8.12 percent of registered voters. Some of that difference in rate can be attributed to Hispanics who are residents but not citizens, and therefore cannot vote.

Christ’s command to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar means at its most basic level that we must contribute with our taxes to the wellbeing of the state (Mark 12:17). Many of us who come from a Latin American evangelical perspective grew up with a natural distrust of government and public life. We obeyed the command to pay our taxes and were diligent in obeying the laws, but we wanted no part of elected office and had little trust in participating in the political process.

Before I became a citizen in the 1970s, I was very surprised as a Mexican evangelical to find out that a born again Christian, Jimmy Carter, was running for President. It was delightful to see the interaction of church and the state in a way that was respectful of the church and hopeful of the state. The state needs the participation of its citizens in the task of choosing the leaders who will serve the people. So we can say that to give Caesar what belongs to Caesar includes our responsible participation in the political process as voters and also in positions of leadership in government.

As Hispanic Christians we want to be good citizens of this country, whether it is our country of birth or adoption. Your vote counts, every vote counts.

Even those of you who cannot vote because you are not a citizen, you can have an influence by encouraging those who can vote to make use of that right, and that privilege. Let’s do all we can to encourage everyone in our circle of influence to vote. As Hispanics, our lower voter registration rate makes it even more important that we not waste the opportunity to vote.

Therefore, in these elections, do not stay home. Go out and vote. This year has a lot of potential to be the year we will see the percentage of Hispanic voters increase. You can help make that happen!

Javier Elizondo is editor of CT en Español and Business Developer for the Baptist Credit Union in San Antonio, Texas.

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A Privilege to Vote: A Hispanic Perspective