Conservatives Gain Ground With Latinos. Can Gains Be Made to Stick?

Latinos are becoming a more important part of building a coalition. Shifts in allegiance in places like the Rio Grande Valley of Texas indicate that they aren’t a group that has become totally beholden to the Left.

The question is how conservatives can best court Latinos and what is the most important voting bloc?

Jorge Martinez, spokesperson and director for coalitions at The LIBRE Initiative, stated that Latinos are concerned about many the same things as Americans.

“The message doesn’t change [for Latinos],” he said. “It’s the messages of freedom, of family, and values of life, and God. And so, that is a message that is the same.”

Martinez joins us to discuss how conservatives could keep Latinos in the coalition.

Listen to the podcast or read the lightly edited transcript below:

Doug Blair: Jorge Martinez, spokesperson for and director of coalitions at The LIBRE Initiative in Texas, is my guest today. JorgeWelcome to the show.

Jorge Martinez: Doug, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Blair: Of course, it’s great having you on. And I’m so interested about this topic today because there has been so much discussion about bringing Latinos into the conservative coalition. Before we get into the meat, I want you to tell me a bit about yourself. What is The LIBRE Initiative, and what are your goals?

Martinez: First, Daniel Garza, the founder and president of The LIBRE Initiative, founded it in 2011. He was a Bush administration employee and currently lives in Mission Texas. That’s also where I live, which is in the Rio Grande Valley, where all the action is at right now.

We were founded in order to spread the message about economic freedom within the Hispanic community. And throughout the years, we’ve definitely expanded our portfolio and what we do. Now, we still have that message. However, we want to see the U.S. Hispanic population prosper and thrive.

We will discuss principles of limited government, sound money supply, and property rights when it comes to policy making and informing the community about those policies that can improve our lives.

Blair: Right. Well, one of the things that struck me when I was reading about The LIBRE Initiative is a lot of those things that you mentioned don’t really seem specific to the Latino community. It’s kind of everybody—white, black, anything in between. Does this imply that Latinos are the same as every other American?

Martinez: Yeah. The message doesn’t change. It’s the messages of freedom, of family, and values of life, and God. That message is the same. We have a targeted audience, which is the Hispanic community. And we’ve been doing it since the beginning, 11 years now.

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of LIBRE for 10 years and to see the growth of where we’ve been. Not only that, but also to witness the exciting changes we are seeing in policy changes and policy champions.

Blair: What does it look like to reach specifically Hispanic communities? Is it Spanish-language outreach? Is it speaking to particular countries’ values? What does it look and feel like?

Martinez: There’s multiple. So, you’re going to do English, you’re going to do Spanish, whatever the audience needs to reach out to that demographic. You have the first generation, which is mostly Spanish-speaking. You have second, third, and then that’s mainly English-speaking. It all depends.

But we really hire our staff that they’re from the community. We’re not a flying organization where we take someone from somewhere else and plant them there. It’s really authentic grassroots community-building.

Blair: One of the things that I think a lot of conservatives get confused by is the seeming social conservatism of Latino Americans, who maybe come and they have these values—like you mentioned, they’re God-fearing, they have traditional family structures—but they continuously vote for the Left. They vote for Democrats. Why is this happening?

Martinez: I think for many generations, and you’ve seen this even from the ’60s, the Left has done a really good job of reaching out to Hispanic community, whereas the Right was just not there. They were absent. And over the last decade, there’s been a shift in reaching out.

What we have to do as just anybody that’s out there that wants to inform the community, doesn’t matter what party you are, what affiliation, you want to get people where they are at, meet with them where they are at, talk to them about the issues that matter to us: How can we improve our lives? You start to make inroads, and you begin building trust.

And Hispanic community, it’s very hard to build that trust and maintain it. So, you can’t come in during election season and say you’re for the Hispanic community, and then Nov. 9, you’re out the door. It doesn’t work that way. That’s not authentic.

So, LIBRE is a 24/7, 365, we are in communities throughout the country and we’re not going away after Election Day. We’re still there to inform the community on policy, remove barriers, as well that we want to help the communities. We do this through our 501(c),(3) organization.

Blair: This is how you are embedded in these communities. You are working with specific members on the ground. What do they think about the direction of the country’s progress? Are Latinos more hopeful or less optimistic about the direction the country will go?

Martinez: It was hard at first, I could tell. Because after many years and generations, my grandma voted Democrat, and so I’m going to vote Democrat or whatever party. And I can also tell you that my parents voted Democrat throughout most of their lives. They were like, “Well, the Democrats are for the poor and therefore to help us.”

But as we’ve gotten older, more educated as well, my family, they worked hard so that I could pursue my dreams as well. We worked in the fields so I was able to experience it as well. And it’s not the life that—I don’t know of any mother that has a child and says, “I want my son or daughter to work in the fields.” Hey, that’s tough work. I’ve done it and it’s hard, but it really taught me a lot of life lessons.

And I know my parents had dreams for my success, so they gave their lives to help me reach my goals.

So, back to your point, I think that what we’re seeing now is that we had a good four years of policies that really limited the growth of government, that reduced taxes. This is a big reason, especially in Texas, that we depend so heavily on it, especially when we saw the growth of energy jobs. There was a lot growth.

We started seeing wages increase, 401(k)s increase, and then you go to the policies that we have now, where we’re seeing more government handouts, that’s taxpayer money. People are starting to notice the rise in inflation. Now people are starting to realize, “Oh, this isn’t good for me.”

LIBRE has been involved in a lot of campaigns, but I am referring to the True Cost of Washington Tour campaign. And we’ve been able to go around the country, specifically for me in Texas, meet with people, usually Spanish-speaking only, about inflation, talk to them about inflation and why we have inflation, but also hear their stories and how they are struggling. It is a real need.

So, when you have President [Joe] Biden saying that inflation’s not a big deal, that it’s the same it was last month, I mean, he’s out of touch.

Blair: It sounds like there is a shift taking place in this community. The Rio Grande Valley is a place where we are witnessing a massive shift from a certain voting system to a new one. As somebody that is based out of there and is able to tell us what it’s like there, what does it look like on the ground? What does that shift look like?

Martinez: So, it wasn’t overnight. There was no similar organization before 2020. It was us. And I’m just saying that to show that it takes many years to get to where we are at today and what we want to build toward the future.

So, it was a lot of education, like I said, on the policy, we had a lot of community events, fun events as well, as it wasn’t always just on policy. Some people might find this boring. We want to have a great time and talk about our message.

So, what people are seeing now and where they’re at, I think people are going to be surprised, and outside of our area, but what I’m seeing and hearing, people want to change.

Blair: And that’s not just in the Rio Grande Valley, you’re seeing that across the country?

Martinez: All across the country. Specifically, for me, because I’m based in Texas, I can tell you Texas, but where all eyes are at right now, South Texas, where I’m from, I think we’ll be seeing some changes there. Because people can now see the difference between good policy and bad policy and how it affects me and my life, and how it makes our lives miserable.

Blair: Right. Well, that’s actually a great point because it almost begs the question, is this going to stick? I think a lot of people are curious whether or not this realignment seems to be something that’s permanent or if it seems to be based on possibly former President [Donald] Trump, if that’s sort of the glue holding this coalition together.

Martinez: I’ve long said that it wasn’t a character that people were voting for, it was the policies. We will likely see this in November, seven weeks from now. People vote based on policies.

Blair: One of the things that we are also kind of concerned about here, too, is that we’re going to divide Hispanic into an identity group. So the Left tends view voter blocs like blacks and Asians as an identity monolith. Is there a risk sometimes of saying, “We’re going to push Hispanic policies, we’re going to push for the Hispanic voter,” or is it a useful way of describing this bloc of voters?

Martinez: I think it’s a useful way to describe voters. It exists, I mean. It is what is. LIBRE is not advocating for Hispanic policy. We advocate for policies that will benefit all. If you take a look at our mission statement, you will see that we are striving to make all lives better. We do this by advancing generic policies, which are obviously limited in scope and strength.

Blair: What role do the different countries of origin, for example, play in reaching out to this type of voter, because there’s Venezuelans, there’s Puerto Ricans, there’s Cubans, all of these different what we would call Hispanics but have such different background?

Martinez: Yeah. So, I’m from Mexico, Monterrey, Nuevo León. Unfortunately, I was born in Mexico and raised in California. Don’t feel sorry for me.

Blair: I’m from Oregon. I feel you.

Martinez: But, look, I mentioned that the community hires people. If I were hired to work within the Cuban community in Florida, in Miami specifically, I wouldn’t do well. I don’t know their culture. Different things happen. We hire people who live in the community and know their local area.

I did well and have done well speaking with people from Mexico. I get it, so I understand. I came legally to this country and found a way for me to prosper and live my American dream. I want to help others do the same by ensuring they use the right channels.

And we talk about things like immigration, and that’s obviously the big topic around immigration. But inflation, economy, criminal justice, and reform health care.

We do want to hire people, and have people who are familiar with the country’s values and laws. And if there’s a specific population, that’s what we want to do, because we are authentic. … We’re not hiring someone that’s from another area and bringing them in.

Blair: Now, immigration is something that I’m curious about because it does seem like when you think about Hispanic voters, immigration is the issue that comes to mind. But from what it sounds like you’re saying, that’s not really the top-of-mind issue.

Martinez: No, it’s No. 3, No. 4. Usually, it’s what it polls. Look, The LIBRE Initiative has had a very commonsense approach and there’s been a lot of misconceptions out there, but one, we do need border security. I live near the border. I want my family to be secure.

However, this could change. It could include more Border Patrol agents. It could also be more infrastructure and more technology. It could be all of them at once.

It is not enough to solve the problem of immigration. People will still find a way in to get here. We must update our immigration laws and reform them so that people have legal channels, legal paths to get here. Because we want the most talented people to be able to come here, contribute to our society, and you can’t do that when you don’t update the needs of our labor demands today.

Blair: Where do wokeness, identity politics and wakingness rank in this particular voting bloc’s concerns?

Martinez: Yeah. I don’t even think that gets any kind of level here. It doesn’t poll. I can tell you that it’s not the No. 1, No. 2, 3, 4 issue. I think from what I’m seeing on the ground, it’s something that is against what we believe as Hispanics. It doesn’t work. I don’t like it. I know others don’t like it either.

Blair: Right. Well, that’s the reason I don’t necessarily know if it ranks as immigration or inflation, but I would assume that as a group that is being consciously targeted by the identity politics Left, that would sort of have an impact on the perception that Hispanic and Latino voters have of, let’s say, the Democratic Party that is pushing that ideology.

Martinez: It’s definitely having an impact and you’re starting to see that people don’t like it. So, they’re going further away from the Left.

Blair: Sure. I guess there’s one final question to of wrap things up in a little bow. What can conservatives maybe who aren’t associated with LIBRE, who maybe don’t speak Spanish, who don’t have these particular connections with the Hispanic community, what can they be doing to more effectively pull these voters and these people into the coalition?

Martinez: The most important thing is to get to know your community and spend time with them. It’s just like anybody else, we want to be able to build a relationship, a friendly relationship, build that trust. It’s nothing different other than making the time to spend time with them.

You can also follow us online, as far as LIBRE is concerned. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at The LIBRE initiative. Also, you will find out that the policies The LIBRE Initiative is pushing for are policies of, again limited government, and pro-growth.

Blair: Excellent. Jorge Martinez was the spokesperson and director for coalitions for The LIBRE Initiative, Texas. Jorge, I appreciate your time.

Martinez: Thank you for being here.

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