The Democratic Party has a reputation as the party of equality, justice and anti-racism. So, is it a given that all Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) would back the Democratic nominee? President-elect Joe Biden certainly thought so, stating in May that if Black voters had a tough time deciding between him or President Donald Trump, they “ain’t Black.”
Given Trump’s dismissal of Black Lives Matter as a “symbol of hate,” his anti-Asian xenophobia and his administration’s violations of undocumented immigrants’ human rights, one would think BIPOC would never consider voting for Trump. But voting behavior is not that simple.
Latinx voters, especially Cuban Americans, handed Trump his narrow victories in Florida and Texas this week — in fact, 52% of Cuban Americans in Florida voted for Trump. Texas’ Zapata County, where 95% of residents are Latinx, turned red for the first time since the Reconstruction era. Trump won Texas largely because of Latinx voters — they encompass 30% of eligible voters in Texas. Many might find the thought of Latinx voters backing Trump unfathomable. After four years of “build the wall” chants, Democrats assumed the Latinx vote would be theirs. But given the prominence of Cuban Americans in Florida, it should hardly be a surprise that Latinx voters supported Trump. Trump’s fear-mongering about Biden being a “socialist,” as ridiculous as it sounds, resonated with Cuban Americans who typically lean conservative and who remember Fidel Castro’s oppression. Latinx people should not be reduced to caricatures who only care about immigration policy and will always vote Democrat. Ignoring Floridan Latinx voters and their diverse needs was a major failure on Biden’s part that likely cost him Florida.
Latinx voters aren’t the only divided electorate in the U.S. Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S., and yet are consistently overlooked by the Democratic Party. Historically, campaigns have neglected investing in engaging Asian American voters due to large differences even within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Asian Americans have starkly different political leanings: while Vietnamese Americans have historically leaned Republican, Indian Americans tend to be Democratic. In 2016, a National Asian American Survey found that about 59% of Asian Americans leaned left, while others favored Trump or third-party candidates. Clearly, Asian Americans are not decidedly Democratic. We encompass a broad group of differing ethnicities, languages, cultures and socioeconomic statuses. In particular, income inequality is greater among Asian Americans than any other race, exemplifying the stark intra-group differences. To lump us together and expect we would vote as a unified bloc is ludicrous. However, ignoring the impact of the AAPI community altogether is equally neglectful. We may be diverse in interests and political leanings as a group — but the same could be said for any group.
Shouldn’t Trump’s racism stop BIPOC from voting for him? Trump has also repeatedly made derogatory comments toward women and has over 26 sexual assault allegations against him, but exit polls suggest that more than half of white women voted for him anyway. BIPOC votes aren’t automatically Democratic simply because they’re BIPOC. Our values and beliefs are as complex as anyone else’s — we care about the economy, taxes, COVID-19 and, yes, racial injustice. But internalized racism and apathy mean that, for some, it falls to the backburner. When we step up to the ballot box, race isn’t the only thing on our minds.
Did I vote for Trump? No. Am I defending those who did? If you’ve read my column before, you’d know that’s laughable. I detest the Trump administration and endorsed Biden more than once. But as a BIPOC, I don’t always have the luxury of voting for anti-racist politicians. I don’t support BIPOC voting for Trump — just like I don’t support anyone voting for Trump. The blame for Biden’s losses in states like Florida and Texas should not fall on BIPOC but rather on Democrats for failing to earn their votes. The Biden-Harris ticket made key mistakes throughout their campaign, including their choice to frame the race as nothing but a referendum on Trump, their poor strategic decisions in Florida that failed to win over Cuban Americans and their failure to invest enough in swing states such as Nevada. But these faults rest on the Democratic Party alone, not on minority voters.
Just because some BIPOC voted for Trump doesn’t excuse his blatantly racist and deplorable actions. Tokenism is not anti-racism, and diversity is not inclusion. But at the same time, we cannot expect all BIPOC to be unwaveringly Democratic, nor can we use them as props to excuse politicians’ racist actions. Don’t reduce BIPOC to liberal caricatures. Asian Americans don’t fit into your definition of a model minority. Latinx voters aren’t just Trump haters who only care about immigration policy. BIPOC are not a monolith, so stop treating us like one.
Brammhi Balarajan (23C) is from Las Vegas.