17 Dec 2020
By Patricia Campos Médina
The 2020 presidential election results are in and in New Jersey, more than 4.6 million people have voted.
This allowed Trump to receive 716,000 more votes than Gov. Phil Murphy in his first gubernatorial candidacy in 2017.
For a strong Democratic state like New Jersey, this increase in voter turnout for Trump will have a significant impact on the future of our politics; Jeff VanDrew saw this wave coming and changed parties to secure his re-election. But the impact runs deeper than his change of alliance or the impact on congressional races in South Jersey.
The bipartisan system of state Democrats and Republicans has been swinging right into political ideology for a few years now. Let reformists and progressives be damned.
Eight years of tyrannically-styled populist politics from former Governor Chris Christie laid the groundwork for the exit of many well-established moderate New Jersey Republicans who ceded party leadership to an earlier version of an anti-establishment politician to the harsh rhetoric that based his rise on his ability to cut backstage deals with Democratic bosses, rather than party building.
Under Christie’s leadership, the Republican Party falters. Its decline has not been helped by demographic shifts in New Jersey, which are driven by the growth of voters of color and their outflow from cities to the suburbs.
The lack of moderate Republicans in New Jersey, however, has not encouraged state Democrats in our urban centers to act more gradually when dealing with political positions. Instead, these local and state party leaders began to push to the right and chose to appeal to New Jersey Republicans and conservative Democrats not entirely comfortable with Trump’s rhetoric but to appeal to comfortable with his politics.
These Democratic leaders can easily, on the one hand, praise Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, but repeatedly refuse to provide emergency COVID-19 assistance to essential undocumented workers and New Jersey taxpayers during the pandemic.
It’s the Democrats who allow local county budgets to be supplemented by the lucrative program of incarcerating immigrant families under ICE contracts.
These are the same type of Democrats who think there is no problem leaving women of color and 20% of the state’s population (i.e. Latinos) without a voting member in the State Reallocation Commission, a body that decides on the political representation of citizens for the next decade. They might call themselves progressives, but by taking political positions at the whim of the leaders of the conservative wing of the Democratic Party, they have shown respect for the politics of the status quo.
I still remember sitting in front of a Democratic county leader in 2016 who openly said his strategy for the next election was not to register new voters of color. Mobilizing these voters, he said, was costly and there was little possibility of return. His strategy was to appeal to suburban working class whites who quit the Democratic Party for Trump because they did not trust Hillary.
Damned urban voters of color.
Those words simply meant that the New Jersey Democratic Party would continue to pretend to speak to 14% of the state’s Latino voters because “where else will Latinos go?” They will not vote for Trump.
Well, the results are in and in two key New Jersey urban districts – Passaic and Hudson County – Latino support for Donald Trump has actually increased. by more than 5%. Additionally, Trump voters in New Jersey came out in greater numbers than in the last gubernatorial election.
This is something to think about as we enter 2021 and Governor Murphy seeks re-election.
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise has expressed what it means to be a Democrat who revere the status quo and not comfortable with his political party’s shifting electoral coalition today.
In a recent editorial, he referred to undocumented immigrants being held in his county jail awaiting an immigration hearing as criminals and “convicted of serious crimes like rape, assault, possession of weapons and more ”. Although the truth is different, his willingness to use Trump’s rhetoric has not been lost on anyone.
He even went further and accused protesters, citizens of his own county, who feel betrayed by his failure to deliver on his pledge to end the ICE contract as radical leftists. And using alternative facts, they even accused them of being linked to the movement to abolish the police and further wreak havoc on the streets of Hudson County. These were obvious lies, but his dog whistle was obvious to Trump supporters.
In 2021, Trump will not be president because he was rejected by a coalition of voters of color, women and young voters. But in New Jersey, its impact on our politics will persist as long as New Jersey Democrats continue to ignore the interest and concerns of voters of color, women and young voters.
Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina is a union and political leader. The opinions expressed here are his own.
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