By Ruben Navarrette.
On his short but remarkable journey from political novice to President of the United States, Donald Trump got mileage from battering his favorite piñatas: women and Latinos.
So, it’s only fair that – in the midterm elections – some of the strongest resistance to Trump and his agenda should come from the demographic that can be found at the intersection of those groups: Latinas.
Two veteran Democratic Texas lawmakers made history when they became the first Latinas ever elected to represent Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar will represent Texas’ Congressional District 16, and State Sen. Sylvia Garcia of Houston will represent Congressional District 29.
History was also made in New Mexico where voters elected the first Democratic Latina governor in the United States. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, an outspoken critic of Trump’s immigration hardline, trounced Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, a conservative member of the anti-immigrant House Freedom Caucus.
Tired of making history yet? More of it was made in New York where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – who sent a seismic jolt through the Democratic establishment earlier this year when she defeated 10-term Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley – became, at 29, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Clearly, someone is tired of being pushed around. And they’ve decided to push back. This changes everything. In the midterms, Democrats wanted to talk about health care, while Republicans droned on about immigration.
For Latina voters, politics is personal. Many of them are likely quite moved by the sight of families of migrants and refugees marching north solemnly from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border. But what they care about most is how government – and the people who run it – impact their own families.
That means issues like education figure prominently into their decision making. According to media reports, that was a top issue in the New Mexico governor’s race, and it helped catapult Lujan Grisham to victory.
Welcome to the Latina moment! Latina candidates came to their own in these midterm elections by working hard, defying expectations, challenging conventional thinking, standing up to the male hierarchy in the Latino community, and stream-rolling past the old Democratic establishment.
And this is probably only the beginning. In 2020, change could once again be on the menu and more history could be served up.
What these Latinas — and others — understood is that power must be taken. If you wait your turn, it may never come. If you defer, you will be passed over. And sometimes the people who hold you back are the same folks who you thought had your back – in this case, your fellow Democrats and fellow Latinos.
In the Latino community, men have had it pretty good. We’d run for office and play bigshots, while women would stay home and run everything else.
It’ll be good for us to switch roles. It might teach us all some respect and humility. And those things have great value – the sort that transcends politics.
Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group, a contributor to The Daily Beast and USA Today, a popular speaker, host of the daily podcast “Navarrette Nation,” and author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano (Bantam). Learn more at www.rubennavarrette.com