If polls are any indication, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has serious vulnerabilities heading into 2020. One of the most problematic ones for Democrats, should she become their nominee, is her inability to connect with black and Hispanic voters.
According to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, the presidential candidate is too politically correct for minority voters who tend to be more culturally moderate and conservative and this is weighing down her candidacy. In a column published Tuesday, Douthat argued that Warren's insistence on using the term "Latinx" as an ethnic descriptor for all Latinos is symptomatic of a disconnect between woke progressives, especially white ones, and minority communities.
But if Warren's linguistic move seemed normal to journalists — in our world, the phrase "Latinx" is increasingly commonplace — it's still a curious one for a politician doing outreach. There's very little evidence that "Latinx" is a thing that many Hispanics or Latinos call themselves, at least in the kind of numbers that normally determine how political candidates talk.
Indeed, as Douthat points out (and The Blaze has reported and this writer has said), the "Latinx" label does not have much currency outside of niche liberal circles. A recent poll by progressive market research firm ThinkNow found that 98 percent of Latinos do not identify with the term (two percent said it is their preferred ethnic label).
Yet, quite bizarrely, Warren appears to be "distinctively beholden to a hermetic academic-progressive world, to a point where she doesn't know how to talk to the less-ideological, less-woke, maybe-even-somewhat-conservative Hispanics whose votes her party needs," the Times writer noted.
Too woke for minorities?
As NYT reporter Nate Cohn showed on Twitter, Warren is under-performing with black and Hispanic voters. Exit polls found that Hillary Clinton won Hispanics by 35 points and blacks by 79 points in battleground states in 2016. Meanwhile, the Times/Sienna College study found Warren significantly trailing Clinton's margins by 11 points among both demographic groups.
One possible reason for this, as journalist Tom Edsall argues and studies have shown, is that black and Latino Democrats tend to be more conservative than the party's white progressive base. By resorting to progressive jargon, Douthat says, Warren may be telling minorities they are culturally incompatible with her.
This is why it matters that the signals that Warren sends when she adopts a phrase like "Latinx" are the cultural equivalent of the policy signal that she sends with Medicare for All. In both cases, she's telling anyone who listens that a vote for the Democrats isn't just a vote against Trump (which a clear majority would like to cast) or a vote for popular liberal policies (of which there are many) but a vote for the new progressivism in full — no matter how many Americans, of all ethnicities, are distinctly unready for its rigors.
White progressives react
Instead of reassessing their views and genuine introspection, the reaction among some white progressives — to both Douthat's column and the market research showing "Latinx" to be deeply unpopular among Latinos — has been to insist they know better.
For instance, Jennifer Harvey, author of "Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America," blasted the Times columnist for commenting on the issue while being a white man, despite the fact that Douthat specifically cites Latinos' views on the topic and that Harvey is white herself. Others shared similar sentiments on the New York Times' Facebook page, though a sizable number of commentators were supportive of Douthat's perspective.
Meanwhile, Warren doubled down on the term, pledging on Twitter this morning that her administration "will protect the rights of LGBTQ+, women, Black, and Latinx service members" referring to transgender officers and enlistees in the military. Perhaps someone should point out to Warren that more than two-thirds of transgender individuals are binary in their gender preferences, and do not need a made-up buzzword to describe them. No one does, not even nonbinary Latinos.