At the Democratic headquarters in Phoenix, the mood was one of caution within euphoria as the election results appeared on computer screens, frantically updated for hours. They were living an electoral night that will go down in the history of the State. Not only because the figures suggest that it will be the key to deciding the US presidency, but because in Arizona, a traditional Republican state for a century, almost all power shifted to the Democratic side on Tuesday.
At the center of that change was Maricopa County, which comprises the Phoenix metropolitan area and is home to 60% of Arizona's population. 2020 will go down in history, according to preliminary results, as the election in which all levels of power in this county changed. "We have never had a Democratic majority in Maricopa County," explained Maritza Saenz, executive director of Joe Biden's party for the area. By Wednesday morning, regional power had changed hands.
Arizona hadn't voted for a Democratic president since Bill Clinton in 1996, and that was a carom. Clinton won because a third candidate split the Republican vote. In reality, Arizona hadn't clearly voted for a Democratic president since Harry Truman in 1948. On Wednesday, Biden was leading Trump by 2.4% of the vote, with 86% counted. The majority of pending votes were in Democratic districts.
The strategy for more than a decade has been based on getting immigrants and children of immigrants from Mexico and Central America disengaged from the political system to vote. "We spoke to Democrats who did not vote because no one was speaking to them," explained Sáenz. Those Democrats are Latino, Mexican American workers with very recent immigration experience and who live near a border hot spot. The 2020 election will also be one in which the United States learned that not all Latinos feel represented in Slowly and the salsa sound. "We are not Florida," Saenz said about the simplistic generalization of the Latino vote. “Here, Latinos have to fight to be seen as equals; having been born here we have to fight for the right to exist in our own community ”.
"This is the year in which Arizona is at the center of the election and Latinos hold the key," Eduardo Sainz, director of the organization Mi Familia Vota in Phoenix, told EL PAÍS in early October. His organization, born in California and with great presence throughout the West, has been registering Latinos to vote for years, mostly young people. "Arizona Latinos are going to decide the White House," he said. His calculation was quite accurate. The south and northeast of the country would end up tied and demographic changes in the west would be the key to winning the White House. The situation this Wednesday was that.
"If the Latinos in Arizona had not voted in record numbers, the State would not have changed, I am convinced that they have been the key," Sainz reaffirmed, seeing the provisional results. The polls he consulted showed a margin in favor of Biden of about 200,000 to 300,000 ballots in early voting, which coincides with the new Latinos who have registered. Latinos make up 23% of the electorate, according to data from Pew Research.
Sainz says this is the culmination of a 15-year strategy. The Mexican Americans of Arizona began to wake up politically after the approval in 2010 of the so-called SB1070, an openly racist law, and by figures such as the sheriff Joe Arpaio, who boasted of toughness against the undocumented. In 2016, Phoenix fired Arpaio and chose a sheriff democrat. In 2018, Arizona elected a Democratic senator. On Tuesday, they changed "all levels of power, literally, from the local to the presidency." Democrats were on their way to winning another senator in Maricopa County (astronaut Mark Kelly, who won by 5.8 points) and possibly the president. In addition, the first results indicate that at least one of the two Houses of the state Legislative was within range.
Workers punished by covid
The Latino mobilization is made up of workers "disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 crisis, in terms of illness, deaths and loss of employment," says Dulce Vázquez, a Los Angeles politician who has been installed in Phoenix for a month, like many Californians, to help turn Arizona into a Democrat. In addition, they are families in which there are many undocumented immigrants and "they have seen firsthand the damage that Trump has done with his immigration policies."
But there are at least two other dynamics that have helped the turnaround in Arizona, the last remaining large state in the Southwest reliable for Republicans. Phoenix is the fastest growing city in the country in the last decade. It is expanding into suburban suburbs that are overriding the Republican rural vote. "There are almost half a million new voters who have moved to Arizona since 2016. Many of them come from California, Illinois or Colorado looking for good weather, cheap houses and low taxes," says Vázquez, and they are bringing their political ideas with them. . And it remains to be appreciated what influence the rejection of Trump by Arizona Republicans may have had. In Phoenix these days you could see posters all over town for "Republicans for Biden."
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