A record number of Latinos are engaged in the 2018 midterm election, according to Pew. My favorite singer Camila Cabello is wearing an I Voted! sticker, and I want one too. I’m a first time voter and a Latino teen. I was 17 during the last election, which left me with a strong feeling of frustration—being so close, yet so far. Even though I missed the 2016 presidential election by a hair, I’m making up for lost time this midterm.
The last election was very damaging to Latinos. My mind flashes to the chants of “build a wall” at Trump’s campaign rallies. Over the past two years, we have also seen the tenuous status of DACA students, the family separation policy, and negative news coverage of the so-called migrant caravan. It’s one horrific news story after another. Latinos seem to be vilified by the Republican Party. And, as a result, I’ve become wary of Trump supporters, MAGA hats, and the possibility of confronting hatred face-to-face.
I was a kid back then, but I vaguely remember a time when the Republican Party was trying to get the elusive “Latino vote.” When I was in kindergarten, George W. Bush ran against John Kerry on a “family values” platform. Bush tried to appeal to conservative Catholic Latinos. (On my pretend ballot in school, I voted for Kerry.)
Flash forward to now, and the Republican Party’s view of Latinos has completely turned. We are no longer seen as possible allies, or a way to expand their voting power. We are now a political pawn, painted as the enemy. Immigrants are demonized for their search for a better life in a country that won’t accept them. We face figurative — and perhaps soon-to-be physical — walls.
So on Election Day, I’m using my vote to speak for my undocumented friends and family members. They can’t vote, but they’re still going to be affected by policy changes.
Like many young people — millennials and Gen Z-ers — I care about representation. Not just political representation. I crave to see politicians in office who share my identities. As a young, gay, Latino man, these categories are very important to me. And I want them to be visible in office. Instead, I see the same old, straight white men who always seem to be making decisions for people like me. I dream of seeing more immigrants, more people of color, more women, more genders and sexualities in office. But for now, I’ll settle for people who are willing to work to undo the damage done by the Trump administration.
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