Jill Biden: the controversial comment and the disconnect with Latinos

José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: U.S Embassy / (CC BY-ND 2.0)

During the annual meeting of UnidosUS, one of the largest advocacy groups for Latinos, First Lady Jill Biden wanted to flatter Hispanics: “The diversity of this community, as different as the bodegas in the Bronx, as beautiful as the Miami flowers and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio, it’s their strength.”

As expected, her comments, which were made a day before the Mexican president’s visit to Washington, unleashed a downpour of criticism. “The first lady apologizes because her words conveyed anything but pure admiration and love for the Latino community,” reacted her spokesperson Michael LaRosa.

It was extremely unfortunate to compare Latinos to tacos or bodegas, but the Bidens’ lack of connection to the Hispanic community seems to go beyond a declarative slip. In the most recent Quinnipiac University poll of 110 people who identified as Latino, Biden had a 24% approval rating.

Against him there is an economic environment marked by an uncontrollable inflationary spiral, no progress in his promise to achieve immigration reform, recurring complaints from the community about delays in immigration procedures for residents and citizens, and a past marked by having been the co-pilot of the “Deporter in Chief”: Barack Obama.

And everything seems to indicate that the Republicans have become aware of Joe Biden’s Latino problem and are seeking to capitalize on that weakness and take advantage of it, both on the road to the November elections and in the marathon to the 2024 presidential elections.

A revealing report from legislative publication The Hill shows that Republicans are aggressively courting Hispanic voters in a select group of competitive electoral contests that could be decisive in determining who controls the House and Senate in 2023. The Republican National Legislative Committee claims to have recruited a record number of 102 Latino candidates for the current electoral cycle, especially in states that could be key in the elections, such as Texas, Oregon and Virginia.

As an example, the Hispanic Republican Mayra Flores won a recent special election in Texas, championing not only conservative ideas but also radical ones: she affirms that the Democratic Party is the greatest threat to the United States and Biden the worst president in history. The New York Times dubbed this phenomenon “The Rise of Far-Right Latinas.”

Biden had an excellent time to reconnect with the Hispanic public during the visit of the Mexican president. But instead of presenting new ideas, he limited himself to committing to his neighbor an allocation of $1.5 billion dollars to maintain strong immigration control policies. It was a missed opportunity.

Ronald Reagan used to say that Latinos naturally identified with Republicans, but didn’t know it.

Everything seems to indicate that this is beginning to change and that the leadership of that party has taken note and plans to capitalize on it in the face of a president and a Democratic Party that are always late in responding to the needs of our community and do not seem to have decided on their degree of commitment with Hispanics in the United States.