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Voters don’t live on promises alone

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Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings from America’s Voice en Español translated in English and Spanish. 

After the beating they suffered in the commonwealth of Virginia this past Tuesday, the Democrats don’t seem to understand that it’s not enough to scare voters with the specter of Donald Trump. You have to produce results for the various groups that support you. That’s because voters don’t live on promises alone.

This is a lesson that every politician should have learned on their own, especially if they know that they are going to dedicate their lives not exactly to public service, but to the plain and simple quest for power. Because it seems that that is what it’s about, given the “results” that can be seen nowhere, least of all where they made tireless promises in search of votes.

For example, Virginia’s governorship changed to Republican hands after a decade of Democratic dominance, with Glenn Youngkin’s victory over Terry McAuliffe. Although there were many factors involved, including local matters, personality issues, and strategy, there’s no doubt that paralysis of the majority-Democratic Congress and its inability to produce results that allowed President Joe Biden’s promised agenda to advance has an effect on Democratic candidates—not only those in federal races, but state contests as well.

The problem is that a statewide election always has repercussions on the collective imagination, like a type of “temperature taking” of what could occur at the national level if they don’t urgently make the necessary adjustments.

What’s sad is that this has already happened in recent history and the Democrats seem to not have learned from past mistakes. Every time they take control, they destroy themselves from within, through fights and internal divisions that eat up time, reduce the possibility of legislating, and fail to offer the next election’s voters a list of accomplishments to convince them that they “must” be reelected.

But how to do that? It’s well known that the political arena is extremely challenging, and in service of that and electoral survival, it is always necessary to know why power is being obtained. If they don’t know how to use said power, it will always be lost. The naivety—especially Democratic naivety—has no place here.

On the other hand, it’s completely understandable that a diverse caucus like that of the Democrats would have differences of opinion, since there are liberals and progressives, moderates and conservatives. But they seem to forget that they are all Democrats, and that the failure of one can hurt them all. They also have the bad habit of thinking that, upon assuming power, they have all the time in the world to dedicate to internal fights, while legislative proposals die on the vine. Or worse still, they promise the sun, moon, and stars to certain voter groups, don’t follow through, and then still want their continued support in the next election.

Nothing is in more danger now than the immigration issue, which was the topic of so many campaign speeches promising to achieve something historic in the short term. But this has been overtaken not only by internal battles, but by their political enemies and bureaucratic decisions that have nothing to do with elected officials or voters, as in the case of the Senate legal advisor who has already rejected two proposals that would be of benefit to 11 million undocumented immigrants. Do the Democrats really understand what this means in the life of each and every one of these human beings, who have given their entire lives to and for this country?

The worst part about it is that despite invoking the ghost of Trump at every turn, they are not taking the necessary measures to stop the advance of Trumpism or the real possibility that Trump himself, or a political heir, could preen and win in 2024. The former president, for his part, has not rested on his laurels and continues to exploit every Democratic disaster, once again endangering the U.S. democracy.

Because while the Democrats are embroiled in internal fights, the Republicans are fine-tuning their strategy. And that, added to the fact that the Democratic side has no results to show, has disaffected voters as a consequence—a situation that makes it harder to convince them yet again.

And that includes Latinos. We don’t have data about the voting behavior of Latinos in Virginia, but whatever it was, it’s important for Democrats to understand once and for all that Latinos are not a monolithic group, that they are as ideologically diverse as the rest of the country and, like those other voters, also want to see concrete results on the issues that interest them. Otherwise, they will either stay home or give the next Republican a chance.

Those 11 million undocumented immigrants, for example, have families, friends, and communities that can vote and determine the course not only of a politician, but a party and, for that matter, the entire country.

Ultimately, Tuesday’s beatdown does not bode well for Democrats looking to the midterms in 2022. And if it has been practically impossible to advance Biden’s agenda with a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress, imagine how it would be with a Republican Congress. The Democrats have already experienced this themselves various times in recent history.

But it seems that they forget so easily.

Read the Spanish version of this column here.