Chuck Rocha
"Bernie's biggest challenge is going to be Wall Street; bankers don't want him to be President"
The Senior Advisor of Bernie Sanders speaks with LPO about Latino outreach and how this community is going to change every election for years to come.

With over 30 years of experience in Latino and union politics, Texan Chuck Rocha, founder of Solidarity Strategies, has been working as a senior advisor on the Bernie Sanders campaign since 2016. Rocha spoke with LPO about reaching out to Latinos and the importance of this community in the Democratic Primary.

What is Bernie Sanders's campaign strategy to win the Latino vote?

We are going to go into the Latino community. We are going to hire that community. We are going to lift-up the issues of that community, and we are going to turn that community out to vote for us.

Why do you think the Democratic Party hasn't been able to rally the Latino vote as effectively?

Well, I would argue that they do a good job. They could do a better job, but there's still 65 to 70 percent of every Latino in America votes democrat. That's not bad, it could be better.

"We need a new generation of leadership in the Democratic Party"

But when compared with the African American community, or the Asian American community, which numbers are around 90 percent, you see a very important difference.

I've been doing campaigns and Latino politics for thirty years I think the biggest reason is a lack of cultural competency. You have Democrats who hire establishment consultants, and for them, the Latino vote is always an afterthought. At the very end maybe they Google-translate their TV commercial in Spanish, and then deliver that to the community and think that's how you turn out to Latinos and it's not.

What do you think Democrats are missing in their message?

They are missing cultural competency. They're missing Latino consultants. Latino staff. Latino communication specialists. When you don't hire Latinos and don't make them part of your operation, you're not going to know how to go talk to them.

Do you think that has been changing?

It's changing a lot, and more so on this presidential election.

What expectations do you have for Latino turnout in 2020?

More Latinos are going to vote in 2020 than they have ever voted in the history of US politics.

Some Latino vote specialists believe that immigration can be a winning issue for the eventual Democratic Party nominee. How important is this issue in the election?

Immigration is a big issue for the Latino community, but you can't just do immigration. Immigration is an emotional issue for all Latinos, especially when you have a President who demagogues us for being brown. President Trump has no problem with white immigrants, he only has a problem with brown immigrants and black immigrants. He speaks about Mexico and recently about the poor people of the Bahamas.

So, you use that to make an emotional connection, but then you draw a contrast around economic issues that dramatically affect Latinos. In my long history with working with Latinos, and it is held truth till today, healthcare is still a driving issue in the Latino community. The economy and wages are a big issue. Another huge issue is education because we see that as a stepping stone to the middle class and to get out of poverty, like many of us have thanks to the sacrifices of our parents and grandparents.

Do you think that Bernie Sanders' message is resonating within the community?

So much. Every poll will tell you that. We are doing really, really well with Latinos. We win almost every poll with Latinos because Bernie Sanders is talking about issues that Latinos care about. It is not just immigration. It's canceling student debt. He's talking about making community colleges free, he's talking about a system where healthcare is a human right. He's talking about the core values that Latinos care about. That's why they're walking to him in droves because they share the same values.

"We can win Texas, by 2020 we will have 400 thousand more Latino voters than in 2018"

Back in June, with the debates in Miami, immigration and Latino issues were at the center stage of the conversation. Do you feel that they have been losing importance in the primary process?

I don't think so because you have this large, emerging group of Latinos who are showing up in places that are not in Texas and California. You think about these states that matter so much to the presidential democratic primary and there are big groups of Latinos living in places like Iowa or South Carolina, that matter a lot to this presidential campaign, so I think their relevance is going to be so important.

How important is the Latino vote in the rust belt states?

There have been almost a half a million Latinos in this region. There are Latinos that I've met in Minnesota, who's families came here in the last century to work in meatpacking and their children are now citizens, eligible to vote. That story is being told all over Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The Latino vote is going to be a huge part of the elections moving forward.

Why have Democrats been unable to win the Latino vote in Florida?

Florida is just different than any other state because of the Cuban population. You have a unique set of Latino issues. A big swath of Latinos who are conservative, mostly vote Republican and live in the South Florida area who are Cuban. You have a huge population of over a million Puertorriqueñans who mainly vote Democratic. Then you sprinkle in a group of immigrants from Central America and groups of Mexicans around the Tampa area and you have such a collage of Latino voices. The reason Democrats do bad is that you have a group Republican Cubans who don't care for Democrats. You then have Democrats who only hire white consultants to go on and talk to brown people in Florida and that's a losing combination.

Is there a route for the Democratic nominee to win Florida in 2020?

Oh my gosh, yes. I would say that it would be tougher with someone other than Donald Trump, but he makes it much easier. Thee way he demagogues people around race. You may have Cubans who tend to be more conservative, but they don't like people talking smack about borders or about people from other lands who are fleeing war or a dictatorship to come to a better land, and Donald Trump is trying to turn them away. That people that came here from Cuba, leaving a regime that was being bad, if Donald Trump would have been the President back then he would have turned the Cubans back.

Is your firm working with any other candidates?

We have several campaigns around the country. Last year we worked on 32 winning congressional races, so we worked on a majority of all of the big races in the House of Representatives.

The biggest obstacle is to overcome all the outside money that's going to be spent by professional lobbyists and Wall Street people who do not want to see him win the nomination. They will spend a lot of money to take him out. They don't want him to be President

What do you think of candidates like Cristina Tzinztzún Ramirez?

Her problem is that the greatest politicians in the world never got elected because they didn't have the money to win. If she can raise the money, she can do anything she wants. Because Texas is such a big area, Cristina needs to let those people know who she is and what she stands for. But without millions of dollars it is hard to get to those people.

What do you think about the narrative around the differences between progressive and centrist Democrats? Could this be a problem for the eventual nominee?

I don't think so. I think it's a narrative that's gin up by the press. People say that Medicare for all is some lefty idea, pie in the sky when almost 70 percent of Americans think that it's a great idea and some want to categorize it like some fringe idea. Three-quarters of the population think it's a great proposal.

What is the biggest challenge for Senator Sanders to win the primary?

The biggest obstacle is to overcome all the outside money that's going to be spent by professional lobbyists and Wall Street people who do not want to see him win the nomination. As this thing gets closer to election day you are going to see outside Super PACs and groups pop up to take on him and the philosophies of the campaign because we would not be good for bankers. They will spend a lot of money to take him out. They don't want him to be President.

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