Podcast: Texas is ‘ground zero’ for mobilizing Latino progressives


In this week’s episode of the SignalCast, we spoke to Antonio Arellano, the director of Jolt Action.

In just a few short years, Americans across the nation have watched a historically Republican state join the ranks of Florida, Iowa, Michigan as key swing states targeted by Democrats.

A significant reason for Texas becoming a battleground state can be attributed to the surge in Latino voter turnout since 2016.

To discuss the critical role of Texas Latinos in 2020 and beyond, the Signal sat down with Antonio Arellano, the director of Jolt Action, a civic engagement organization for Latino progressives in Texas. 

“Listen, every thirty seconds a Latino in the U.S. turns 18,” Arellano said. “In Texas, we know that one out of every five Latinos in the nation calls this state home. So we know that we are ground zero for mobilizing this key group, and we plan to do just that.”

Arellano said Latino culture– from art, music, and food– has already shaped so much of what Texas is. But despite their cultural impact and growing population in the state, they have yet to find proportional representation in the halls of Congress and Texas Legislature. 

“Politically, we’ve struggled to really make substantial change,” Arellano said. “And that’s not the fault of Latinos. It’s truly the fault of the lack of infrastructure in this state. Our communities have historically been unrepresented and not prioritized.”

Arellano said part of mobilizing Latinos to get engaged in the political process is by informing them just how much they can shape and transform the country’s direction. 

“We don’t just parachute in and do voter registration and ask you if you’re registered to vote or not,” Arellano said of Jolt Action’s work. “We take a moment and ask, ‘do you know that in the next three years you’re going to be the majority of the population in this state?’ And a lot of them tell us no.. because they can’t see themselves reflected in the governor’s mansion, they can’t see themselves reflected in the policy coming out of the legislation, they can’t see themselves reflected in the congressional delegation going to D.C.” 

Before and since dropping out of the presidential race, Obama-era HUD Secretary Julián Castro has fought hard for states like Texas to play a more critical role in the early primary process, since early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire are majority-white and can influence which candidates are perceived as electable. Arellano said he agreed with Castro’s calls for reform, especially considering in 2016, Texas performed better than traditional battleground states like Iowa and Ohio, and is in play in 2020. 

“The population in Texas is truly representative of what the nation will soon look like,” Arellano said. “So if you want to actually put forward candidates that represent the nation, you have to start investing in and prioritizing Texas voices.”

You can listen to the full interview and the Signal podcast here

Photo: Jolt Action

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