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RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.: Hispanic Gen Z is unaffiliated — and, thus, in control

I believe young Hispanic voters are the future. Teach them well, and let them lead the way.

Actually, that is not entirely correct. It’s obvious that — of the five generations that will gather around Grandma’s table for the Easter meal (silent, baby boom, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z) — the last float on that parade has a lot to teach the others. For example, I’m sure my generation of Xers could learn a thing or two from the cohort of Americans born between 1997 and 2012.

Look around, fellow Americans. The elders — my generation included — have divided the country, destabilized the banking system, worsened race relations, wrecked the criminal justice system, shaken the health care system, made schools unsafe and convinced warring factions of our population that those who disagree with them aren’t just wrong but evil.

The problems started when earlier generations failed Politics 101. In a corrupt and broken system that serves the few at the expense of the many, the two major political parties are dysfunctional.

The GOP is chasing its tail. Republicans who are exhausted by Donald Trump are dumping their principles to cozy up to voters who have made it crystal clear that Trump is their ride-or-die candidate and that they won’t support any Republican for president except him.

Democrats are conflicted. Many of them want President Joe Biden to step aside. A new national poll by Monmouth University found that nearly half of Democrats (44 percent) would prefer that Biden not seek re-election. Yet more than 50 percent of them can’t name a good alternative.

It’s little wonder that Generation Z voters — now between the ages of 18 and 26 — survey all this and say, “No thanks.” Turning their backs on both parties, they’re leading the way to the land of the unaffiliated.

Blind loyalty has been a big part of what’s wrong with our politics. It’s right up there with special interests, big money and hateful rhetoric.

Political parties will never improve as long as there are enough people whose first instinct is to put on their team jersey and support them even when they’re wrong.

That’s the game, and Hispanic Gen Z doesn’t want to play. Recent work by Axios reporter Russell Contreras — a longtime friend who is based in New Mexico — confirms what many of us in the Hispanic community sensed was happening.

Taking the political temperature of Hispanics in a half-dozen states (California, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, New York), Contreras found that many Latino voters — especially the young — are not wedded to either party. Instead, they are increasingly unaffiliated and up for grabs.

“Nonpartisan and unaffiliated Latino voters are on the verge of becoming one of the biggest swing voter groups in the U.S. — raising the stakes for early and regular engagement from both parties,” Contreras wrote in a recent edition of the Axios Latino newsletter.

Ever since the “Viva Kennedy” clubs in the 1960 presidential election, the pooh-bahs in the Hispanic community have pledged their fidelity to the Democratic Party. For generations, Republicans figured they had no chance — while Democrats forgot we existed.

According to a study by the City University of New York, as many as 16.5 million Hispanics voted in the 2020 presidential election. That means that 1 in 10 voters were Hispanic.

If my friend Russell is correct — as a good “journo,” he usually is — and Hispanics emerge as one of the biggest, and thus most important, groups of swing voters, both parties need to up their game.

Republicans would do themselves a lot of good to follow the lead of people such as Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who, as a political novice, preaches a conservative economic message but avoids flirting with the nativism and nationalism that have ensnared Republican governors such as Greg Abbott in Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida.

And Democrats would be smart to steer clear of the bicoastal elitism that these days envelops much of their party. Many Hispanics are likely to have qualms about proposals to pay billions of dollars in reparations to Black Americans (including those who are wealthy), policies that allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports and the insistence that we be referred to as “Latinx.”

Try harder, folks. It’s time for both parties to court Hispanic voters as if their future depends on it. Because it does.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is crimscribe@icloud.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.

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