Courtesy photo from Facebook page
of Democrats Abroad in Mexico
Jan 22, 2018
Mexico Democrats Mobilize for the 2018 U.S. Mid-Terms
Mexico Democrats Mobilize for the 2018 U.S. Mid-Terms
By Kent Paterson/Digie Zone Network correspondent
Expats don't have to be disconnected to politics in their countries of origin. That's the message of Democrats Abroad in Mexico and other nations.
With the 2018 U.S. mid-terms in mind, Democrats Abroad held a mid-January forum in Puerto Vallarta that examined U.S. political races in almost microscopic detail, discussed the ability of dual [nationals and or citizens] to vote in two countries, and distributed information on how expats or visiting U.S. residents can both register to vote and cast ballots either electronically or by mail from Mexico.
Leading off the forum presentations, Dr. Michael Hais, Puerto Vallarta resident and the author of books on the Millenial Generation, framed an optimistic, big picture of the Democrats' future. Hais sketched out how the 95 million-strong Millenial generation is skewing Democratic politics in a big way, citing Pew Research Center numbers that show Millenial identification with the Democrats increasing from 53 percent in 2004 to 57 percent in 2016. By the same token, Millenial identification with the Republicans dropped from 38 percent to 36 percent during the same years, according to Hais.
"You have a generation that is large and relatively unified, and that's the advantage Democrats have with the Millenials," Hais said. The political scientist discussed how other developments such as the full incorporation of women into the workforce and the expected transformation of the U.S. into a "majority minority" country during the next 20-25 years favor a Democratic future.
Hais cautioned that Democrats can't take base aspirations for granted or rely on an anti-Trump posture. He recommended the party promote policies popular among Democratic voters-including health care and free college- contending that political impacts await, like in the November 2017 Virginia election when Democrat Ralph Northam took the governorship in a contest in which health care was the "single most important issue."
Adding his two cents to the storm over President Trump's "shithole" countries controversy, which has garnered huge media attention-and revulsion- in Mexico, Hais threw water on President Trump's purported desire to see more peoples like the Norwegians migrate to the U.S.
"One of the reasons why Norwegians don't come to the U.S. is because they offer free college and health care," he said. "Why would Norwegians want to come to the U.S?"
According to the former university professor, "Democrats are in a position to dominate if they are careful...but you have to mobilize (the base). You can't take it for granted."
Scrambles on the Electoral Map
Paul Crist, who once worked as a staffer for former Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes, delivered a thick analysis of Democrats' prospects in the upcoming Congressional and state elections. Looking at both the House and Senate, Crist said the Democrats have their best possibilities in the House, where 29 Republicans have announced they are not running again, including longtime power players such as Darrell Issa of California or Ileana Ros-Lehitnen of Florida.
"The House is definitely our best shot this year to win a majority and put a brake on the Trump, far-right agenda..." Crist said. “...and it's gonna be a question of turnout, and because of the current president we have we're gonna have a solid turnout."
Although Democrats are only two seats short of regaining the Senate, Crist judged their chances as iffy because of the current election year map that has six Democrats going up for reelection in G.O.P trending states.
Crist identified possible Democratic losses in West Virginia, Missouri, North Dakota, Florida, Pennsylvania and Montana. He likewise forecast difficult roads ahead in New Jersey, where longtime Democratic Senator Bob Menendez escaped conviction on bribery charges because of a mistrial but is now tainted by negative publicity, and Minnesota, where Democrat Tina Smith replaced her colleague Al Franken after the comedian-turned politician resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Besides taking into account recent Republican surges in Minnesota, "hardly anyone knows who Tina Smith is," Crist said.
On the other hand, Crist detected bright spots for senatorial Democrats in Nevada and Texas, where Latino voters could play decisive roles. In the Lone Star State, incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz's unfavorable rating of more than fifty percent gives the leading Democratic hopeful, El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke, whom Crist called an "eloquent speaker and good orator" with a "Kennedysque" flair as portrayed by Vanity Fair magazine, an opportunity for a historic upset.
If Democrats rally and pour resources into the expensive Texas media market, the El Paso politician "has a shot" at unseating one of the nation's leading Republican figures, Crist asserted.
Nationwide, "I think we will see record turnout because Democrats are motivated and energized by Trump," Crist predicted.
The Puerto Vallarta hotelier and veteran political activist cast a spotlight on gubernatorial elections, which he said are crucial for the future political makeup of the U.S. since governors elected in 2018 will be in office at the time the 2020 Census and in a position to influence electoral redistricting maps in 2021. In 26 U.S. states, governors enjoy the power to accept or reject maps drawn by legislators, according to Crist.
"We really have to pay attention to governors' races this year," he underscored. Democrats are likely to win governorships in New Mexico and Maine and have "possible pickups" in more populated Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, Crist projected.
Entrepreneur and filmmaker Anna Maria Davis Aispuro, who says she is a citizen of Mexico and the United States, and comes from a family with roots on both sides of the border, weighed in on the idiosyncrasies of the Latino vote and the dynamics of social and political changes.
Because of the spread of technology and the ability of individuals in today's world to reach many, many people with the click of a button, "This little room could have a huge impact to what happens in our country," she told the 30 or so people gathered for the forum.
Davis, whose life path has included a stint as a Republican, estimated about one million dual citizens like her reside in Mexico, constituting a unique if still largely untapped force with the ability to influence government policies both south and north of the border.
Davis said she was previously uncomfortable about voting in Mexican elections because of her unfamiliarity with all the important issues at stake. Now, however Davis vowed "to do it this year" for the first time, when Mexicans will elect a new president, new congress and local and state officials in 30 states on July 1.
Hais and Crist agreed that Latino voters in 2018 could be critical in deciding electoral outcomes, especially in places like Nevada and Texas. The trio of presenters at the Puerto Vallarta forum considered the monolithic "Latino vote" that is bandied about in the media a misnomer because of varying ethnic identities, religious backgrounds, generational differences on social issues and geographic factors, all of which must be understood in analyzing political motivations and behavior.
Democrats Rising in Mexico
January's political forum was the first of three Democrats Abroad planned for Puerto Vallarta during the first three months of the year, with the next two events scheduled to focus on immigration and economic issues like the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In Puerto Vallarta and its environs, "hundreds" belong to the Costa Banderas chapter of Democrats Abroad, according to Tobe Jensen, the group's chair. In addition to forums, the Costa Banderas chapter sponsors a film series and engages in ongoing informational campaigns on voting from abroad in U.S. federal and state elections.
The group works with two types of U.S. citizens in Puerto Vallarta: fulltime residents of Mexico and those who may be in the country for short or long periods of time.
"We look at it as voter education, period...," Jensen said.
"Every state is different," when it comes to voting procedures from abroad, added Costa Banderas chapter member Paula Dulak, who works on get-out-the-vote effort. Jensen and Dulak said their group has an agreement with the local U.S. Consulate, which will stamp a seal of approval and mail back paper ballots whenever necessary.
Jensen informed that Democrats Abroad in Mexico counts other chapters in Mazatlan, Lake Chapala, Guadalajara, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico City and Oaxaca. The Guadalajara chapter is a newer group, she said, while a rejuvenated Mexico City chapter comprises about 1,000 members, many of them younger working professionals with a different demographic profile than the older retirees who form the organization's base in Puerto Vallarta and the Banderas Bay region.
Jensen held that expats can make a difference in U.S. elections. According to Democrats Abroad official website (https://www.democratsabroad.org/), the organization has 42 country committees in the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia and members in more than 190 nations. Eight members of Democrats Abroad sit on the Democratic National Committee, and the group has a voice at the quadrennial Democratic National Convention.
Before 2016, U.S. Republican expats maintained some public presence in Mexico. But Republicans in Mexico now appear to have gone virtually underground. A Facebook entitled "Republicans Overseas Mexico" shows almost no activity since the spring of 2016, prior to Donald Trump's nomination for president.
"Are there any pro Trump groups active in Mexico?" questioned a February 2017 entry from a writer posting as Carolyn T. Kenyon. "The Dems are actively showing their disrespect. What are conservative patriots doing in Mexico? And is this page even active?"
Trump's election triggered concerns among U.S. expats in Mexico that they might suffer retaliatory aggressions, and scattered incidents did occur, Jensen said.
In response, the Costa Banderas chapter of Democrats Abroad began distributing post card size messages to taxi drivers, shopkeepers and other locals. Written as a solidarity message, the Spanish-language statement notes that "many people from Mexico, Canada and the U.S. are worried about the language of the new U.S. president with respect to relations with Mexico, including deportation threats against immigrants and the imposition of commercial barriers."
The message, which is still being passed around town according to Jensen, continues: "We are committed to working together to expand our ways of building communication bridges based on mutual respect for our differences and the appreciation of our shared values."
Facebook link for Democrats in Mexico Democrats in Mexico
Link for U.S. voters who live abroad Vote from abroad
Author-journalist Kent Paterson is an expert on Mexican and U.S.-Mexico border politics. He served as editor of the former Frontera NorteSur online news service.