What was witnessed on the Iowa Caucus night was a scene that gave many hope and goosebumps. Across Iowa, hundreds of Latinos caucused, some for the first time and most of them for the same candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders. With a lead of more than 6,000 votes, Senator Sanders can feel accomplished that his campaign’s outreach was effective and delivered results. He tweeted, “with eight strong candidates competing, that is a decisive margin of victory.” And despite the confusion and delay of the results there is no doubt that Sanders won the Latino vote in Iowa.
According to the New York Times, Sanders won the support of 45% of non-white women, 39% all non-white, 43% of women between the ages of 18-44 and 43% of people between the ages of 18-44. These results will have an impact on future generations in the state and their involvement in the political process. Future candidates will want a pie of his strategy.
Sanders goal was clear from the beginning of his campaign, get folks who have been forgotten and excluded be welcomed in his political movement. One of his campaign senior advisors, Chuck Rocha explained how the campaign was confident they would see a great Latino turnout because they had spent nine months speaking with the community. “We never had a doubt because we were having weekly and daily conversations with Latinos who were making plans to caucus,” said Rocha.
Historically, the Iowa Caucuses were not accessible to the Latino community. Some of the barriers included lack of information access and outreach from the Iowa Democrat Party and past campaigns. Many U.S. born Latinos were not aware what the Iowa Caucuses were until recent years. Sanders built a campaign made up of diverse experts, many Latinos, including DACA recipients. The most impressive aspect of his staff was that many of them were from Iowa while other campaigns brought Latinos from other states with no prior relationships with local communities.
Through culturally relevant events, the Sanders campaign connected with the community through a genuine outreach strategy that included posadas, banda concerts, soccer tournaments and many more.
Days before the Caucus, I heard a comment about how Bernie was speaking to people who are not traditional voters and they weren’t sure people would follow through. This made them nervous about Sanders ability to win the general election. These are questions and comments often made by his opposition. To Sanders victory, the voters people didn’t believe in, showed up and won the popular vote for him.
Bilingual satellite locations made the Caucuses accessible to traditionally marginalized communities. Images from these sites are re-shaping the view of this predominantly white state. To the surprise of many, people of color who caucused at these sites were there to support Senator Bernie Sanders.
According to Univision Noticias, there were 187 voters at the Des Moines Southside YMCA bilingual Caucus site and 171 of them caucused for Sanders. No other candidate was viable at this site. The bilingual Muscatine satellite Caucus reported 81 voters in attendance and 72 caucused for Sanders.
Other communities of color caucused in large numbers for Sanders as well. Caucuses that took place in Mosques and diverse Des Moines precincts saw naturalized immigrants and refugees participate for the first time and over 90% of them supported Senator Sanders.
In a Cedar Rapids multicultural precinct, eight different languages were spoken such as English, Nepali, Swahili, French, Spanish, Lingala, Kirundi and Kinyarwanda. There was an overwhelming number of Sander supporters with 107 out of the 121 causing for him. No other candidate was viable.
While we sort through the Caucus failures, it would be disrespectful to ignore the impact Latinos, immigrants and refugees had on Caucus night. Some of them may come from countries where the distrust in government and politicians is prominent. Others may have survived political turmoil and wars. It is monumental that they chose to trust a politician after everything they have witnessed and experienced.
For too long the misconception has been that such communities don’t care to participate. On Monday, communities of color proved that everything is possible with the right outreach, investment in time and resources and accessibility.
Bernie Sanders won beyond the popular vote, he proved he can beat Donald Trump by bringing out those most affected to participate in the political process. If he can accomplish this in Iowa, he can accomplish this across the nation.
About the writer
Kenia is an immigrant writer sharing with you stories of resilience. You can find her works at CoffeewithKenia.com