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Democrats in Mexico Mobilize for 2018 U.S. Election

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January 24, 2018

With country committees and local chapters in over 80 countries around the world, Democrats Abroad is the official Democratic Party organization for the millions of Americans living outside the United States.

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico - Expats don't have to be disconnected from politics in their countries of origin. That's the message of the group 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, Mexico that examined U.S. political races in almost microscopic detail, discussed the ability of dual citizens to vote in two countries, and distributed information on how expats or visiting U.S. residents can 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 millennial generation, framed an optimistic, big picture of the Democrats' future. Hais sketched out how the 95 million-strong millennial generation is skewing Democratic in a big way, citing Pew Research Center numbers that show millennial identification with the Democrats increasing from 53 percent in 2004 to 57 percent in 2016. By the same token, millennial 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 millennials," 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.

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 Sen. 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 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 and 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 re-election in G.O.P trending states. Nationwide, "I think we will see record turn out because Democrats are motivated & energized by Trump," Crist said.

The Puerto Vallarta hotelier and veteran political activist cast a spotlight on gubernatorial elections 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 is a citizen of both 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 & political changes.

Because of the spread of technology and the ability of individuals in today's world to reach 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 of 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 and 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 plan 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: full-time 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 efforts. 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.

Kent Paterson is an independent journalist who covers issues in the U.S./Mexico border region. Read the full article at