The Biden Campaign is Speaking Spanglish

BY: 
Nuestro Stories Staff
 | May 15, 2024

In a bid to engage with young Latino voters, the Biden presidential campaign is speaking Spanglish. Again.

Just this Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign debuted a Spanglish healthcare ad targeting Latino voters. And it’s only the beginning. “It’s part of a $14 million campaign of digital ads running in battleground states during May,”  The Hill newspaper explains.

The new ad marks yet another instance of the United States President officially embracing Spanglish, an unofficial language representing U.S. Latinos. And no one’s quite sure it’ll work this time.

Biden Campaign is Speaking Spanglish

In the early 2000s, when the U.S. Census stated that Latinos were the nation’s fastest-growing demographic, language became a hot debate amongst political strategists. Some said Spanish was the way to reach Hispanic voters. Speaking the familial language would win over the entire constituency. However, others argued that the group of voters were more complex. The latter was right. And, eventually, politicians took note. 

In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, approximately 63% of Latinos now speak Spanglish, an informal fusion of Spanish and English. Meanwhile, the percentage of Latinos speaking Spanish at home has declined over the past decade.

“Second-generation Latinos in the U.S., at home, while their parents and grandparents are speaking in Spanish, they’re speaking in English back to them,” Biden campaign spokesperson Fabiola Rodriguez tells Axios. “We’re embracing the fact that our community is evolving and they’re not just speaking Spanish, they’re speaking a combination of it.”

This isn’t the first time the Biden camp has noticed the Latino linguistic evolution, the Biden campaign is betting on Spanglish this year, for the second time.

Speaking Spanglish Twice

This isn’t the first time he’s turn to the informal language to win the U.S. presidency. During the 2020 presidential contest, the Biden campaign experimented with Spanglish, releasing at least one ad in this hybrid language alongside several traditional Spanish-language ads. This year, they’ve doubled down, launching two Spanglish ads with plans for more. The campaign has invested millions in reaching Latino voters, deploying staff and creating tailored content.

The Trump campaign, on the other hand, has not embraced Spanglish and is yet to invest in Spanish-language ads this cycle. Instead, they rely on organic outreach and surrogates like Sen. Marco Rubio, who conducts major interviews with Spanish-language TV stations. 

While Trump appeals to some Latino voters with this strategy, the Biden team is choosing to engage with this demographic more directly. After all, this is an important voter group. Today, Latinos constitute nearly 15% of the U.S. electorate and can significantly impact critical races in battleground states. 

The Challenges of Spanglish

Most agree that Spanglish reflects the reality of a community navigating both languages, bridging cultural gaps. 

Yet, according to one expert, using Spanglish is a delicate balancing act. Done well, it resonates with bilingual audiences, making them feel included. However, done poorly, Spanglish can come across as parody. Carlos Odio, co-founder of Equis Labs, explains that the risk lies in maintaining authenticity while avoiding caricature.

“I think when people are saying that we should do more Spanglish, I think they’re just saying we need more ads that speak culturally to the audience, that understand that the audience wants to feel included,” Odio tells Axios

Whether Spanglish becomes a winning political trend, or a fleeting experiment, remains to be seen. And many in the Latino community, and beyond, will be watching. 

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