July 26th, 2011
GOP, Dems Want Latino Votes, What Do We Want In Return?

That the Republican Party is busy recruiting Latinos is not surprising, given the recent success of Marco Rubio in Florida and Raul Labrador, the first ever Latino elected to the senate from Idaho. The Republicans have to keep the momentum going if they plan to make a dent in the Latino, Democratic faction, but as Latino voters being courted we all have to be wary of attempts by either party to convince us they are deserving of our votes.

There are currently 158 Republican officeholders versus 1,380 Democratic officeholders, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. What this means is that Democratic officeholders outnumber Republican officeholders almost 10-to-one. But, does that mean those figures are going to hold? More importantly, in what ways will the conservative fringes of the Latino community attempt to bum rush our progressive, Democratic core?

Should Latinos be wary of the Republican Party’s current desires to entice them to the dark side? Well, according to NALEO, about 22 million Latinos are set to be eligible to vote by 2012, perhaps even more. And, given that the Republican State Leadership Committee announced a plan to invest $3 million into the recruitment of 100 Latino candidates for state legislative seats across the nation in 2012, we have to be wary.

This Republican State Leadership Committee’s “investment” is a smarmy attempt to elicit our votes without providing any assurances that our votes will benefit our communities.

So, what is to be done? How can the Democratic party cement its supremacy, and rejuvenate its scrappy creed? Well, the first thing it can do is use the bullhorn to extol its victories in the area of labor and legislation.

  • Unions have taken most of the brunt of this economic meltdown; but, unions and the Democratic Party have been aligned since the 1960s; their hard work earned the working class several privileges we take for granted (the 40-hour work week, minimum wage, health insurance, paid leave, pensions, Social Security and Medicare, over-time pay, etc.).
  • The Democrats have a reputation for being squeamish and mild-mannered, for apologizing for things that Republicans get away with all the time. If Democrats want to keep Latino votes they will need to get their elbows dirty, and start talking to people where they understand it most: in the pocketbook.
  • And they will have eventually have to address the immigration question, and come out strong on the side of naturalizing undocumented workers en masse because there are too many Latino families rent apart by our unfair immigration practices which allow our country to exploit undocumented workers and not provide for their basic, human needs.

I feel like I got hoodwinked by the concept of “Hope and Change,” and that the Democratic party used me in the last election. It is well documented that two-thirds of Latino voters cast their ballots for Obama, which speaks leagues about how little race played a part in our decisions. The sad truth is Obama has had to make many concessions and has faced much resistance from the Republicans; I find it miraculous that he was able to get any legislation passed.

But, at the same time, I would be remiss if I told you I wasn’t nostalgic for a time when Democrats, like Johnson, envisioned what a Great Society might look like. I understand the Republican penchant for idolizing small government, but I look at something like Social Security, which used to stand as a guarantee that growing old didn’t necessarily mean growing poor, and genuinely feel nostalgic and want to retain that image of my country.

Yago Cura is a writer based in Los Angeles. He edits the online journal Hinchas de Poesia and moderates the blog Spicaresque. Follow him on Twitter @theshusher

[Photo By Muffet]

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