Unemployment among Latinos is stuck at 11%. A high number of Latinos have lost their homes. Hopes for a comprehensive immigration reform have gone unfulfilled and a record number of immigrants were deported this past year. Reports indicate that the great recession affected (and continues to affect) Latino children more than others. All of these things happened during Barack Obama’s watch at the White House.
Now stack these realities and shove them against the rapidly approaching presidential election, and you’ve got a reasonably panicked Obama campaign.
It’s no wonder the president was in Los Angeles this past week. One third of the population of California is Latino; LA has the second highest concentration of Latinos in the country. According to the most recent poll Obama’s approval rating among Latinos is down to 49% from a high of 67% when he was voted into office. That’s a hefty 18% drop. The president knows he’s got to do something to motivate the disillusioned Latino electorate, and he’s got little to stand on.
The president is in full campaign mode these days, and he took his road show to where it would have the greatest impact. It’s not that he needs to win over new supporters, he needs to motivate and convince his past supporters to give him another chance. The New York Daily News painted a succinct picture:
Obama has said his jobs agenda would help Hispanics in the construction industry and provide tax breaks for small businesses. On immigration, he has targeted violent criminals for deportation and urged Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The president’s problem is that those accomplishments translate poorly to the daily lives of most Latinos. And stuck where they are, most Latinos look to the 2012 presidential election as an exercise in dismal choice.
They can continue to support President Barack Obama despite being hurt disproportionately by the economic downturn or turn to Republicans at a time when many GOP presidential hopefuls have taken a hard line on immigration.
While he was at it, the president made the obligatory rounds among the Hollywood faithful funders: celebrities and big shots. He made a guest shot on the Jay Leno Show and rubbed elbows with movie stars at an event at Antonio Banderas’ house. Not that any of that will improve his support among Latinos. It will, though, improve the level of his campaign war chest.
The very stark truth is that all Obama has to offer Latino voters is another set of promises – many of them the same promises he made three years ago. What he’s hoping is that whoever the GOP nominates to run against him will be so unacceptable to Latinos that they’ll return to him come election day. So far none of the Republican presidential hopefuls have sparked the slightest bit of support among Latinos, that’s not Obama’s problem. What the president needs to concern himself about is whether Latinos will go to the polls at all.
As it stands most Latinos feel, as the LA Times put it, disheartened at the President’s record. You get the feeling he’ll be making more trips to the Latino community in the months to come.
[Photo Courtesy Allison Harger]