Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's the Hispanic Vote, Estupido!

Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer won handily in California, Harry Reid won by a substantial margin in Nevada, and Michael Bennett and Patty Murray narrowly won. The underlying force in all these elections was the Hispanic vote.

Hispanics are a rapidly growing population in the United States, especially in the states of the Southwest.

Hispanics comprise 8% of the national voting block, but 22% in California.
Governor, and later President, George W. Bush, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and candidate Meg Whitman understood the need to assimilate Hispanics into the American Dream and not to discriminate against them.

Call it amnesty if you want, but assimilation is the goal.

Hispanics, like every other ethnic group in America, are not a monolithic voting bloc on most issues. We can distinguish Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans from each other, but Jennifer Lopez, a Puerto Rican playing Selena, a Latina, expressed the commonality “We are all Latina under the skin.”

One can be anti-illegal immigrants without being racist against all Hispanics. A fine line separates the two. One can easily justify securing the borders, but a campaign against birth right citizenship sends a different message. Hispanics who have been here for generations, and those here as legal immigrants, often oppose amnesty for it hurts them as much as any American. However, when the rhetoric turns anti-Hispanic, that is, racist, Hispanics become united as one, against those spouting the racist language. That means they overwhelmingly vote Democratic, as do most economically disadvantaged immigrant groups.

Meg Whitman understood that capturing a large percent of the Hispanic vote we essential to her campaign, since winning a majority of the white vote will not, by itself, bring victory in California.

However, in the primary she campaigned as anti-immigrant when pushed by her primary opponent, Steve Poizner. As soon as her primary victory was secured, she ran ads in the Hispanic media touting her support for Hispanics. The image of speaking out of both sides of her mouth, or indecisiveness, quickly arose.

Her outreach to Hispanics fell apart when Gloria Allred held her press conference on September 29,alleging the candidate fired her nanny, Nicky Diaz Santillan, when she decided to run for governor. Whitman’s campaign collapsed as the tears rolled down Diaz’s face.

Jerry Brown carried the Hispanic vote by roughly a 2:1 advantage, and won by over 800,000 votes.

Senate candidate Carly Fiorina supported Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which is anathema to Hispanics. She polled worse among Hispanics than Meg Whitman, and fell short by almost 900,000 votes.

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo’s run for governor of Colorado as an independent, when the Republican candidate self-imploded after the primary, was doomed because of his anti-immigrant crusade. He lost by 14%.

Senator Michael Bennett won reelection by about 15,500 votes in Colorado.

Senator Reid assiduously courted the Hispanic vote, such as by scheduling a Senate vote on amnesty and the dream Act. He knew it would fail, but he showed the Hispanics that he was with them. So what if he was opposed to amnesty two decades ago. That was then; this is now.

Conversely, Sharron Angle in Arizona ran an anti-illegal immigrant ad and uttered offensive remarks about Hispanics. These actions helped bring out the vote for Senator Reid.

The casino moguls in Nevada supported the Senate Majority Leader. The SEIU, which represents a large percentage of casino workers, especially the African Americans and Hispanics, got the vote out for Senator Reid. Exit polls showed Hispanics constituted 1/6 of the vote in Nevada, and voted for the Senator by a 2-1 margin.
Angel may have thought she had a chance of winning, but she didn’t.

Politicians such as Angel, Fiorina, and Tancredo should learn lessons from Texas Republicans.

The conservative Texas Republicans have increased their political hold over the state even with an increasing Hispanic Party. They have done so by practicing the politics of inclusion rather than exclusion.

The political power in Los Angeles, and hence California, lies with the Hispanic/Labor coalition.

And yet, the Republicans can win with Hispanic candidates. Susana Martinez won the governorship in liberal New Mexico, while Brian Sandoval beat Senator Reid’s son by about 85,000 votes, twice the margin of the Senator’s victory, to win the governorship in Nevada. Marco Rubio won the Senate seat in Florida.

Think Texas. Inclusion, not insults!

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