Obama Awakens the Giant

U.S. Hispanics to join together to harness the power that
has given them their participation in the presidential
Originally posted by NILP
by Mercedes Gallego, New York Correspondent
Diario La Rioja (Spain) (November 11, 2012)
translated from Spanish by NiLP

“For over 30 years, we been saying that the Hispanic vote was a sleeping giant. Well, the giant awoke.” Angelo Falcón, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NILP), has found in this election vindication for a lifetime of claims. For the first time, U.S. Hispanics have been instrumental in winning the White House. It’s time to pull their weight and collect on the bill for the loyalty shown to the Democratic Party, receiving 71% of the Hispanic vote.

Contrary to popular belief, that percentage is no record. Jimmy Carter won 76% of the Hispanic vote in 1976 and even before they beat Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson, with 90% and 87%, respectively. What has changed this time is the increase in population. Just in the 2000s the Hispanic population increased by 15.2 million. Hispanics are now 22 million potential voters, of which 12.2 were registered to vote and cast 10% of all votes. Each month, 50,000 new Hispanic youth reach voting age, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center. In other words, that is 600,000 new voters each year. And while Anglo youth increased 10%, Hispanics increased 62%.

Of these, 74% of those under age 30 voted for Obama, compared to 67% of whites. The numbers could not speak more clearly. This is the greatest political treasure chest the Democratic Party has to retain power. The low turnout so far this sector has had has only shown that its potential can double. Hence the “myopia” that the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, married to a Mexican, attributed to the Republican Party for its anti-immigration policies. “The future of our party is to reach out consistently, to have a tone that is open and welcoming to people who share our values,” he said in September during the convention in Tampa (Florida).

Laws like the one in Arizona and Mitt Romney’s speech “promoting self-deportation” making life miserable for the undocumented has also lost them the Asian vote, the largest demographic capture the Democratic Party in this election. Obama received 73% this year, compared to 62% in 2008.

Until yesterday in Florida dropped Romney’s score after an agonizing count. The visionary role of Jeb Bush, to oppose a decade of anti-immigration policies of his party and warning that it would come with a political cost, put at the head of the Republican pack that aims to recapture the White House in 2016. Many also speak of Marco Rubio, a young senator from Florida who came to power with the support of the Tea Party movement but has found a more moderate voice. His name was promoted as vice president to Romney, who ultimately chose someone more radical, Paul Ryan, to mobilize the right-wing base.

Teresa Navarro, president of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (Plan), is convinced that Rubio would not be a threat to the Democrats. “He’s too extreme, people do not identify with him,” she says. Rubio, who grew up in Nevada, is of Cuban descent, a group with very different experiences and interests to those of other Hispanics.

Juan Andrade, director of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI), asks not to consider the Latino electorate as a monolithic group with predetermined loyalties, because that would make them lose strength. “We are all partisan, independent and nonpartisan.” U.S. Hispanics come from 21 countries, but 64% are of Mexican origin, compared with 3.5% Cuban, which are concentrated between Florida and New Jersey. While Cubans are guaranteed political asylum in the U.S. upon setting foot on its territory, Mexicans often spend their entire lives in the country without getting legal status. Even Puerto Ricans, who are American citizens by birthm account for 9% and sympathize more with immigration problems.

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“I really don’t care a damn about the political fortunes of Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush or any of them,” the NILP President declared. Falcón does not believe that any of them can compete in four years with the Democrats. Neither George W. Bush, who was the Republican who received the most percentage of Hispanic votes in history to reach 40%, “with the best propaganda campaign that would have been,” explains Navarro. “They sent a CD that was very well done to all Hispanics in seven states.”

What Falcón explains is that the Democrats need to start paying back the the loyalty of their community with tangible changes that meet their needs. That would have to start with the promise of immigration reform and the increasing number of Hispanics in the government workforce. “We are the community most underrepresented in the federal government,” he explains. “We represent 16% of the population and 13% of the labor force, but only 8% of the federal charges,” he adds.

Obama said the name of both the first Hispanic justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, prompting for the first time that The New York Times and other newspapers to discuss for the first whether it is better to speak of “Latino” or “Hispanic,” without coming to a conclusion.

The keynote speech at the Democratic convention was given by the mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro, who in the opinion of Falcón is still a very local politician. Among those most mentoined to exercise Hispanic leadership are the former mayor of Los Angeles and chairman of the Democratic Convention this year, Antonio Villaraigosa, former Secretary of Housing Henry Cisneros with Bill Clinton, the former governor of New Mexico and former ambassador to the UN with Clinton, Bill Richardson, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the president of the National Council of La Raza Janet Murguia, president of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Xavier Becerra and Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez.

“Maybe the country is ready for a Hispanic president, but the Hispanic community may not be,” in Falcón’s judgment. “It is time to come together with a common strategy and force national political leaders to stop remembering us only when elections come. We must use the power we have, that’s the real challenge.”

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