Thursday, December 8, 2022

[Editorial] Can the Dems Get Out the Latino Vote?

By on August 4, 2016

After returning from wire-to-wire coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, little doubt remains that the Latino vote will be key in the coming election.

The Hispanic American vote was key in the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. Although Latinos played a pivotal role in the primaries for Clinton months earlier, they came out in force for the first African-American president in the general elections.

MIAMI, FL - JULY 23: Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) speaks during a campaign rally with Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Florida International University Panther Arena on July 23, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine made their first public appearance together a day after the Clinton campaign announced Senator Kaine as the Democratic vice presidential candidate. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

MIAMI, FL – JULY 23: Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) speaks during a campaign rally with Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Florida International University Panther Arena on July 23, 2016 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This journalist witnessed the fervor of that campaign—we interviewed Hillary in Philadelphia prior to the Pennsylvania primary and saw from the ground up how a movement took on a life of its own—the acceptance speech that was to have been delivered at the Pepsi Center (an arena) was moved to Invesco Field (a stadium) holding 80,000 people.

2008 was a grueling campaign of firsts—a woman and an African-American running for president. No matter who won, history would be made. It is truly amazing that Obama made it through to secure the nomination because he, too, had the party brass to overcome—on that occasion the chips in play were Michigan and Florida, the delegates of which were impugned because they voted on a date out of turn in 2008. Bigwig Harold Ickes, a Clinton supporter, fought doggedly to have those delegates included because he could then make a case that Hillary should have the support of the superdelegates, who are something like free agents with the power to sway the nomination.

That was history in the making—Obama was so electrifying in his public discourse of “hope and change” that the questions of the electorate tracing to his otherness paled in comparison to his charisma, leading to his eventual election to the U.S. presidency. Intelligence trumped ignorance; the Republican ticket was not helped by the inclusion of the polar nincompoop Sarah Palin.

Fast forward to 2016—otherness is still playing large on center stage. Again, the Latino vote will play huge in the outcome. If experience tells us anything, it is that the Latino vote is not one single voting bloc, homogenous in its concerns.

That much was made clear in the 2008 Ya Es Hora Latino Voter Forums. That report provided an X-ray of Hispanic bastions. The takeaway? It takes more than getting a few Hispanic superstars on the stage saying “Juntos Podemos” or having a Vice Presidential candidate hablando español to get out the votes on election day. Hillary will have to connect with the Latino electorate.

She has a better chance of doing that than Donald Trump, who has foot-in-mouth syndrome—not to mention a slight me-so-hot-Eurobabe issue with Melania.

Yes, the Latino vote will play large in this contest. And it is important to pay attention to the concerns of each constituent subgroup. Important states in play—Texas, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado all have immigration, healthcare and education issues. But none will play larger than Florida with its 700,000 Puerto Ricans living along the I-4 corridor.

One of the issues that the Democratic Party is polling in that key battleground state is the passing of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Economic Stability Act (Promesa). The numbers thus far are not encouraging. One K Street lobbyist with ties to the Democratic Party, Manuel Ortiz, told this newspaper that “increasingly, the measure is viewed negatively among the electorate.”

Trump is hoping he can take at least 14% of the African-American vote. If he achieves that, along with the confluence of Promesa malcontents in Hispanic Florida, this election could be a nail biter. Then a bigot could be the president of a nation of immigrants? Unbelievable.

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