Sunday - Apr 21, 2019

Did they understand the Latino vote?

by José de la Isla
Hispanic Link News Service

MEXICO CITY —John M. Ackerman warned about political quicksand in a Los Angeles Times essay. Ackerman edits the Mexican Law Review, he is a professor at the Autonomous University of Mexico and currently a visiting scholar at American University in Washington, D.C.

A plausible scenario is that Republicans have realized they will never get more than a sliver of the Latino vote, perhaps for generations (if the party lasts that long) instead of a larger helping of the Latino vote in the future.

After all, Romney only got 21 percent of Latinos voting for him.

The quicksand for Latinos is that a lethargic President Obama has to deliver little because he has Latinos in his hip pocket and doesn’t have to fully deliver because he’s not running again. Latinos are the ones sinking.

But the headline, “Latinos need immigration reform, not crumbs,” announcing Ackerman’s essay in the Times should have read the other way around, “Republicans Need Immigration Reform, Not Crumb-Bums.”

While Republicans do seem to have a death wish, a lot of damage control is in order to not further hurt the fabric of society.

Proof of their last rites were uttered by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who mumbled about English as some kind of requirement for citizenship. This is both insulting because of its implications about being lazy, dumb, and discourteous. It is dangerous because it’s really a statement about culture-dominance, implies ethnic inferiority, and gives solace to hate groups.

Also, it’s based on a lie. Instead, language acquisition has never been at a faster pace in this country. People who listen to Graham on this and believe him are either lazy about the facts, don’t understand because they are dim, or discourteous for which there is no excuse.

Other Republican leaders on the whole are not any better. Even two out-going senators, who have nothing to lose, miss an opportunity to set their party straight. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.), introduced the Achieve Act that does not reform but represses.

It would cut back on those who are eligible for citizenship, increase deportations, promote racial profiling, apply English-only, repress Latino studies, encourage persecutions by state and local authorities, and encourage new border security when such measures have proven they work best to keep good people out and crooks doing land-office business.

What the Republicans need is immigration reform of substance and not of paranoia, in order to counteract a tepid President Obama, who is no reformer but an accommodater, a late adapter, another leader who would rather look good than do good.

The charade about so-called “immigration” reform begins all over again.

With it is a misleading interpretation what the Latino vote was all about.

First of all, don’t forget this was not the first or second time Latinos have been influential, if not decisive, in presidential elections, but have been for a half century. The real “Sleeping Giant” is not them but an American public that has not known how to interpret the American electorate as it incubates.

In that sense, the Nov. 6 election was the second “voto castigo” Latinos cast in presidential elections. It was not an unprecendented vote for Obama but also the flip side, an unprecedented vote against Romney.

President Obama was the beneficiary of it, the same way George W. Bush was when the Latino vote in Florida turned against Al Gore in 2000 to punish him and the Democratic Party because of the Elian González affair, when INS troopers forcibly took the child from family to return him to Cuba.

Florida Latinos remembered at election time the same way national Latinos remembered the despicable characterizations and lies about Latinos, their families and friends by right-wingers and Republicans.

Ackerman in his Times essay is right on policy and wrong on politics.

For now, suffice it to say, Republican wrong-headedness need not be treated even as crumbs. They are the unintelligible jabberings in an unintelligible foreign language of policy interests so out of touch they arrogantly act as if they won.

That kind of behavior will lead to the next well-deserved voto castigo for not understanding humility before the voters and the public.

(José de la Isla, a nationally syndicated columnist for Hispanic Link and Scripps Howard news services, has been recognized for two consecutive years for his commentaries by New America Media. His next book, The Rise of Latino Political Power, will appear early in 2013. Reach him at

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