by Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo
I don’t usually worry much about party politics until the general election. The many debates and a good deal of the media attention try to reduce serious issues to controversies. The focus is on “the horse race” and not on the role of government.
But I have to react against how Senator Hillary Clinton has rolled the dice against Latinos and Latinas. She did it at the televised debate in Las Vegas, possibly betting we wouldn’t notice.
Just a few days before then, she had “stumbled” (word from the blogs) when asked if she supported New York Gov. Elliott Spitzer’s decision to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. In case you didn’t catch it, she first said she “supported the action,” then changed that to say only that she “understood the reason for the licenses.
Then came a third version – that she hadn’t really taken a stand.
The three statements were made within the period of two minutes, something her rivals, Senators Dodd, Edwards and Obama considered confusing at the very least.
The next few days, according to those in the know, her staff worked furiously to get the governor to retract his initiative – which had been approved by Homeland Security and is already the law in several states including California, the largest in the nation, and in Illinois, the home state of Barack Obama.
Days later, her derriere now covered with behind-the-scene maneuvers, Hillary answered the question about licenses for the undocumented in Las Vegas with an unequivocal, “No.”
I would not be alone in considering this change of position to be a reaction to the polls and a typical politician’s effort to say “whatever is necessary to get elected.”
Frankly, I’m disappointed. I’m not sure if the error is big enough to get me to vote against the senator should she face off against a Republican like Mitt Romney, but it certainly dampens my enthusiasm for her.
Despite compiling a good record for the people of New York, support to end the bombing of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and a generally progressive stance on social welfare initiatives, there is very little on the positive side that distinguishes Senator Clinton from any generic-brand Democrat. Certainly not so the issue of licenses.
The Republicans give every sign of tripping over each other to be the most anti-Latino-immigrant candidate for 2008. Spreading hate for Latinos and Latinas, it would seem, is an easier path to power than supporting the war in Iraq and a national debt over 9 trillion dollars.
The impetus to crack down hard on “illegals” feeds its spawn of racist nationalism and fear-mongering.
Senator Clinton’s cowardice – grudgingly, that is what I would have to call it -sends a signal that we Latinos and Latinas are expendable in her pursuit of the presidency.
While her position is virtually the same as that of Chris Dodd of Connecticut, at least he was clear and forthright on his reasons. Not representing a border state is also part of the background for his stance.
I will now seek to support another Democrat for president in 2008, although I was looking forward to see the gender ceiling broken. Defense of our Latino rights and our freedom is too precious to surrender to a merely symbolic victory for women. Hispanic Link.
(Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican & Latino Studies at Brooklyn College. Author and scholar, he serves as member of the Pennsylvania State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org). © 2007