Hillary Clinton is counting on the Latino vote next week. As an arm chair pundit and scholar of politics, I wouldn’t count this voting block falling into line. Latinos tend to not participate in the system as much as we would expect or hope for them to. Additionally, I have discussed the recent political happenings with many of my Latino colleagues who aren’t very enthused about another Clinton presidential administration, especially in light of the unwarranted attacks on Barack Obama framed in racial overtones. I especially don’t like how Sergio Bendixen, a Clinton pollster, has said, ““The Hispanic voter—and I want to say this very carefully—has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.” Actually, this sickens me. My gut reaction is to prove Mr. Bendixen wrong because he’s not taking into account that many Latinos are black. Where do the Dominican-Americans and Puerto Ricans fit into this over simplification? Maybe Mr. Bendixen forgot that the Spanish were heavily involved in the slave trade in the New World and that many slave masters procreated with their slaves. Furthermore, you could take “African” out of this debate, and just as easily insert “Native American.” Sometimes Latinos and others like to forget that many of us are mixed with varying degrees of Native American ancestry. If Bill Richardson had made it as far as Barack Obama, would the Clintons pander to the African-American voters suggesting that they should vote for them to exploit any alliances that could be forged between the two groups? The reality is most Latinos have more in common with African-Americans and someone like Barack Obama than we do Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama’s father was an immigrant. He was raised by a single mother… as much as I would like to believe otherwise, Latinos have a high unmarried birthrate. Both groups are competing for scarce resources and face the limitations of institutional racism.
Now I’m not suggesting that Latinos vote for Obama simply because of his race and the possibility that we can forge alliances with the African-American community. I think that everyone should examine the issues closely, but also think critically about how ethnic and gender differences have been exploited in this race. Additionally, examine the paper trail. Who is funding these candidates? John Edwards has raised a good point that you can’t take money from entities and then expect to not have to cater or pay them back at some point.
As Harry Pachon (another professor whose classroom I have sat in) points out, “…the ‘X Factor’ is the volatility of the Latino voter.” I think that this volatility comes from the fact that we Latinos cannot easily be pigeon holed into a tidy census designated box. In addition, when a group has been marginalized for so long and has relatively weak internal leadership, I don’t think that any politician can really call such a group its “firewall.” At least, I hope not.