Introducing Seneca, dropping knowledge about the Latino Political World from D.C.

November 8th, 2008 · 15 Comments

For those of you who did not have the opportunity to study the classics, Seneca was a philosopher who guided the young emperor Nero. Seneca is famous for saying, “Speech devoted to truth should be straightforward and plain.” Seneca, our Washington, D.C. contributor, will chime in to provide our raza with some news and observations about Latino politics as viewed from our nation’s capital.

Let’s welcome Seneca, and pay close attention to his latest musings about possible Latino appointments in the Obama administration.

Hispanics will not fare high in initial appointments in the new Obama administration. Only three have been even mentioned: Richardson, Salazar (Sen. Ken) and perhaps Frederico Peña, but really only Richardson gets any real play. The word is that he is expecting Secretary of State, but Obama and his team may be having second thoughts and may offer him the Department of Homeland Security. Plainly this is not what he sought or is seeking, but the establishment foreign policy types in the party feel Richardson’s brash, unpredictable actions and words rattle the Foggy Bottom bureaucratic mattress mice as well as the white bread Council on Foreign Relations. State offers more flair, pizazz…shuttle diplomacy, high stakes affairs of state, cutting a swath on the international circuit. Moreover, Richardson, who enjoys a l’enfant terrible reputation that fits in at State better than the “cops” oriented DHS.

Many hope that Richardson does not become the Cisneros of the Obama administration: positioning himself as the one and only real Latino power-broker and then not even promoting or pushing other Latino qualified candidates. Cisneros, under Clinton, never was known to have  meetings at HUD for other Hispanic (read: Mexican American) appointees across the Clinton Administration to discuss the issues, promoting Latino peers, and mentoring young Latinos, whereas Mel Martinez the Cuban American HUD Secretary under W Bush had scheduled periodic meetings with the 20 to 30 highest Cuban American appointees to ensure the identification of talent  and promotion of other Cuban Americans. Current Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez is reported to likewise promote other Cuban appointees or prospective appointees.

It will be interesting to see if Obama appoints a Puerto Rican to cabinet status, which would be a first. The bottom line is: many believe Richardson is due something for delivering New Mexico (and a new Latino congressman from the state: Lujan) and working hard in Colorado and Nevada to put these three states in the Obama column with increased Latino voter turn out. Most Latinos have not yet figured out that most often an appointment to a regulatory agency (FCC, FDA, FTC, Nuclear Energy Commission, Highway Commission et al) is far more coveted by the economic movers and shakers because the regulatory process is the realm of the true economic gatekeepers in Washington not the normal executive departments.

Tags: Barack Obama · Ben Ray Lujan · Bill Richardson · Carlos Gutierrez · Federico Peña · Henry Cisneros · Sen. Ken Salazar · Sen. Mel Martinez

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michaelr // Nov 8, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    That’s fascinating. And that also explains one reason why Henry Cisneros disappeared so quickly from the scene despite his intellectual prowess. I do agree that Bill Richardson has worked himself into favored spot. After all, he was the first major player to defect from Hillary Clinton’s camp. And his performances aboard with critics of the U.S. are engaging and productive. As a public servant, he is a shining example. However, I think Obama is reserving the Secretary of State position for Richard Lugar.

  • 2 Reyfeo // Nov 9, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Very good piece. Is this why we voted for Obama and the Democrat Party…”oh please, throw me a bone.” Sounds like IF WE’RE LUCKY we get Richardson to the State Dept (BTW the way, he’s half white).
    With tons of new appointments coming, is this the best Latinos get for their devotion to the Democratic Party…I like looking out for my Latino brethren, and right now it looks like we get squat! Thank you Obama and the Democratic Party!

  • 3 PunditMom // Nov 9, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I’m concerned when I read the current bunch of articles in newspapers about who Obama is supposedly thinking of appointing to various posts, because all the photos seem to be white men! Keeping my fingers crossed that Obama will step up and make his cabinet truly diverse.

  • 4 XP // Nov 9, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Richardson should be secretary of state, if he isn’t that would be travesty. The problem with Cisneros, he already had a strike against. I do give Clinton one thing, he did believe giving Cisneros another chance to redeem himself, unfortunately he wasn’t able too.

    However, he did appoint Juliet Garcia, University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College President and the first Mexican-American to head a four-year US university, to be part of the transition team. By appointing her, it does send a message to the old timers, Obama is looking for new blood.

  • 5 Mexitli // Nov 9, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    “Hispanics will not fare high in initial appointments in the new Obama administration. Only three have been even mentioned: Richardson, Salazar (Sen. Ken) and perhaps Frederico Peña, ”

    Obama already appointed Solis Doyle to VP Chief of Staff. They made fun of her on CNN saying that if Obama picks HC for VP then she might be the first person in history to be fired twice by HC.

    Richardson should have been VP. But Obama wouldnt risk losing the white male vote. Frankly, I’d be surprised if Richardson get S.o.S.
    Other big names have been mentioned and Kerry is actually lobbying (or jockeying) for the position.

  • 6 Reyfeo // Nov 9, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    That’s the point here…why is it we are always playing second fiddle? Agree w/Mexitli, Richardson was a risk to getting the white male vote.
    Obama, i’m afraid is going to reach to the white male populist instead of the very people (Latinos) who helped get him NM, FL and CA.

  • 7 Mexitli // Nov 9, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Refeo: “why is it we are always playing second fiddle?”

    One word: Colonization.

    Que otro tenemos?

    The U.S. intelligence community succeeded in morphing Chicano studies into woman’s issues.

    But that’s a different topic.

  • 8 Reyfeo // Nov 9, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Think about it Mexitli, Richardson (even being half white) was not good enough to be Vice-Presidential candidate. Heck, we didn’t even have a contender for President…thinking about it, I don’t think we’ve ever had one!?!
    Seems to me we always follow the African American despite being a powerful voting group.
    My 2 cents is that I don’t see us holding high office in this newly won Democrat reign. I see this time and time again…we get catered to and then left to wonder after our votes help the white or black guy get into office (2004 Bush and 2008 Obama repectively).


    And yes, you have a good point…everytime the Latino moves or surges to gain some power at higher office levels or on its own Civil Rights, we get countered and or cornered into some other movement un-related to ours, like say Gay Marriage, Abortion and yes woman’s issues…it’s tactics like these that sway us from the real issues at hand like true Latino representation that isn’t shunned upon (can you say Cisneros and or Villar more recently).
    Ok, i’ll get off my soap box…very good input Mexitli!

  • 9 soledadenmasa // Nov 9, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Welcome, Seneca!

    I found this piece thought it is worth a read by everyone.

  • 10 digital aztec // Nov 9, 2008 at 11:53 pm


    That was a very good article. I’ve been busy so I guess I missed it. But I read the Politic often to see what the “right” has to say.

  • 11 wendy carrillo // Nov 10, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Don’t know how fast this will spread, but Val Kilmer is considering running for Gov. of New Mexico and Richardson said he would make a great Gov. so… leads me to believe that Richardson has something grander in store. i dont think Lugar will get SoS, i think Richardson is owed that much, it’s something that has been rumored for some time. the truth is, yes, he should have been VP, but there is NO WAY the democratic ticket would have won with two people of color. we all know this, who are we kidding? we can pretend to say that our raza will get out the vote, but we also know that our registered voter numbers are not big enough, and the voters that actually do make it to the polls are not high enough. please. let’s not begin to put blame on the president-elect obama, there are positions in store for Pena, Richardson and Cisneros. all men. what about Hilda Solis? She was on Obama’s Hispanic Team. Now with the seduction of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who knows, he is running again for mayor, he may run for Gov., he may get a cabinet position, its all up in the air. this has been a tough campaign, and its only going to get tougher as everyone tries to get their share.

  • 12 Tony Herrera // Nov 10, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Bienvenido Seneca!

    Note* This is not just a comment, but also a bit of a rant and a call to action. So, before hand I’ll graciously ask readers of this fine blog, to please indulge me!

    As Latinos we should not expect to receive, merit, garner or dare I say be “awarded” a significant amount of cabinet posts within an Obama administration.

    Although, Yes!, as Latinos we can easily point out how our vote placed at a minimum 6 states solidly in the win column for Obama, the fact is that many other groups also claim credit for Obama’s historic win.

    As sloedadenmasa’s link to the article points out, we can list the Blacks, Organized Labor Unions, the Jewish Democratic Council, advocacy groups like, RockTheVote, Markos Moulistas, the Young Voters, etc and on an on it goes.

    Perhaps, we should throw our collective weight around and let it be known that we expect, say Richardson get the nod for SoS, but it’s also up to those Latinos who garner cabinet positions to do what they can to promote other Latinos to posts within the administration, just like all other groups have done for each other. Hell, without some degree of nepotism there is not possible way that J. Myers could have ever possibly head ed ICE, but that’s a topic for another day.

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m of the opinion that as Latinos, we simply just need to field more and better qualified Latinos for elected office. There is probably no better time than now.

    Never in the course of history had a candidate taken his message of “Change” to the masses and been elected into public office by such masses. The Obama campaign learned and borrowed heavily from the Howard Dean and John Kerry campaigns of 2004, add to that a fundamental generational shift between the Obama and McCain campaigns about embracing social media tools and the internet to raise funds, organize and spread a candidates message.

    I’m convinced that as Latinos we can do better at fielding Latino candidates for elected office. The percentage of eligible voters is rapidly increasing in our favor with some 40,000 Latinos children reaching the age of 18 years every month, the challenge is continuing to encourage not only them to register to vote, but also actually getting them to vote and participate in the electoral process.

    As media shifts continue to occur and more people digest their news and information from the internet and mobile devices, we as bloggers can greatly contribute to the vetting process of candidates and shaping issues.

    The internet, SMS, text and mobile devices have reshaped the political landscape. We are no longer dependent on powerful political machines or power brokers to field a “worthy Latin@ candidate”.

    We can and should start urging more talented and qualified Latinos amongst us to make the sacrifice and run for political office, despite the fact that we may become, as census projections indicate the majority in 2050, the future of our communities depend on it.

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