With a new holiday season kicking in and facing a last push to get a vote on the DREAM Act, the November 2nd midterm elections seems like a distant memory. The results show the growing influence of Latino voters in swing states like Florida and New Mexico. They also secured key races for governor and the U.S. Senate in California for the Democratic Party by repelling GOP advances in the state with most Latinos in the nation. Most notably, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) retained his seat by winning over Tea Party favorite Sharon Angle thanks to “her inability to stop saying crazy things” like advising young rape victims to make “lemons into lemonade.”
Despite these important milestones, campaigns from grassroots organizations like the National Association of Latino elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) among others, left the aftertaste of being too little too late. They were effective, no doubt about it; however, they failed to motivate Latinos voters to achieve their true electoral potential. According with the Pew Hispanic Center, Latinos represented the same eight percent of all voters in 2010 as they did in 2006. However, the number of eligible Latinos to vote this year grew to approximately 19.2 million voters from an estimated 18 million in 2006.
As the national Spanish-speaking media started to turn up the volume and “banging the drum of [the] ‘you have to go vote, you have to go vote,’” the enthusiasm among voters picked up traction starting only until the first week of October, Latino Decisions reported. Once the campaigns were in full swing, social media also played a key role on reaching wider audiences. On November 28, Latinos in Social Media (LATISM) invited Univision’s Martin Berlanga to participate in a Twitter party on the importance of voting for Latinos. The tweetchat achieved an impressive 8.1 million impressions in one night, according to LATISM’s Vice-Chair Elianne Ramos.
(For the not social media savvy, impressions means how many times people saw tweets about the party’s hashtag.)
They all seem like successfully calculated efforts given the positive election results against the most radical anti-immigrant candidates. However, imagine what they could have accomplished if the media heavyweights had devoted their full resources to these campaigns way earlier in the game. This fast-and-furious approach didn’t spark enough interest among many freshmen citizens who may suffer psychological roadblocks thanks to years of discrimination and disenfranchisement. Let’s not forget that the naturalization process is long, hard, and expensive plus many have to deal with their own negative preconceptions on civic participation. Also, the high educational gap between Latinos and Whites remains disadvantageous against the former.
For the 2012 presidential elections, we should expect that the traditional political parties will diligently work to enfranchise Latinos. However, neither party seems to have even a remote idea on how to tally our votes. Right now, they are busy putting down their own fires rather than making a sincere effort to reach out. Democrats have lost their luster with the electorate and face an uphill battle to reelect President Barack Obama on 2012. On the flip side, Republicans remain overconfident between their trepid loses and surprising gains thanks to a new lot of conservative Latino politicians. For illustration, read the opinion from Representative (TX-R) Lamar Smith and a counter argument from columnist Edward Schumacher-Matos on the Washingtonpost.com.
So what to do next? As NCLR’s Director for Immigration Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro writes, a “meaningful outreach is essential.” For sure, both parties will make their best effort to win the Latino vote; at the same time, grassroots leadership must capitalize on their media partners’ increasing clout. Univision is already the number five national network in the nation and seem poised to “surpass the Anglo networks in seven years, even without the boost provided by growth in the Hispanic population,” AdWeek reports. What a better opportunity to rev up their campaigns starting today and entice every able Latino to go out and vote.