'Locos' About Obama?
He never has traveled to Latin America. He opposes free trade with Colombia, turning his back on one of the only U.S. allies in the region. He wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. He insists on meeting "without preconditions" with tyrants such as Cuba's Fidel and Raul Castro and anti-American zealots such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. He has cowardly run away from the immigration issue during his campaign against Sen. John McCain.
And yet an overwhelming majority of U.S. Latinos are getting ready to vote for Sen. Barack Obama.
Estamos locos? (Are we crazy?)
Not really. Most Latinos will not be voting for Obama because of Obama. They will not be voting against McCain because of McCain. They will be voting for Obama and against McCain because of the anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic measures and attitudes of many Republican lawmakers during the past eight years.
This will not be a vote for the Democrats. We know they have done nothing to deserve it. This will be a backlash against Republicans, who have done a lot to earn it.
Let's face it: Nowadays in the Hispanic community, Republicans often are seen as the boogeymen. When they look at McCain, many Latinos still see and hear the angry faces and mean-spirited statements of Republican race baiters, such as Reps. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.
Eight years ago, when GOP nominee George W. Bush promised that he would be a compassionate conservative, many Latinos went along for the ride, and they gave him the margin of victory in several swing states. They could have done the same for McCain this year.
But Bush's inability to persuade Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation and his unwillingness to take on and muffle the immigrant bashers in his own party have turned many Latino voters into cynics.
If Bush couldn't do it, they are asking, why should they think that McCain could do better?
If McCain wanted Latino voters to know that he is really different from
Bush, from the very beginning of his presidential campaign, he needed to distance himself from the Republicans who practice the politics of xenophobia — with very strong language, in very clear terms.
McCain needed to teach tolerance to his own GOP colleagues, and he needed to convince his fellow Republicans that their party's own survival this year depended on their willingness to accept and embrace their fellow Latino-Americans.
He didn't do that. Instead, he was uncharacteristically cautious — not the maverick he claims to be — because he feared alienating the GOP's so-called "base" of right-wing extremists.
It may have been hard to get those people to stop seeing Latinos as a threat and to feel some compassion for illegal immigrants, but it was the only way McCain was going to get Latino voters to swing the election in his favor.
That's not going to happen now. If McCain defies the polls and wins the presidency, it won't be because Latinos gave him the margin of victory.
In the last presidential debate, McCain tried to raise some Latino issues. But it was too little, too late. If he had dealt with these issues earlier, if he had not been so clearly afraid of a backlash from those who fear the growth of the Latino population, perhaps Latinos would have taken McCain more seriously and Obama would not be enjoying a free ride.
After all, what has Obama done or promised that makes him deserve overwhelming support from Latinos? Nada!
On Election Day, don't expect a huge voter turnout among Latinos. Many will remain as invisible as the candidates treated them.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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