A Narrowing Field of Candidatos
For Latino voters, especially those fed up with the anti-immigrant climate that has created storms of intolerance across the nation, the field of presidential candidates is rapidly shrinking.
As they appeal to the worst xenophobic instincts of many Americans, we keep scratching them off the list.
Gone are the chances of practically any Republican to win significant support from a bloc of voters who has made a considerable shift toward the GOP in the last few presidential elections.
Only Sen. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani could expect to receive significant support from Latinos, and even Giuliani's chances are rapidly vanishing.
While the former New York mayor has been a moderate on immigration for most of his political career, he has tried to remain silent on that issue lately, obviously due to his desperate efforts to appeal to GOP conservatives.
At the Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire last month, only McCain had the guts to "do the hard things" — as he puts it — and support a comprehensive immigration reform package that included a path to legalization for the 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.
Giuliani, who supposedly supports a legalization path as well, kept repeating that the bill before Congress was a mess, without offering a better idea or telling us which side he is on. In fact, it was obvious that he was trying to make his position as vague as possible, as if to make both sides believe that he is their ally.
The other GOP contenders, especially Rep. Tom Tancredo and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, have little chance of drawing votes from Latinos. Tancredo is running for president only because he needed a bigger platform from which to bash immigrants, and Romney has hardened his position on immigration only because of political expediency.
At this early stage of the campaign season, it is becoming obvious that only McCain can save some of the gains the GOP had made in the Hispanic community.
McCain has been citing the contributions of Latinos and other immigrants as eloquently as some Democratic candidates. But he gets even more credit because he does it in the lion's den.
"We know what we're talking about is the latest wave of migrants into this country," McCain said. "We have to stop the illegal immigration, but we've had waves throughout our history. Hispanics is what we're talking about, a different culture, a different language, which has enriched my state, where Spanish was spoken before English was."
Moments after some of the other GOP candidates had shown absolutely no compassion for illegal immigrants and Tancredo had proposed curbing even legal immigration, McCain stood by his principles.
"My friends, I want you the next time you're down in Washington, D.C.
'When you go to Iraq or Afghanistan today, you're going to see a whole lot of people who are of Hispanic background," McCain added. "You're even going to meet some of the few thousand that are still green card holders who are not even citizens of this country, who love this country so much that they're willing to risk their lives in its service in order to accelerate their path to citizenship and enjoy the bountiful, blessed nation. So let's from time to time remember that these are God's children. They must come into our country legally, but they have enriched our culture and our nation as every generation of immigrants before them."
When the Republican candidates were asked to raise their hands if they don't believe English should be the official language, again, McCain was the lone ranger, eloquently explaining why there is no need to make English official.
"Everybody knows that English has to be learned if anyone ever wants to move up the economic ladder — that is obvious," he said. "And part of our (immigration reform) legislation, by the way, is a requirement to learn English.
"And by the way, 30 percent of the people who are in this country illegally never came across our borders, my friends," McCain added. "They overstayed their visas. That's why it has to be a comprehensive approach."
A couple nights earlier, in a debate between the Democratic candidates, only one Democrat said English should be the official language. In fact, Democrats like Sen. Hillary Clinton explained that making English official would only serve the interest of those who want to ban bilingual documents and ballots to disenfranchise the Hispanic community.
That quick poll of the candidates at the two debates was indeed very telling. It showed not only how most Republicans candidates feel about bilingualism and about Latinos, but also how Latinos are likely to vote against them in the 2008 election.
Of course, most Republicans are realistic enough to know that with the anti-immigrant climate created by GOP conservatives, their party has lost the Latino vote for quite some time. In fact, most are not even trying to campaign among Latinos. All but one, Rep. Duncan Hunter, snubbed the nation's largest gathering of Hispanic elected officials at Disney World two weeks ago.
Again, with the Democrats, it was the other way around. They lined up to try to woo Latinos there. What they had to say is worth examining, in another column … stay tuned.
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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