Are Latinos Voting for Obama or Against Republicans?
The dramatic surge in Latino support for Sen. Barack Obama may be the last straw that tips the scale and puts America's first black president in the White House.
When many Latinos were voting for Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, some pundits actually suggested that this was based on racism — that Latinos would not vote for a black man.
Of course, this opinion was based on utter ignorance, given the fact that many Latinos are black, that many have elected nonwhite presidents in their native countries, and that many U.S.-born Latinos live alongside African-Americans and identify with their issues.
But now that more than 75 percent of the Latinos who supported Clinton are telling pollsters that they are planning to vote for Obama, perhaps the racism charges will desist.
Are there Latino racists? Of course! But not enough to make a difference.
So what is making such a difference for Obama? Why is he inheriting most of Clinton's Hispanic supporters? Certainly not because he has done anything special to reach out to Latinos! For someone who promotes "change," Obama has failed to propose any new ideas to deal with the issues that concern Latinos. In fact, although Obama recognizes that this presidential election could be decided by Hispanic voters, on some issues regarding Latin America, he has actually alienated some Latinos.
Nevertheless, among Latino voters, Obama is beating Republican Sen. John McCain by a huge margin. The latest national survey, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center, found that 66 percent of Latino voters favor Obama, compared with 23 percent for McCain.
In political circles, it is generally believed that Republican presidential candidates need to win at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to be elected, especially because a great number of Latinos live in the so-called swing states.
But even if McCain were to pick up all of the 11 percent of Latino voters who told Pew pollsters that they still are undecided, it wouldn't be enough to reach the 40 percent benchmark set by President Bush when he was elected and re-elected with significant Hispanic support.
This spells trouble for McCain, especially in some of the swing states where Latino voters are expected to make a huge difference: Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado.
But why is this happening to McCain, a man who has been a true amigo to Latinos and a champion of many of their issues? Why is this happening to a Republican candidate who has a much better record on Hispanic issues than Bush? Why didn't McCain inherit a larger portion of the Latinos who had supported Clinton? Democratic Party loyalty? Maybe, for some.
But perhaps it has more to do with the disdain many Latinos feel for the Republican Party.
Of all the Republican presidential candidates who competed in the primaries, McCain was surely the only one who could expect significant support from Latinos. Instead of 23 percent of the Hispanic vote, some of the others would be getting single-digit support. Yet apparently, McCain's personal track record with Latinos is not enough to overcome the damage that has been done by his many xenophobia-mongering colleagues.
Most Latinos simply are fed up with the Republican Party. They have seen how, instead of embracing their fellow Latin Americans, some GOP leaders are clearly more interested in appealing to those American xenophobes who feel threatened by the growth of the Hispanic population and their political influence.
This has happened many times before, and most of the time, it has resulted in a backlash against those politicians who have used immigrants as guinea pigs to score points based on fear and hatred. You would think that they would learn their lesson and come to the conclusion that practicing the politics of xenophobia is counterproductive. Yet they keep bashing immigrants and coming back for more well-deserved rejection on Election Day.
This year will not be different. In fact, this time the backlash may be bigger than ever. When Latinos go to the polls in November, there is no question that many will cast Obama ballots who will not really be for Obama or even against McCain. They will vote to punish Republicans for their shameful immigrant bashing and anti-Hispanic track record.
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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