Brown Face Conventions
We Latinos should be happy, shouldn't we? In both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, brown faces were on display like never before.
But is that all we need? Do Latinos vote for surnames or substance?
If brown faces and Hispanic surnames are all we need, then the conventions were a draw. There were enough Latinos on both teams to make it seem as if we were playing on a leveled field.
But if you were a Latino looking for substance to come out of those brown faces, if you expected Latino convention speakers to have the courage to deal with your issues, then you saw the Democrats pounce on the Republicans. No contest!
With the possible exception of Miami Cubans who saw their homeland and primary issue addressed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at the GOP convention, for most Latinos, it was the Democrats who spoke to their issues.
But let's face it — for Democrats who could speak freely about issues like immigration reform, the job was much easier.
The tough job belonged to the Latino Republicans. They had to be hypocritical enough to talk about their own immigrant experience while totally ignoring the most anti-immigrant Republican Party platform in recent history. They had to stand there, before a huge national audience, and purposely avoid speaking about one of the most important issues affecting their Latino communities — their own constituents! That's tough.
The Democrats had it easy. They didn't have to sell Latinos any new ideas. They didn't have to make any new promises. In fact, on immigration, some of them promised less than they did four years ago. That's because all they had to do was remind Latinos that the GOP has been driven by Draconian xenophobes who lack compassion, even for young, undocumented "dreamers." All they had to do was remind us how Mitt Romney has pandered to extremists and reinforced their hatred of immigrants.
"This election will determine whether high school valedictorians, football team captains, and student council presidents will be treated with respect — or treated like suspects," Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., told convention delegates. "Whether they reach their dreams, or whether Mitt Romney turns their dreams into nightmares."
Yet while most Democrats reiterated their support for the DREAM Act to legalize young immigrants, and while comprehensive immigration reform is part of their party platform, some Democrats avoided repeating their unkept promise to pass such reform through Congress.
Only Gutierrez was as crystal clear as the Democratic platform.
"It's not just Dreamers," Gutierrez said. "Democrats value all immigrants. Republicans blame undocumented immigrants for our problems. Democrats will fight for comprehensive immigration reform."
Of course, that was much more assertion than the rhetorical smoke and mirrors uttered by Hispanic GOP convention speakers, such Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, who tried to fool Latinos of the old-fashioned, Republican way — with a brown face and a few words in Spanish.
"El sue¤o Americano es tener exito," she said. "It's success. Success is the American Dream."
When Ted Cruz, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, spoke about his father coming penniless from Cuba, he noted that his father "no tenia nada, pero tenia corazon (he had nothing, but he had heart)."
And with these hollow words, Martinez, who got elected without a majority of the Latino vote in her own state, and Cruz, who is trying to do the same thing in Texas, suddenly were pitched by some misinformed TV pundits as the new, rising national spokesmen for the Latino community.
What? Really? Two Tea Party favorites? Don't you mean spokesmen for the anti-Latino community?
Unfortunately, some people still can't tell the difference between those politicians who have earned the right to speak for the Hispanic community and those who happen to be Hispanic.
Back in May, Martinez criticized Romney's infamous suggestion that, once he became president, he would force undocumented immigrants to "self-deport." But at the convention, she had NADA to say about that. Cruz said Democrats falsely accuse Republicans of "telling Hispanics that they are not welcomed here." But he had NADA to say about a GOP platform that wants the country to emulate Arizona's anti-immigrant, racial profiling laws. None of the Latino Republicans said anything about the many social programs that benefit Latinos and would be crushed by Romney.
Even when they spoke a few words in Spanish at the GOP convention, Latino Republicans were being terribly hypocritical. After all, their party platform aims to ban government services in Spanish by making English the nation's official language.
They may be upcoming Republican leaders, but brown faces and Hispanic surnames don't automatically make Latino leaders, not when they go before the whole country to support politicians, platforms and ideologies that go against the interests of their own community.
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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