Considering the way many Republicans have treated Latinos lately — promoting racial profiling, immigrant-bashing and outright bigotry — Democrats thought the Hispanic vote would be served to them on a silver platter.
They knew that Latinos could be the swing vote in several important congressional midterm contests and gubernatorial races and that without the enthusiastic support of that crucial bloc in the Democrats' electoral coalition, there could be trouble. Yet watching how the Republicans kept bashing immigrants and expressing their fear of and disdain for Hispanic culture, who would have thought the Democrats would be worried about the Hispanic vote now?
Well, they are! And they should be!
They were right about how Republicans would be repelled by Latinos. A recent poll found that Hispanic voters overwhelmingly favor Democrats over Republicans, 62-25 percent — a Democratic advantage of 37 percentage points! And that margin gets bigger when Latinos are asked how they plan to vote Nov. 2. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Latino registered voters said they will vote for Democrats in congressional races throughout the country, and only 22 percent plan to vote for Republicans.
But the Democrats were dead wrong to assume that Latinos will have no other choice but to vote for them. The same poll, released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center, found that though 70 percent of all registered voters are planning to cast ballots Nov. 2, only 51 percent of registered Latino voters are making such plans.
Nearly half of registered Latino voters are planning to stay home on Election Day — and that's clearly a reflection of their dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party.
In the media, we are told that Latinos are "less enthusiastic" or "apathetic" or "discouraged" by the slow pace of the change they have been promised by President Barack Obama and other Democrats, especially to reform our immigration system. But it's worse than that. While the anti-Latino and anti-immigrant forces are mobilizing like never before, many Latinos simply are giving up on the political process.
They are sick and tired of seeing how the Democrats use them when their votes are needed and then proceed to ignore them and take them for granted.
Across the country, Latinos are saying, "I'll be damned if I vote for Republicans, knowing how they have attacked my community." But some of them also are saying, "I'll be damned if I vote for Democrats, knowing how they have failed to defend us from those attacks."
In this election year, we have seen Republican conservative extremists take cheap shots at Latinos, and we have seen Democrats cowardly running in the opposite direction. While many GOP candidates clearly are pandering to the most conservative factions of their party, the Democrats, instead of reaching out to the Latino voters they desperately need, are still reluctant to tackle issues such as illegal immigration, racial profiling, respect for diversity, language rights, birthright citizenship, bilingualism, etc.
Some Latinos can't decide what they find more offensive, the arrogance of many Republicans, who bash Latinos and still ask for their support, or the phony friendship of many Democrats, who ignore Latinos and still ask for their support.
Because of the Draconian anti-immigrant measures and other crazy ideas introduced by conservative Republicans in Washington, D.C., Arizona and many other parts of the country this year, there is no doubt the Democrats will benefit. Yet it will not be nearly as much as it would have been if they had taken the time — or found the courage — to show some leadership, at least on immigration reform legislation.
That's the issue that will make a huge difference on Election Day, the one that will drive many conservative xenophobes to vote for Republicans and many Latinos to stay home. It's the issue that could spell problemas for Democratic candidates in several high-profile races, particularly in California, Florida, Nevada and other states where Latinos make up a significant chunk of the electorate.
Of course, Latinos will have a price to pay for having stayed home to punish the Democrats: Republicans will be further empowered to continue bashing the Hispanic community. So for Latinos, the midterm elections present a no-win situation.
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.