July 18, 2008
By Mariana Martínez
The struggle over the Latino vote has become the priority for the presidential campaigns of both parties, as it has become clear with their last public addresses in Latino forums, the assumed presidential candidates are aggressively fishing for Latinos- especially young Latino votes, the clear motive for an unprecedented million dollar investment.
But besides songs in Spanish and quick visits to Mexico, the quest for Latino votes has put the candidates in front of a population that’s disillusioned about federal polices, untrusting, hungry for explanations, and more results.
This was evident during the recent Annual National Council for La Raza convention held in San Diego, the third large Hispanic stage where both candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain before their next appearance, in Los Angeles, in late July.
NCLR, President Janet Murgía was warm in her welcome of both candidates, as they took the stage at the Convention Center, where both times over 3 thousand people came to hear them. McCain had to deal with the loudest protests.
While there where just a sad dozen or so Minutemen protesting outside the building. McCain was only able to say a few words before a group of people started booing him, asking for their sons to come back from war. The raucous was such that he had to stop his address.
“This things happen once in a while my friends” said McCain, waiting for security to escort the protesters out.
Calmy, McCain admitted to his audience, he knows that he is in “Democrats Land” and received his strongest applause when he mentioned his admiration for Senator Hillary Clinton. But despite being in hot water, McCain told the crowd Obama had denied his invitation to debate together at NCLR and emphasized his strong relationship with Latin America.
“It surely not my intention to become my opponents scheduler, I hope Senator Obama visits some of the other countries of the Americas for the first time”, he added with a smile.
Just 24 hours earlier, Obama attacked him saying unlike McCain, “And I will never walk away from the 12 million undocumented immigrants who live, work, and contribute to our country every single day. Check out who was in one of the marches in Chicago last year”.
Among those present was Ruben J. Kihuen (D-NV) Assemblyman who said he was offended after seeing recent images of McCain in the Guadalupe Basilic in Mexico City. “He is using our family values, Catholicism and devotion in ways he had not done before”, he ranted, “with the immigration reform, he used to support us, but if you ask him today if he would support it, he would say no, so, who cares if he has helped us in the past if he isn’t helping us right now?”
Juan Salgado, Obama supporter and executive director of Instituto del Progreso Latino lamented McCain was not clear with his offer. “He didn’t make clear how the hell is he gonna protect our people. With his many presentations in Hispanic forums he had a clear opportunity to explain to us how he is gonna protect our families from raids, and how much does it really affect him to see our people die at the border, how much does he care they are not fully integrated into society, but he didn’t make that clear, it was just a show”.
Ana Navarro, a Republican from Florida who is McCain’s Hispanic Policy Advisor, said her candidate’s actions are more consistent than his opponents. “We should not let ourselves be fooled by rhetoric. [McCain] has decades working for and with Latin America, because he understands us, he has risked his political skin over Hispanics and immigrants when it comes to the immigration issue”.
Richard Loa, Director for the California Department of Housing and member of the Republican Assembly of California, considers Obama was the one making the show.” What we saw are two different things: on the one side is a man who has actions and a strong history backing him up, and on the other is a man who comes full of promises, and nothing more”.
But some Hispanics, -a historically Democrat majority-are tired of the same promises.
For Eliseo Medina vice-president for the International Service Workers Union, sums up the feeling by saying “Latinos are expecting solutions, they are no longer satisfied by “I feel your pain” statements”.