January 25, 2002

Chismes de mi gallinero:

A Glance Backwards at a Very Strange 2001

By Julio C. Calderón

SACRAMENTO - We just got back from a week of recharging batteries in El Valle del Yaqui, the Sonora Desert, at the foot of the Superstition Mountain in Arizona. The desert is mystical on its own, no need for magic mushrooms. Of course, there is no need for enhancements either to recognize the fact that we have gone through a very strange year.

For one thing, the 2000 Presidential Election finally ended on Sept. 11, 2001 — and that wasn't all. We also learned that the moats that kept our nation safe from attack are, in fact, penetrable. We learned That we are part of the `dangerous world.'

Still, as we go into the second year of the new millennium, we find, in politics, social issues are still debated in terms of race. We find that California's problems, according to some, are the sole responsibility of `illegal immigrants.'

This didn't take long to materialize in the GOP primary contest, at a presentation at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda by Secretary of State Bill Jones. It was reported in the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Jones was forced to take a position on Prop. 187, or the creation of a new version of that ill-fated proposition. Jones' position on the issue wasn't nearly as revealing as a question out of the audience.

The complaint wasn't on immigration as much as it was on the effort by Republican candidates to reach out Latino voters. To paraphrase, the person asked why candidates are spending so much money and effort to `…go after the Latino vote rather than the American vote.' And so the 2002-election year gets underway and we are once again fodder for ultra-conservatives. The reporter focused on the Republican's approach to immigration, rather than on all of the other issues Jones discussed _ keeping alive the ghost of prop. 187.

Perhaps it's because their Democrat, the one once called `the nation's most courageous governor,' also known as the emperor of California, has botched things badly. Governor Gray Davis is on the verge of history — he is in danger of becoming the first governor in more than 50 years not to win a second term.

Republicans, on the other hand, have major hurdles to overcome. The GOP crop this year has to produce a candidate who will state his positions on issues clearly as they affect us all as Californios. The last time I looked, I am a Chicano, a voter — born and raised American.

I just got my W-2's and to be quite honest, I am not going to be impressed with calls to raise my taxes. I was in Arizona for a week, filled the tank of my truck three times, and every time the gas meter out-paced the dollar meter on the pump. The difference was the taxes-on-taxes on gas we have in this state.
My ethnicity had nothing to do with my reaction. The tax issue is a Republican staple, however, as they design their short primary campaigns against each other, they are trying to out-conservative the other guy. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan's big sin is that he is not a `true' conservative. Bill Simon claims to be the only `conservative' candidate in the race. Talks about the fact that he is a successful businessman _ fought crime as a federal prosecutor under former mayor Rudy Guiliani.

Success is much easier if your father had already made billions before you. This kind of success is meaningless when put against a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, people who started something with nothing but an idea and determination. And even then, this doesn't mean these men are ready to govern California.

I can speak more about Bill Jones. I know the man best. I have been familiar with his political career since his days running for the State Assembly in Fresno and Tulare Counties. I covered many of them as a reporter with KMJ-TV. He is a decent man. He has represented his district well during his years as an Assemblyman, and all Californios as Secretary of State, with few Latino complaints. He was recently given the endorsement of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA). This comes as a shock to the media that MAPA would endorse a Republican. The fact is that MAPA has always endorsed Bill Jones in Primary Elections, ever since his early days in politics. This is true going from MAPA's strongest days to it weakest as an organization because Bill Jones is the only Republican statewide candidate that has always responded to MAPA's invitations. Jones has not, however, been endorsed by MAPA in General Elections.

The difference this year is that the Jones campaign and the media have made an effort to promote the endorsement. In years past, the most the MAPA endorsement received was a mention on the list of other endorsing organizations.

The first objective of a statewide candidate has to be to win their party's nomination. The norm for Republicans is to wrap themselves around the American flag, rile against taxes and lay claim to conservatism. Here is where they light the fuse with Latino voters. They push themselves as far to the right as they need to win the Jerry Falwell conservatives, only to try to move back toward the center to win moderate and Latino votes, believing voters have short memories, may be so, but the media doesn't.

It is believed by Republican political consultants that the Latino voter is conservative by nature. This I believe is true. The popular connectors to the GOP are Latino family values, work ethic, patriotism, and our spiritual base. Latinos don't challenge this view.

GOP consultants, however, are for the most part non-Latinos and never look beyond these obvious attributes. Rather than build on these points, they develop rhetoric designed for the age of 30-second ads that insult the Latino population. They forget that unlike European Americans, who's ancestries are cut off by oceans, our roots are continuously connected. They forget that even among Republican Latinos, we still have family in Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, and other nations tied to these United States by land. They forget that even among Republican Latinos, who are, in some cases, more conservative than Ronald Reagan or Jerry Falwell, are descendents of `illegal' immigrants. And sometimes, the rhetoric and campaign strategies developed by these strategists and their advertising firms, are so insulting that they even turn us away from their candidates and propositions.

Every election year, since I registered Republican in 1982, I look, with great hope, for the party and its candidates to develop new rhetoric. I am certain that rhetoric exists to excite a voter that doesn't involve the them-against-us campaign. For the Democrats it's the rich against the poor, for Republicans its immigrants against us Americans. I don't seek to change the party's basic conservative values, but to see if they can communicate these positions to the Latino community as they would any other voter.

It hasn't happened yet. I will be going to the California Republican Party's convention in San Jose on February 8 - 10, maybe this year will be different. I will certainly let you know.

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