May 28, 2004

Commentary

Latinos, Mere Commodities on the Bipartisan Voting Market

By Raymond R. Beltrán

With newspaper editorials and politicians constantly putting emphasis on what they call the “Latino Vote,” the conception lying in this November’s election is that the Republicans and Democrats are beginning to cater to the Latino population. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

National media hovers around stories about President George W. Bush spewing out a few Spanish words in commercials on Latino television stations, and the “yo quiero una cerveza, por favor” comment recently made on Univision by Senator John Kerry has even caught the attention of some Latinos.

Does President Bush’s commercial in Spanish suddenly make the Republican Party a fan of the growing Latino population? Should Latinos even ponder over Kerry’s remark? I’m sure they’d appreciate us thinking so, although, the gestures only mean that their campaign managers’ marketing skills are just savvy enough to invest in the growing Latino culture, much like brokers who invest in commodities on the stock market for Wall Street billionaires. The purpose is that it acquires profit, in this case … votes.

What is disturbing about these incidents is that these marketing tactics are being distinguished as acts of trustworthy courting. Hence, as Latinos, we are not given the respect as being politically savvy enough to recognize a token gesture from a Latino sensitive political party. Right now, Latinos are merely a commodity on the bipartisan stock market, and it’s a sad thing to think that politicians insinuate that we all think alike; hence, the title “Latino Vote,” grouping us together as if we all sway to and fro like a flock of pigeons.

The reality is that Cuban Florida’s refugee politics differ extremely from California’s Chicano power politics, and beneath it all, there is the ever-present difference between the have and the have-nots. On the other hand, there is the Latino common denominator: the experience of being a growing population “of color” struggling as second class citizens in North America. So, instead of paying attention to who Jeb Bush is married to, or what language George Bush has been advised to read in, we need to start paying attention to real political issues when deciding our votes.

Where do presidential candidates stand on issues such as the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors), which would not only provide the means for undocumented established students to gain an education in the U.S. but to one day become the tax-paying professionals that politicians say they so badly want us to be? Where do our presidential candidates stand on issues of reforming the prison industry complex, which houses so many Latinos, or what about the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services’ reports about “Hispanics” not receiving quality health care compared to “whites”? Where do our candidates stand on the discrediting of bilingual education (Proposition 227), or the North American Free Trade Agreement that plagues indigenous México? What about the recently signed Central American Free Trade Agreement that will now plague countries like Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras? Has Bush or Kerry, in all of their patriotic-wartime rhetoric, mentioned what they think about the CLEAR Act (Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal), which would enable local police officers to administer immigration related duties?

While Hispanic leaders are rejoicing in being the estimated 50% majority of the U.S. by 2050, it was only last week that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) initiated a House Resolution 3722 that would have resurrected a leg in the body of Proposition 187 politics. The resolution would have required our medical physicians to act as border patrol agents, placing Latinos’ need for immediate health care assistance at a distant second in priorities compared to “legal” documentation.

The resolution was ultimately defeated, but the point is that there are still forces out there that resent, and are working against, Latino growth, and it’s in the form of a bipartisan political system manifesting through Republicans and Democrats, and yes, I said Democrats.

Wasn’t it California’s Democrats’ struggling to keep Gray Davis in office? What did he do the moment his seat as governor was threatened by Arnold Schwarzenneger and the united Republican front? He signed a bill that he previously vetoed, granting undocumented migrants a driver’s license. If that is not opportunism in a time of political crisis, chasing the “Latino Vote,” I do not know what is.

And a Mexican Governor? Forget it. The Republican system and its backers dragged Cruz Bustamante through the mud for having belonged to a Chicano student empowerment group (Mexicano Estudiantil Chicano/Chicana de Aztlán) and absurdly labeled him a separatist, circumventing the fact that he was just as incompetent as the governor he served. Bustamante was to blame for California’s economic crisis as was Davis, as was Pete Wilson and those preceding them, but the only jabs being thrown were at his former Mejicanidad. Now, we have a Hollywood Austrian whose roots are planted in Nazi history.

When will we stop depending on this two party system for the answer to Latino issues? I ask only because these deceptive bipartisan candidates are depending on polls and statistics to see which party the flock of Latinos will favor, the Republicans or the Democrats. All the while, their tactics serve the same old English dish with Spanish toppings; it’s merely investing in the political stock market, and right now, the value of Latino points are going up.

African history, Latin American history, the birth of the United States in North American history, and yes, the history being made this very moment proves that political power is much more than the growth of a population, it is cautious, well-studied thought behind critical planning, something that is still being done behind closed doors and relayed to us in our own language to win us over.

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