November 3, 2000


Commentary

Chismes de mi Gallinero

The Latino Vote — Real or as Mythical as the Sleeping Giant?

By Julio C. Calderón

Just two weeks after the Southwest Voter Registration Project announced that they ex-pected a 70 percent turn-out of Latinos in next Tuesday elections, the Los Angeles Times prints two op-ed pieces debunking the notion of a powerful Latino vote. Being of a suspicious nature, I cannot help but think there is something behind this turn of events.

In the last few months we have gone from the most important voter block in the 2000 elections to the most insignificant—if one believes the Los Angeles Times writers.

The Democrats have always talked about how important Latinos are to the party, but have never felt the need to campaign for the votes. Republicans, in California, have found it easier to ignore this growing voting group. Thus neither ever expended any campaign resources to try and motivate these voters. Small turnout of Latinos was all right with both parties.

The difference in the 2000 presidential campaigns is that this man from Texas has experienced two successful elections and enjoyed a large portion of Latino voters. Governor George W. Bush actually spends time and resources to win over Latino voter, and brought that strategy to his presidential campaign and California.

Bush has baffled the experts in two ways. First he did not abandon his California campaign as expected; and, second, he established a strong, visible campaign in the Latino community.

Panic is setting in among Vice President Al Gore's campaign strategists. When the incumbent vice president changes the focus of his campaign to a third party candidate, and liberals start attacking one of their own icons, Green Party candidate workforce. He did so with less than three months left in an eight-year term, this also is evidence that gore has problems with the so-called secure Latino vote.

The Gore campaign isn't resonating in the Latino community. While public polls give gore 70 percent or better of the Latino vote, one has to believe that private polls are showing worse numbers. The public polls sample 850 to 1100 voters, with a very small sampling of Latino voters in the groups. Do they truly reflect the trends in the Latino community? I believe not.

The Southwest Voter Registration Projects' 70 percent projections are far-fetched. The actual turnout of Latino voters will not change much from past elections. I doubt that they will reach the 1998 record numbers. They already paid the GOP for Pete Wilson's support of proposition 187. Democrats are under the belief, because the elected Latino officials have deemed it so, that the GOP will not recover this soon from that experience. This attitude is evidenced by the lack of effort to encourage them to vote.

Democrats have made a grave political miscalculation. While the number of Latino votes in California that Gov. Bush will receive will not be overwhelming, they will be much, much higher than Dan Lungren received in 1998, and Gore's share will be less than Gov. Davis received in 1998. When it comes to electing our nation's leader, Latinos become more conservative than at the district election levels.

The rhetoric that attracts African Americans... will not appeal to Latinos. Clinton's stump speeches in African American churches will not reach the Latino Pentecostals or Catholics.

The cynicism that permeates the Latino community comes from their treatment by the political parties, and at the hands of those who pose as its leaders. When President Clinton boldly announced that he was shocked by the lack of Latinos in the federal government ranks, the leaders of organizations established to protect and promote our community's interests praised Mr. Clinton for his action. Not one of them questioned our votes for reelection. This is when we ask for accountability for the promises made two and four years ago.

We have reached a point in our political development as a community, that the rank-and-file has surpassed the political sophistication of its leaders. If the political parties ignore our community, it is because they are comfortable knowing that our most visible leaders will never turn on their masters, regardless of what they do or do not that would benefit our community.

Politicians should not be allowed to use our poverty-stricken brothers and sisters as campaign fodder as was done by vice president candidate Joe Lieberman with poor families in the Texas colonias. You can find these ramshackle homes in every state in the Union... yes... even in Tennessee... but there, for the most part, the occupants are African American or poor Whites. This would be fine, if we could expect, should Gore win, to go back to those colonias four years from now and find that new homes replaced the cardboard shacks. But we won't find new homes, only, perhaps, different residents.

This is what breeds apathy and cynicism among out voters. We are filled with words and promises that do not nourish the spirit or enhance the quality of life. The President and his or her party that turns promises to accomplishments will truly benefit from the loyalty of this community's voters in the future.

Our role as a community is to participate in the election to the fullest of our ability. We have Latinos and Latinas on the ballot from both political parties that need our vote.

Calderón can be reached at Latsac@aol.com.

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