September 14, 2001

Commentary

Chismes de Mi gallinero:

The Chicano Vote—Who Wants it, Really?

By: Julio C. Calderón

My gallinas have abandoned their laying boxes and are hiding their eggs in the weirdest places. The last batch I found under the pool deck. It's pretty much what all of you will have to do when you try to find out who your new representative in the Legislature or the congress are going to have to do for your next vote.

I have been musing about the progress of this decade's reapportionment. My last Chismes may have left you with the belief that I am in full and unquestioningly in support of past Republican governors and have given them the credit for our advancements due to their reapportionments. Not so!

My core political beliefs are based on my introduction to political activism in the late 1960's. My first registration was as a member of the La Raza Unida Party.

La Raza Unida Party had a mantra - "The Democratic and Republican Party is a two-headed monster that eats from the same bowl." I believed it then - as I do now.

My change in political tactics came after - totally by chance - I went from activist to observer when I found myself in the ranks of television journalists. My stories on Chicano issues were overly scrutinized for balance. This forced me to look at both sides of issues. I learned to look beyond the propaganda. I found that this political bird had fleas under the left wing, as well as under the right wing.

Partisan politics is an institution. It is the political glass ceiling we have been trying to break trough all of these years. I always believed that we needed strength in both political parties. I believe that our community needs to be in the position of putting food into the bowl, so that regardless of the head that eats from it _ we affect the body politic.

The Chicano - Latino community is now at that stage of political development. We have always had the `numbers,' now we are developing the economics involved in developing and independent political personae.

What the political establishment, Democrat and Republican, fear is that the rank-and-file is getting more and more involved in politics. We have had the numbers according to every census to make a difference. We have been absent on the registration rolls, and that is what has been changing, along with some organizing of political money.

When you have Democrats like Rep. Howard Berman dumping Chicano voter enclaves on an other Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman. This is an example of personal political survival on Mr. Berman's part. He saw that the potential for a well qualified, well financed, well organized Latino from the San Fernando Valley coming after his seat in a primary election two, maybe four years away. So he dumped Pacoima and San Fernando on Mr. Sherman.

Reapportionment is usually an exercise in strengthening the party in power. This is not your ordinary reapportionment as far as our community is concerned. The Republican Party in California is totally irrelevant. I thought Democrats would be working toward securing the super two-thirds majority in both houses of the legislature. Democrats would need only one seat in the State Senate and four in the Assembly to reach that goal. This is something that our King Gray Davis would not want, because the Legislature could over-turn his vetoes. Republicans have been relatively quiet during this process. Why, because the reapportionment leaves them the status quo. It is the Democrats that are trying to divest themselves of large Latino populations.

The democrats have always counted on organized labor. Unfortunately, organized labor has become more and more Chicano. The unions are the main Chicano players now - not the Chicano organizations. For the most part, Chicano organizations are still poverty pimps. The unions, on the other hand, know how to organize and have the money to turn out the vote. Chicanos control the unions in the service sectors.

The unions are the ones turning out the votes. Unlike White controlled unions, where the membership would, or would not, vote according to the leadership, Latinos unionists do follow their leaders, but for how long?

The political strategists have always looked at our community with a jaundiced eye. The Democrats were always pleased with the low voter turnouts because they could never predict just how they would vote. The Republican strategist feared the same unknown, so they, too, ignored campaigning for their vote.

As a community, we have developed enclaves, pockets of neighborhoods, barrios, if you will. We were easy to divide. Since, we have become computer literate. We can crunch our own numbers. We are becoming a potential political threat.

We have always relied on Democrats or Republicans to `take care' of our political interests. Neither party has ever really had our `interests' at the forefront of their agendas.

Politics is the game of power. We have settled for any crumbs either party has willed us. Political power, however, is not given. Political power is won — those who want it wrestle it from those who have it.

The elements needed for successful political actions are merging. As we develop politically, we are also developing economically. Our business community is discovering the value of donating to candidates. They are also establishing political action committees according to their interests. Former Assembly Speaker, now deceased, Jesse Unhra once said, "The mother's milk of politics is money."

We, the Chicano community, is there. The combination of organized labor, Latino business and professional political action committees, is a threat to the status quo. This is the danger to the established political machines, Democrat or Republican. They have always feared our independent spirit, but because we have never brought these elements together, they never feared our real political potential.

La Raza Unida was an idea too early for its time. Its own failure was our community's independence. It is our independence that is up for grabs. Republicans know this. Democrats refuse to recognize this, so they are resorting, through reapportionment to keep this community divided and splintered.

The point here is basic…ojo chicharo! Neither Democrat nor Republican can see to our interests better than ourselves.

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