September 29, 2000
By Jerome DeHerrera
President Clinton and Vice President Gore headlined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Gala in Washington that brought together Latino leaders from across the country representing the community, political and business segments of the Hispanic population.
U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, (D)-California, representing Los Angeles, introduced President Clinton, who gave an emotional and rousing address to the 1,500 in the audience.
President Clinton expressed his gratitude for the support from the Latino community and for the chance that our community took on him in 1992 when he was a little-known governor of a small southern state.
The President, however, made it clear that while the chance the Hispanic community took on him in 1992 was important, the choice Latinos are being asked to make in this year's election is even more important because the opportunities we have today make the stakes even greater.
For the Hispanic community, the stakes are especially high this year because of the projected federal budget surplus which, depending on who wins control of the White House and the Congress, could lead to more resources for schools and health care.
According to the most recent polling done by Hispanic pollster Sergio Bendixen, health care and education are the most important issues for Latino voters, followed by the economy.
With these issues on their minds, 59% of Latinos now favor Vice President Gore compared to 28% for Governor Bush. This lead for Gore is even more pronounced among new immigrants who support Gore 68% to 17% for Bush. Gore's support among Mexicans, Dominicans and Central Americans is also overwhelming while Gov. Bush enjoys support among Cubans.
These polling numbers confirm that many in the Latino community feel strongly that Al Gore will take advantage of the opportunities our economic growth provides to improve our public schools, improve the health care system and provide better economic opportunities.
The fact that education and health care are the critical issues for Hispanic families makes it that much harder for George Bush to appeal to Latinos. Although Bush has retooled his message to attract middle class families, many view Bush cautiously because of his signature tax cut and his selection of Dick Cheney as his running mate.
Although both presidential candidates claim that education and health care are their top priorities, the two candidates propose policies, which are very different. Governor Bush proposes giving most of the projected budget surplus back to families in the form of a tax cut and allowing the private sector to play larger roles in health care, education and social security.
Vice President Gore however, proposes investing in public schools to reduce class size, expanding Medicare to include a prescription drug benefit, and enacting targeted tax cuts to aid families with the cost of child care and college tuition.
According to the new polling numbers, it would appear that the Latino community, with the exception of Cubans, believes that Al Gore's idea to use the projected budget surplus to invest in critical social priorities, such as education and health care rather than a tax cut, is the best way to achieve the full potential of the Latino community.
The question now is whether the Latino community will exercise its full strength by voting in high enough numbers to ensure that the candidate who is promoting their agenda is elected on November 7.
Jerome writes a political column from Washington D.C. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org