Loving the Latino Voter

This was supposed to be it.

This was going to be the presidential election in which Latinos said, “See ya” (or if you prefer, “Vaya con Dios”) to the Democratic Party and ran into the warm embrace of the Republicans. And then everybody would dance to meringue while discussing the role of limited government. How happy they would all be together.

But it hasn’t quite worked out that way. The latest Gallup poll (for June) shows that Barack Obama has more than a two-to-one advantage over John McCain among Hispanic voters. Obama’s popularity cuts across gender, age, region, education level, and every other way a pollster can slice and dice a demographic into its subatomic parts.

The results are so disturbing for conservatives that many of them are too depressed to plaster “English only” signs on their property.

Republicans seem shocked that Latinos, after being demonized for the economic woes afflicting the country, aren’t clamoring to turn their respective states red. So conservatives have put aside their blueprints for that wall along the Mexican border long enough to ask, “Hey Hispanics, why don’t you love us?”

It’s a fair question. After all, we heard how President Bush won about forty percent of the Hispanic vote in the last election. And we also heard how the Republican platform appeals to all those hyper-religious, family-obsessed Latinos. Finally, we discovered that Obama was so despised among Hispanics that, on Election Day, they would bash him in like a piñata at a ten-year-old’s birthday party… ok, that’s an overused metaphor, but the point is that Latinos, according to most storylines, are supposed to have big issues with the guy.

In truth, Hispanics have far less of a problem with Obama than white female Baby Boomers do. And the Democratic platform of emphasizing education and health-care reform resonates more than do Republican affirmations that their party really, really likes God.

There is also the tiny matter that many Latinos – not just naturalized citizens but born-and-bred, flat-accented Midwestern types – resent the stench of racial superiority that much of conservatism gives off.

Bear in mind that I’m not saying Republicans are racist. I’m saying it’s a perception issue that they would be wise to address. You would think that an organization that can successfully market an unnecessary war could fix their image problems.

And by the way, having Alberto Gonzalez as the most prominent Latino in their party doesn’t exactly help.

Of course, trying to pinpoint the exact reasons why a huge segment of the population votes a certain way is doomed to failure. This is especially true of the fabled Hispanic swing voter, who can be anybody from a conservative Cuban immigrant to a liberal second-generation El Salvadoran to a moderate Chicano to a left-handed naturalized Bolivian native with a thing for horticulture (I’m sure he’s out there). There is more cultural variety among Hispanics than there is among most demographics, which in truth, are arbitrary and convenient constructs anyway.

But if we must look at Hispanics as a whole, it’s clear that they remain solidly Democratic. And short of Obama setting the Puerto Rican flag on fire during a rally, that’s not changing this year.


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July 2008
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