Now What Happens?

Here at Fanatic worldwide headquarters, we all want to know what the Obama administration will mean to Latinos. My guess is that it will mean roughly the same thing that it means to everyone else (eg, change, hope, cries of “socialism!” etc), with an extra tint of pride beyond what most white people feel – but which still falls short of the absolute joy that African Americans feel.

The first detail to address is the makeup of his administration. We’re talking about a biracial liberal whose candidacy attracted voters of every conceivable race, creed, and demographic. He’s more or less promised to rehabilitate the term “diversity” and transform it, Cinderella style, into a beautiful princess, instead of leaving it to toil in the social conservatives’ kitchen.

Specifically, there is some talk (possibly scurrilous, because there’s nothing better than “scurrilous talk”) of Bill Richardson getting to call his Cabinet post. Besides being well-qualified for just about any administration gig, this high-profile Latino did help Obama score New Mexico. So a Richardson appointment would be both political payback and good for the country, and we know how rare that combination is after the abject cronyism of the Bush administration, where competence was a humorous afterthought compared to loyalty and ideology.

Next, we have to ponder those issues that resonate most with Hispanics. Conveniently, most of these issues are also big guns with the general population. After all, Latinos are not any more or less obsessed with jobs, health care, and education than white people are – it’s just that Hispanics have grown weary of receiving the poorest quality in all of these areas. Any Obama policies that move Latinos closer to the standards enjoyed by the general population will receive a resounding “Si, se puede!”

Already, Obama’s transition team has identified hundreds of executive orders that the new president will overturn, amend, or just bury in the White House backyard. In addition, Obama’s ideas on taxation – and his drive to reform the previously mentioned problem areas of education and health care – may have a direct impact on the Latino standard of living. Much depends on whether the minority party (an ironic moniker under the circumstances) decides to pick a fight over what constitutes “socialism.”

The most pressing topic that appeals specifically to Hispanics, of course, is immigration. This tends to be true regardless of whether one is illegal or a third-generation citizen. For Obama, this issue gets dicey, because Bush and McCain were actually at odds with their own party’s hard-line stance, meaning that the president-elect would have to be even more open about immigration to differentiate himself from his opponents.

So one has to ponder if guest-worker programs will move forward. Also, will there be a nationwide American Dream Act, or is this piece of equitable legislation fated to be battled over in state after state? And what will happen to those so-called amnesty provisions?

In all likelihood, the answer is that not much will come of the new president’s apparently sincere desire to make this country a better place for immigrants. There simply isn’t the bandwidth. Obama will be so swamped trying to dig the economy out of the toilet and dealing with two floundering wars that I doubt any serious movement on immigration will happen before, say, 2012.

And just think, at that point, all this fun starts again.


3 Responses to “Now What Happens?”

  1. November 15, 2008 at 10:36 am

    During the campaign, president-elect Obama promised to initiate legislation for comprehensive immigration reform in the first 100 days of his administration. Clearly, you believe he will break that promise and you give some very compelling political reasons why. All the same, I do not think we Latinos should give Mr. Obama a free pass on shelving the issue of immigration reform.

    It’s very likely Mr. Obama, like most presidents, will come into office with considerable political capital during the proverbial “honeymoon” period with congress and the media. If we Latinos sit idly and let him expend that capital exclusively on the economy and the war, what will he have left for immigration reform?

    We need to hold Mr. Obama to his pledge. Otherwise, immigration reform will once again languish on the back burner. It will take a considerable political effort to overcome the hyperactive nativist fringe who vehemently oppose immigration reform. A president weakened in the polls and beholden to many in congress will not be able to push the legislation past the amnesty chorus.

    Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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November 2008
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