Obama & The Hispanic Vote

Latino VoteThe prevailing wisdom seems to be that America’s ‘rednecks’ will decide the outcome of the US Presidential election. Why else the furore over Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin? It could, however, be the Latino vote that swings it. The Democrats, especially, know this, which was why Hillary Clinton turned up at the Hispanic Caucus in Denver during the Convention to remind them how in the early ‘70’s she and Bill had campaigned in Texas on behalf of immigrant electoral registration .  Michelle Obama addressed the same group two days later.

The reason was obvious:  Latinos already comprise over 15% of the US population. By 2050 this will increase to 29% (128 million). At the Convention, 11.8% of the 4,500 delegates were Hispanic. Many of the leading speakers were Latinos including  Nydia Velazquez , the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress (1992), Colorado Senator Ken Salazar and  California’s Linda Sanchez – who recounted how, when she was first elected to Congress she was asked (in the elevator) which office she worked in. It was assumed she was an employee.

Democratic Party National ConventionAt the Invesco Stadium, before Barrack Obama’s big speech, the 80,000 crowd took up the chant of  “Arriba!, Adelante! Si se puede!” (Rise up! Forward! Yes you can!). Throughout the week, Latinos from the Los Angeles- based ‘Hermandad Mexicana’  demonstrated outside the Convention Centre. Their placards proclaimed “Legalization Yes! Deportation No!”. They pointed out that between 12 –14 million of them  were ‘indocumentados’ and so classified as illegally in the country. They live in fear of being thrown out of the US, separated from their families and never allowed back in again .They favour Obama  but aren’t convinced he’ll do anything to help them if he becomes President. On the contrary ,  they say, he echoes McCain when talking about ‘securing the frontier’ with Mexico. They intend to monitor the promises of both candidates and then vote for whichever one offers (for them) the best platform. They consider they are victims of double standards: exploited while they are needed , told to leave when they are no longer useful, scapegoats when the economy (as now) is in trouble. In their view, the fight for immigrant rights and against discrimination in Spain and the rest of Europe (including the UK) is the same as theirs.

Hispanics are at least 20% of the electorate in Colorado, Florida and Nevada. In New Mexico they are more than 40%. Securing their support could prove crucial to Obama’s prospects of making it to the White House. But he definitely can’t and shouldn’t take them for granted.

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Filed under: Politics | Posted on August 1st, 2008 by Colin D Gordon

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