Every national survey indicates that at least two out of three Hispanic voters will cast their ballot for President Obama on Nov. 6. I know you’re assuming this will happen. And that’s a big problem.
You are so certain that you will easily win this segment of the electorate that you are making little effort to court Hispanics _ and this situation has gone on far too long.
The relationship between our community and the Democratic Party is like that of an old married couple who have been together for so many decades that the enthusiasm that once made the relationship interesting is long gone. As comfortable as we have become with each other, keep in mind that love can be unpredictable. Have you forgotten the presidential election of 2004, when Republican President George W. Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote?
During Obama’s first three years in office, political conditions in the United States started to become favorable for a similar upset. As a candidate running for the presidency in 2008, Obama had promised to submit to Congress a proposal for immigration reform within his first year, but then he failed to do so. And Democratic lawmakers did not show any urgency in moving forward with fulfilling Obama’s promise _ not even when the party controlled both chambers of Congress in 2009 and 2010. That should have been a priority. Instead, undocumented immigrants living in the shadows were left without hope.
The current administration has deported more than 1.2 million immigrants, more than any other in U.S. history. And despite the White House’s policy of prioritizing for deportation those undocumented immigrants who break the law, many thousands who have been deported do not have a criminal history. The president is likely responsible for having split up many Hispanic families with children who have American citizenship.
The GOP has in its favor the fact that many Hispanics share the party’s devotion to traditional values, such as a focus on religion and family and opposition to abortion. But so far Republicans have not been able to use this to their advantage.
They are also more aware that the Hispanic vote is not monolithic. Remember that you Democrats lost the Cuban-American vote after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. While the history is complicated, Cuban exiles blamed President John F. Kennedy for that disastrous military operation, which failed to remove Fidel Castro from power. Cuban-Americans have voted Republican ever since.
But while it appeared earlier this year that the GOP had a chance of turning Obama’s immigration failures to its advantage, the relationship between Democrats and Hispanics was saved when it became clear that Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, opposed almost everything Hispanics tend to favor, including immigration reform that is fair to immigrants with and without documents and the passage of the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants brought here by their families as children. And the anti-immigrant rhetoric that Republican lawmakers in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and other states have been using to inflame voters ended any chance of the GOP’s increasing its popularity with Hispanics.
But that’s not enough to keep us together. So why don’t we just concede that ours is a love that has conditions attached?
The strength of our relationship is based on Democrats’ history of standing with the Hispanic community in matters that involve discrimination _ recently by challenging anti-immigrant laws and launching a federal investigation into Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s policies. Democrats share our community’s concerns about expanding educational opportunities and increasing access to health care. Also, though it hardly counts as immigration reform, Obama’s courageous decision to halt the deportations of almost 2 million undocumented students is proof that he is sensitive to an issue that is important to us.
So let’s make a deal: In exchange for Hispanic votes, we want you to stop taking us for granted. Do not assume that we will always cast our ballots in your favor.
Do not assume that we’ll happily vote for you after a few Democrats speak Spanish during your upcoming convention in North Carolina.
Do not assume that boisterous campaign promises are all that’s needed to keep us together. Promises are no longer enough.
We want to be part of the process, and we want to be heard. We want to be part of the party’s future. So, Democrats, either make a real effort to include us in your political agenda, or run the risk of divorce.
By Jorge Ramos Avalos
(Agust 27, 2012)