Monday, September 16, 2019

Guest Blogger Series: Maria Cardona and Alicia Menendez “To Vote is Power”

As featured in The Hill:

This year, Latino voters like many voters, are angry and anxious.  But they aren’t stupid.  As has been reported widely, a conservative third-party group called “Latinos for Reform,” recently released an ad in which the narrator says: “Don’t vote this November. This is the only way to send [Democrats] a clear message. You can no longer take us for granted.” That’s right – now that the sleeping giant has awoken, a shady third party group is telling it to take a nap.  Some Latino pundits and supposed advocates for the community have echoed similar, misguided sentiments.  Galina Espinoza, the co-president and editorial director of Latina Media Ventures, in a recent piece writes, “most of us are planning to stay home this November—a decision that could lead to a shift of power in Washington.”  It’s a silly meme to spread.  Latinos know that staying home doesn’t shift power; it concedes power.

In this election, Latino voters will turn out to the polls in support of everything that has made America great: a return to hard work, responsibility and common sense solutions, not fringe ideologies that call for the end of protections for hard working families when they need them most, and for building a Berlin Wall as a response to our immigration challenge.   Fringe group leaders know this.  That’s why they’re spending money across the country encouraging Latino voters to sit this election out.  “Latinos for Reform” cannot convince Latinos to vote for extremists like Nevada Senate Candidate Sharron Angle, who have actively scape-goated Latinos for their own political benefit.  Instead, they will do the next best thing: encourage them to stay home and cast a defacto vote for a candidate that stands in direct opposition to their community and their values.

Fringe groups believe that they can capitalize on our growing frustration with Washington’s inability to fix our broken immigration system.  They are right about one thing: many in our communities are disappointed that Comprehensive Immigration Reform has not received the dedicated legislative effort we believe it deserves.  But those to whom this issue is most dear know better than anyone that it is critical that we harness that frustration and use it to mobilize our community to the polls.

By staying home, what message would we be sending to every Senator who withheld his or her support for Dream Act legislation that would have helped young and motivated undocumented students become citizens? We’re telling those who refused to do what is best for America that they can continue to get away with flat out rejecting common sense solutions because Latinos would rather penalize our allies for not moving fast enough.

And while immigration is certainly a unique issue for our community, it is not our only issue.  However imperfect, America finally has a do-something Congress.  They passed the biggest tax cut for middle class families in two generations. They passed legislation that will make 150,000 additional Pell Grants available to Latinos students.  They passed Race to the Top which is already challenging underperforming public schools with large number of Latino students to raise their game. They approved an initiative that has already put $1 Billion toward Latino small businesses. They passed Wall Street reform and Credit Card reform so Latinos cannot be taken advantage of by financial institutions.  Moreover, Latinos stand to benefit disproportionately from the recent health insurance reform law: it gives 9 million previously uninsured Latinos health care coverage, it gives millions of Latino parents the piece of mind that their child cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, and it gives millions of Latino seniors the security of knowing they will not have to choose between paying the rent or buying their prescription drugs.

With all of this in mind, allow us to offer a counter-narrative to Latinos and non-Latinos alike: get out there and vote. Encourage your friends, family, co-workers and everyone who shares your belief in the democratic process to do the same. We must be the architects of our own political, economic and social futures.  That very freedom and the powerful opportunities that come with it, is what inspired each of our family’s journeys to this great country.  Decide who has more often than not been at your side on issues from college access and affordability to small business lending, and yes, immigration. And know who has betrayed you and walked away from the real solutions we need and deserve.  Let’s show those who stand with us that while change may be slow, we will not leave their side until this fight is done.  Then let’s show our opponents and their fringe, sideline cheerleaders the door.

Maria Cardona is a principal at The Dewey Square, co-founder of Latinovations, and former senior advisor to the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign.  Alicia Menendez is a senior advisor at NDN.  Both are frequent commentators on cable TV news shows and both plan on voting this election.