Sunday, July 21, 2024

Big chance for Latino voters


By Raul Yzaguirre from
The Arizona Republic

When I agreed to lead Sen. Hillary Clinton’s efforts to attract Latino voters during the presidential primaries, I believed she was the most qualified candidate for the job, in part, because she had built a profound and lasting relationship with our community.

In my view, she had earned the respect and support of a majority of the nation’s Latino electorate. Most Latino primary voters agreed. In state after state, Clinton routinely attracted 60 to 70 percent of the Latino vote against her then primary opponent and now Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. 

President Clinton may have been America’s first “Black president,” but Bill and Hillary have long been among the Latino community’s greatest advocates.

Latinos made significant gains during the Clinton administration in the way of appointments and a wide array of policy initiatives, and I felt Sen. Clinton’s ascension would lead again to our community playing an important role in the White House.

Since Sen. Clinton’s loss in primaries, I’ve been pondering the potential impact on our community of the election of Obama or John McCain on Tuesday.

Regrettably, I worry that Latinos may not wield much influence with either administration.

Obama is smart and well-intentioned, but he lacks deep ties to our community and an intimate understanding of the needs and interests of the nation’s Latinos.

In short, he doesn’t have a track record with us.I believe Latino voters need to take a broad view of Tuesday’s election. Our community’s fast-growing population, the overall excitement of the campaign and a slew of get-out-the-vote efforts promise to attract record numbers of Latinos to the polls.

Sen. Clinton may not have made it to the finish line, but Latinos will still play an important role.

For one thing, the White House isn’t the only game in town. The Latino community needs to redouble its efforts to elect candidates at the local, state and federal level – especially in Congress, where we are woefully underrepresented.

Latinos must also be well-represented in both the Republican and Democratic ranks. Voting exclusively for one political party diminishes our leverage in the overall political process.

It also is vital that we grow our representation in our respective state legislatures in advance of the 2010 U.S. census.

It is our state representatives who (based on the census results) will get to redraw the district boundaries that directly affect who gets to represent us in the state legislatures and Congress.

The long-term effect of voting local is critically important, as well. School boards, city councils and the like are often stepping-stones to statewide or national office. No matter how you look at it, the road to the White House begins at your local polling place.

If the success of Obama proves anything, it is that the United States is still a country where people born to modest means can rise to the top of the nation’s political or economic ranks.

Like Obama, many of our nation’s most successful Hispanic politicians got their start as community activists. I’m convinced there’s a future presidential candidate in our midst.

In the end, no matter who gets elected to the White House, this November’s election offers Latino voters an opportunity to shape our nation’s future, and that opportunity should not be wasted.

Raul Yzaguirre is the executive director of the Arizona State University Center for Community Development and Civil Rights. He is the former president of the National Council of La Raza.

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