Saturday, April 20, 2024


Sleeping Giant No More
By: Senator Robert Menendez

voter registration.JPG History will remember the election of 2008 – when Barack Obama was chosen to be our President – as a groundbreaking, unifying and uplifting moment for our nation. This is the stuff of history books, and it is a sign that the country we love is poised to head in a new direction.

In those same history books, I believe it will also be written that this was the time when the sleeping giant of the American political process – the Latino community – finally awoke.

Over the past year, I have been invited to speak in front of various groups to predict the Latino influence in the election. The message I delivered to those audiences was a simple one: Ya es hora. The road to the White House would come through the Latino community. This would be the time when the combination of a booming Latino population, a mass of Latino youths coming of age and ever-increasing registration and civic engagement within the Latino community promised to make the Latino vote a deciding factor. This is would be the political awakening many observers had long been waiting to see.

On November 4, Latinos did deliver in record numbers (a 25 percent turnout increase from 2004), and swung decisively for President-elect Obama (by a two to one margin). He was able to win in no small part because he parlayed Latino support in several key states into Electoral College votes. Because of Latinos, he broke the one-party rule over the Southwest and took the critical state of Florida. It’s a roadmap to the White House that future candidates will have to follow as the scope and influence of the Latino community continues to grow.

Latinos went overwhelmingly for President-elect Obama not because has was a Democrat, but because his policies and values are reflective of the values shared by many in the Latino community. His economic plan made sense to Latinos, who have the highest rate of unemployment. His health care plan showed promise to Latinos, who comprise the largest group of uninsured Americans. Even the rallying cry “Yes we can” spoke to Latinos who were familiar with the message behind Cesar Chavez’s Si se peude.

Of course, the point of turning out for a candidate and helping shape an election is not to have a blog post written about it – the point is to make sure your government is working for you. Now is the time for the Latino community to realize the power of its votes.

With Latinos having formed such a strong part of the coalition that carried President-elect Obama to the White House, I would hope that the Obama administration feels an obligation to include Latinos in all levels of the government, starting with the Cabinet . And it is our duty to assist and remind the administration of that obligation. The Latino community and its leaders will be watching.

I do believe that this administration and the countless other lawmakers elected on the strength of a forceful Latino turnout will be working hard to make sure they earned those votes.

That means greater attention to unemployment, health care and education in our community. It means dealing with the immigration problem in a way that doesn’t demean or demonize an entire segment of the population.

Ya es hora. Now more than ever, the Latino community has helped shaped the government. Now more than ever, Washington has a stake in the Latino community. The possibilities are endless.

Since 1992, Senator Menendez, has been fighting for New Jersey families in Washington, where he rose to become the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives before taking office in the Senate in 2006. In Congress, he has made it his priority to make health care more affordable for New Jersey’s families and to improve schools so they prepare our children for a successful future. Currently, he is working hard to make college more affordable for the next generation of leaders.

We would like to thank Senator Menendez for sharing with our readers his insights on this historic election.