Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Comentarios from Maria Cardona: “Latinos don’t have to pick one political identity”

Last week’s Republican debate brought some interesting surprises. As a Latina Democrat, the biggest one I saw was Newt Gingrich’s defense of a legalization program for undocumented immigrants who have roots in the community and pose no threat to society.

Herman Cain has “joked” about an electrified fence on the border. Michele Bachmann can’t stop talking about her outrage at “anchor babies.” Mitt Romney, in an effort to make himself look like an immigration hardliner, has disavowed any past stances that would make him look soft on the issue. Most of the GOP candidates have gone to “kiss the ring” of Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio – arguably the most anti-immigrant law enforcement officer in the nation. So Gingrich’s new found “compassion” stands in stark contrast to the rest of the GOP field, who have tripped over each other to show who is most right-wing on immigration.

But how will all this play out for Latinos in 2012? Is the community divided?  Will they stay home in 2012? Will they still support this president or will Gingrich create a new opening for the GOP with Latinos?

This is a deep and complicated question that no doubt perplexes those who try to define us by shallow, rigid strictures: Does Latino identity play a part in how we make decisions at the ballot box and how we view our public policy makers?

Sometimes, we ourselves don’t understand how this affects the decisions we make.

As Latinos, it is easy for the overwhelming majority of us to be against the anti-immigrant talk by most of the current field of GOP candidates. No wonder a recent Univision/Latino Decisions poll shows Obama beating all the candidates by margins of at least two-to-one.

Still, some Latinos believe we should re-think our loyalty to Obama and to the Democrats. While I believe that President Obama has done an enormous amount to help Latinos in this country – the Recovery Act, health care reform, financial credit card reform, Pell Grants – there is still a narrative that he did not deliver on his promise of comprehensive immigration reform. There’s disappointment in the rise of deportations that, at times, have led to separation in families.

Personally, I think this is a misguided, especially since the administration has announced new deportation guidelines that will show leniency in cases of those who pose no threat to the community. The problem will not be fixed until we pass comprehensive immigration reform, and we have the Republicans to thank for the lack of it.

But overall, the question of how Latino identities play into our national political debates is a good one. I believe these perceived differences are a good thing. They demonstrate political evolution and maturation. We are finally understanding that all our voices matter and we all need to speak up, even if there are dissenting voices among us.

This demonstrates the constant struggle – the daily reality – of understanding the identity of Latinos in the country.

I am honored when I hear from other Latinos about how proud they are to see a Latina on national television, holding her own on arguments not just about immigration and Latino issues, but about the economy, jobs, terrorism and foreign policy.

Young, bright, up-and-coming Latinas have come to me with this dilemma: Which identity to put first? When you are in a position to direct public policy, who are you first and foremost? When do you represent Latinos and when do you represent all Americans? There are many Latinos in position to affect the administration’s public policy on health, education, housing, foreign policy and yes, immigration. When I served as a Clinton administration appointee, I was in the same position and at times felt torn between identities.

I have come to see myself as the totality of my experiences – as a woman, Latina, Colombian-born American, mother and professional who had opportunities to work in national politics and cut my teeth in an area not populated by many Latinos.

I believe that we can be all these things.

We can be representatives of the Latino community, even in jobs where our responsibilities are much broader – just as Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s are as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court, as Governor Bill Richardson’s were when he led New Mexico and as Senator Robert Menendez are as a representative of New Jersey. These jobs are bigger than the person that holds them and they must represent the interests of the country as a whole. By doing this, they not only represent America well, they represent Latinos well.

This doesn’t mean they are turning their backs on their community – quite the opposite. The 50 million-plus Latinos living in this country have become such an integral part of our society that good, fair public policy towards middle-class and working-class Americans will be nothing but good for Latino families in this country.

As Latinos, we don’t have to choose.

But I do believe that Latinos in position of power have the obligation to empower other Latinos, to make their voices heard – and to continue to enrich the fabric of ideas that make our community so vibrant, whether it’s through agreement or dissent. While it will surely complicate things for those who want to put us in a box – and even for ourselves  –  it’s what is so fulfilling about being Latinos in America.

Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist and a principal at the Dewey Square Group, where she founded Latinovations. She is also a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, and former communications director to the Democratic National Committee.


  1. I feel that as a thinking latino women, I could never vote for a republican even if they believe in softening immigration laws. Republicans do no share any of the values that immigrants have. They only believe in protecting the interests of the rich people. They do not like poor people and time after time they have voted to curtail programs and benefits to the poor. I am a lucky latina that has come through the ladder and became the CEO of my health care business. But I feel I need to advocate for the poor and difranchised population. I have had to fight hard for allowing the poor to have a high quality and affordable health care. Mr. Obama is fighting for this as well so please let everyone know that not voting for Mr. Obama next year will be the end for anyone that is not rich in this country. Let me know what I can do to help get the message accross

  2. Great commentary Maria. We believe that Latinos are more Independent and Progressive. We are the swing vote. What is so frustrating is that GOP operatives seek to misinform Latinos into believing that they are conservatives and leverage their religion as the reason they should be Republican. Right now Conservatives are attacking every aspect of what is important in the Latino community. Social Security for the elderly, Poverty, Education cuts, Primary language etc. It is just so troubling when we see Latinos in power who can make a difference continue to push the Latino community to the GOP. Just our thoughts.

  3. Israel Cortez says

    i love you so much Maria ..tu eres una inspiracion para mi ..te amo eres una mujer muy inteligente..te admiro muchisimo..sigue adelante tu eres una voz muy importante paranosotros los latinos..por favor un dia considera la posivilidad de ser la primera mujer presidente esta gran nacion que amamos eso sucede yo sere el hombre mas feliz de esta mundo!!

  4. Nice going maria,
    You just have said a whole lot of nothing and their are many ike you who are also drinking the same koolaid that your so called President is drinking. You forgot to mention the Trillions in debt that he has put this country in and owes this money to China. I am so glad that you and many likd you should go from the craddle to his grave while on welfare and those who always put out and arm asking for more from our government. The socialist agenda that it is daily cramp down our throats should be investigated by the FBI and those founf abusing the system should be publicly branded and chastice. There is a reason why many illigals of all races are living this country and the reason is that they just had about enough listening to people like you who represent no one and care about nothing. Please don’t represent me and for god sake change your political party because you are making them look like jack rear ends.


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