Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Election 2012: What’s At Stake For Latino Voters

On Election Day, there are two distinct paths that are at stake for Latino voters: One being the president’s policies as he heads into the second term and the other would rest on the chance that Mitt Romney would fare better in a divided Congress.

President Barack Obama’s campaign is reiterating that the growth of the Latino community will be felt at the polls. If he is reelected, it will be on the backs of Latino voters the campaign claims. That will send a message to opponents that the Latino community is a force.

“The Election of 2012 has seen a greater amount of engagement by both presidential campaigns to represent Latinos, there’s no question about that,” said Mickey Ibarra, founder of a Washington D.C. political consulting firm. “We may in fact see a performance that exceeds predictions that are commonly understood today.”

Ibarra added that conversely if turnout is less than predicted that could pose a big problem for the president’s reelection.

“Long term it could set back Latino political empowerment to a degree if in fact Latinos are looked upon as folks that didn’t show up on Election Day causing Mitt Romney to win,” he said. “It will not be a permanent setback because over time that’s going to occurbut most of us agree that it’s time for us to jump start that and we certainly can in this election.”

Which party has done a better job at reaching Latino voters?

Themes such as immigration reform  and other concerns including the social safety net are dominating agendas that Latino voters care about in the upcoming Congressional term, particularly in light of the looming fiscal cliff. If Congress does not deal with the rising deficit and come to a bipartisan agreement before the end of the year, across the board cuts would trim into domestic spending programs such as social security and health care services.

“Depending on which way you go it could have a negative effect on the Latino community or it could have a positive effect,” said Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NILP). “What’s clear is that there is a great fear in the Latino community that the Republicans position on many issues would be something that would be hurting this community. It would set the community back in many areas.”

Republicans agree that what’s at stake for Latino voters is more than a political platform and they believe Obama has not been able to reach out across the aisle to bring a bipartisan consensus as he promised.

“The largest group of children in poverty are Latinos,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) “The first thing is at stake is whether our community, in the land of opportunity, would be able to find full-time jobs.”

He adds that other priorities would include the rising price of gas, a development of independent resources and economic reform.

“First and foremost is what kind of country Latinos and everyone else is going to live in?” said Diaz-Balart. “Is it going to be the land of opportunity, job creation, social mobility or is it what we’ve been living in the last four years, which is a stagnant economy.”

Will new Latino candidates help bridge the political impasse?

Polarization in Congress is at a standstill, but with more Latinos poised to gain seats that might also mean more accountability and less dodging.

There are five key House races where Latinos (who are all Democrats) have favorable chances of winning, according to a report by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Of those running, particularly noteworthy are aspiring candidates such as Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) in New Mexico who could become one of the first Latina voices in the House representing that state.

The representation of Latinos in the House of Representatives could increase to at most 31, but is likely to reach from 24 to 27. In some of these districts, the victory of Latino candidates rests in the hands of the Hispanic community.

“It will bring a different face and background to the people who are voting,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) “Take for example two of our candidates in California, Dr. Raul Ruiz in the Palm Springs area and Jose Hernandezboth of them are children of farmworkers and they will come to Congress with a perspective that oftentimes has been lacking in the people that vote for them in Washington D.C.”

On the Senate side, both promising contenders include tea party endorsed Ted Cruz in Texas and Democratic challenger Richard Carmona in Arizona. If Carmona wins that sends a reverberating message of the clout Latino voters have considering the anti-immigrant sentiment that has polarized that state.

Where is the GOP Party headed?

In 2010, the GOP gained a landslide of Latino representatives and that pushed many to question where the future of the Republican Party is headed. With prominent rising stars such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has advocated for a version of the DREAM Act, more speculation is placed on whether Latinos in the Republican Party could break the extreme right-wing ideology that alienated some Latino voters. Once more that’s put to question in this election.

“I think the future of the GOP will rest in the hands of a Hispanic party,” said Raul Vargas, former chairman of the chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly. “A Hispanic party that in 2004 voted 44 percent for president Bush. I think we’re getting back to those days where the party is recognizing the importance of the Hispanic vote.”

Yet, most eyes are locked in the Senate for a reason. Whether or not more Latinos win it, it is unlikely this election will break the filibuster majority that many advocates contend does not allow key legislative issues like the DREAM Act to pass. Still, having more Latinos represented can be an influential force.

“The structure of the Senate and its rules is one where there’s always been more of a desire to find compromise and consensus. You need 60 votes to anything major passed in the Senate anyway so there’s a need to work on a more bipartisan basis and in the Senate it has always been that way,” said Vargas. “I think we’ll have Hispanic Republican leaders in the Senate that work in that direction.”

Latino voters: Power in numbers it’s all about ‘respect’

Latino voters are going to hit record turnout in this election and there’s little room to argue even if the numbers are less than 12.2 million, analysts suggest. And more than partisan differences is the political clout of the Latino voter.

One of those galvanizing themes is immigration and particularly the DREAM Act.

For advocates of the DREAM Act, political representation has become a reverberating point throughout the campaign. Cesar Vargas, a dreamer and president of the DRM Capitol Group, said voter mobilization efforts have been unprecedented in this election.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of the Latino vote is being galvanized bya lot of the Dreamers being actively involved across the countryand being so close to the Latino electorate. Immigration is not the primary issue. The economy is very important, but immigration strikes at the heart of the Latino electorate,” he said.

Juan Andrade, president of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, expressed this clearly in a statement published today.

In bold words, he wrote that what’s at stake in this election is “respect.” He went on to note that regardless of who wins, the Latino community has never gotten their fair share of the credit. Yet, he pointed that Latinos always get more than their fair share of the blame when the preferred candidate loses.

“…the way we win that respect is by turning out to vote in mass, and I mean critical mass. You know you’re respected when politicians know that our issues cannot be ignored because we vote and how they vote on our issues will have consequences,” stated Andrade. “Your vote is our voice.”

This article originally appeared on Voxxi.