Latino looks likely as Romney considers running mate
By Carl M. Cannon, UT San Diego (March 24, 2012)
The obsession with Etch-a-Sketch on the part of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich - courtesy of an inelegant comment made by one of Mitt Romney's aides - only underscored the obvious: Romney is going to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012.
Much is left to unsort, including Gingrich's openly stated assertion that he's trying to force a brokered GOP convention in Tampa as well as suspicions voiced by establishment Republicans to the effect that Santorum is actually sabotaging his party's inevitable standard-bearer in order to set himself up for a run in 2016.
In the real world, however, the thoughts of Republican party professionals now turn to the identity of Romney's running mate. Numerous factors come into play in this choice, the first truly important decision a presidential nominee makes every four years.
Historically, nominees of both parties sought to "balance" a ticket. This exercise in complementing the top of the ticket can be geographical (Massachusetts Democrats John F. Kennedy and Michael Dukakis both picked Texas senators), ideological (Dwight Eisenhower, perceived as a moderate, chose the more conservative Richard Nixon, while conservative Ronald Reagan picked the more moderate George H.W. Bush), or generational (see Quayle, Dan and Palin, Sarah).
The Palin pick was interesting for another reason. Like Walter Mondale in 1984, John McCain sought to offer gender balance to his party's ticket - and with equally futile results. These balancing acts make the nominee feel better and satisfy the cravings of the media for a story line with conflict in it, but the truth of the matter is that Americans don't really vote for the number two person on the ticket.
Nor do they particularly care what the losing candidates in the primary fight have to say. Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom's minor gaffe about resetting in the general election campaign like "an Etch-a-Sketch" notwithstanding, that's what general elections are usually about.
This year may be an exception, however, as some Republicans are whispering in Romney's ear. The Democrats' supposed "Republican war on women" is mostly hype, but there is a constituency that the GOP primary season has given short shrift to - and that constituency is Latinos.
Although it's axiomatic that Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic group in this country, there is, of course, no bloc Latino vote, anymore than Hispanics themselves are monolithic. But loose talk about building fences (stocked with alligators, no less) along the nation's southern border, enforcing laws designed for ethnic profiling, and "self-deportation" - this last, inane, formulation is Romney's own - has created both a crying need for the Republican presidential nominee to send a signal to 40 million Americans that they are not going to be marginalized by the Party of Lincoln.
But this crying need is also an opportunity for Mitt Romney: He can be the first nominee of a major political party to choose a Hispanic running mate.
So then the question becomes: Who should it be?
Four qualified candidates are apparently under some kind of consideration - or, if not, they should be. They are three governors and a U.S. senator: Govs. Luis Fortuño of Puerto Rico; Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Susana Martinez of New Mexico. The senator is Marco Rubio of Florida.
If one plays the ticket-balancing game, none of them are perfect on paper. Fortuño is governor of state that, not to put too fine a point on it, is not a state yet. And he's, obviously, Puerto Rican, not Mexican-American, which would help Romney more. That's an issue with Rubio, too - his parents came from Cuba - as is Rubio's opposition to the DREAM Act, which is enormously popular among rank-and-file Latino voters.
Brian Sandoval is very popular in Nevada, but he's pro-choice on abortion, which would be a problem for any vice presidential nominee in the modern Republican Party, but most especially for Romney, whose own late-in-life conversion on that issue is a source of suspicion among social conservatives.
Gov. Martinez' problems stem less from anything in her makeup or résumé than with a certain movie debuting this spring on HBO - about another Republican governor from a western state who was tapped as a vice-presidential nominee after having been governor for about an hour. But the lesson of Sarah Palin cuts two ways: Her choice thrilled the Republican base, energized the nominee, enlivened the 2008 GOP convention - and provided a boost in the polls.
So who fits that bill this time? Probably, the man from Miami. He's a conservative elected with ardent tea party support, with both charisma and experience in Tallahassee as the speaker in the lower house of the state legislature, and a man with passion and precision about his party's need to make Latinos feel welcome in the party formed to end slavery.
Viva Marco Rubio.
Cannon is Washington editor of RealClearPolitics.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Immigration Isn't Everything: The Latino Vote Will Not Be Blindly Cast
By Sylvia Puente (March 18, 2012)
CHICAGO, ILL - As Latinos are projected to make up nearly nine percent of the electorate in November-a 26 percent increase over the 2008 figure, according to NALEO-the buzz around the power of the Latino vote is warranted.
There is the notion that the Latino vote will boil down to a lesser-of-two-evils choice between an incumbent who supposedly hasn't kept his immigration-related campaign promises or a candidate representing a party whose talk of electric fences and self-deportation has alienated many voters. This isn't just simplistic, it's insulting!
The Latino ballot will not be blindly cast. Latinos represent a complex, maturing political force, a community that is red and blue and every shade in between, as diverse in their political ideologies as the various nations that they represent. And in Illinois, where my organization, the Latino Policy Forum, operates, the maturation of Latino politics is represented by the various contentious Latino-versus-Latino state-level contests that will appear on next week's primary ballots, as well as the November ticket.
Sweet talk on immigration or the creation of a majority-Latino district, won't woo these voters. Locally or nationally, candidates wishing to win Latino support will be wise to engage this bloc in dialog on the bevy of other issues - education, healthcare, and the economy, among others - that are important to all voters. In fact, when our organization asks local Latinos about the issues that matter most to them and their families, education almost always trumps immigration.
That's not to say that immigration policy won't play a key role in the election this November. While 70-plus percent of Latinos are either US-born or naturalized citizens, many have family members who are caught up in the quagmire that is our current immigration system. And the mean-spirited, anti-immigrant legislation that has recently come out of Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and other states has only served to inspire political passion in Latino voters. This is especially so with our youth, the generation of "Dreamers," a bloc that will be casting their first vote in 2012. Our analysis shows that at least 37,000 Illinois Latinos will turn 18 this year.
Just as equating the Latino vote with immigration issues underestimates the complexity of the community, the notion that true-blue Illinois' vote will automatically go to President Obama discounts the importance of local Latino ballots on both March 20th primary and November 6th general elections. The outcomes of Illinois' Latino-versus-Latino races will be decided largely by Latinos, who must carefully cast their ballot for the leader who will best represent them and their interests in our state's capital of Springfield.
The results of state-level contests will also have significant implications for how Illinois' worsening budget crisis will affect Latino communities. The state's $8 billion in unpaid bills will translate into significant cuts to the social services, from childcare to healthcare, that are critical for Latino families. But voters will essentially assemble the team that will make those cuts, perhaps determining how deep they will go.
The potential for Latinos to swing - if not to decide - the vote is nothing new. Our analysis shows that the number of registered Latino voters in Illinois grew by more than 47 percent between 2000 and 2009, and NALEO's 2012 projections point to a 38 percent increase in Latino voters over 2008 numbers. However, less than 50 percent of Illinois' eligible Latino voters actually turned out for the last presidential election, compared to 62 and 65 percent of their African-American and White peers, respectively. And these numbers are traditionally much lower for midterm and primary races.
The Latino community's youth, sheer numbers, and political passion have them poised for a strong turnout in 2012. Latinos must act now - by voting in the primaries, registering to vote in November, getting educated on the issues, and encouraging friends and family to do the same. This must be done to ensure that our potential pans out into reality on November 6th. Just as Latino voters can't allow candidates to sell them short on the issues, they can't sell themselves short by staying home on Election Day.
Sylvia Puente is Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum, the only public policy and advocacy organization in the Chicago metropolitan area building the public policy influence and leadership of the Latino community. She is the convener of the Illinois Latino Agenda, where her collaboration and consensus-building skills are highly valued. Ms. Puente is the author of Bordering the Mainstream: A Needs Assessment of Latinos in Berwyn and Cicero, Illinois, and Forging the Tools for Unity: A report on Metro Chicago's Mayors Roundtables on Latino Integration. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and has Master's degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Remember the Alamo (Heights)
How an inflammatory chant at a high school game is deeper than basketball.
by David J. Leonard and C. Richard King SLAM (March 12, 2012)
SAN ANTONIO, TX -- The Texas Region IV-4A high school boys basketball championships that pitted San Antonio Edison High School against Alamo Heights High School ended with a handshake and a celebration. It also ended with a racial and nationalist taunt from several fans from Alamo Heights, who chanted "USA, USA, USA" to celebrate its primarily white team and the school's victory over the mostly Latino squad. While the Alamo coaches tried to quiet the crowd, the damage was done.
"Our kids try real hard and work extra hard to get to the regional tournament, and then we have to worry about them being subjected to this kind of insensitivity," noted Edison coach Gil Garza. "To be attacked about your ethnicity and being made to feel that you don't belong in this country is terrible. Why can't people just applaud our kids? It just gets old and I'm sick of it. Once again, we're on pins and needles wondering what's going to happen."
This incident was not the first anti-immigrant outburst on the floor in San Antonio. In 2011, Cedar Park High School, a predominantly white school with an equally white basketball squad, battled Lanier, a high school with an all-Latino squad. During the course of the game, Cedar Park fans chanted a myriad of anti-Latino chants, including "USA, USA." They also cheered "Arizona, Arizona," a clear reference to SB 1070, legislation that institutionalized anti-Latino racism. And, fans yelled "this is not soccer, this is not soccer" clearly linking their teams success (and ultimate victory) to their whiteness over and against a group of foreigners, marked as such because of their project affinity for and ability at an un-American game. Stereotypes about Latino and soccer reduced the basketball court to nothing more than a competition for racial superiority, another opportunity to police the border through the assertion of white nationalism.
The chant represents a brief, local reiteration of the long-standing equation where USA equals White within the national imagination. It reflects and is a consequence of the vitriol and the anti-immigrant sentiment that dominated the national landscape in recent years. The chant should not be surprise in a moment when presidential candidates "joke" about immigrant deaths or wish they would just deport themselves, when state legislatures make culture and skin color probable cause, and when public officials declare ethnic studies illegal. The chant reflects the same sentiments as those articulated by Rush Limbaugh, who has described America's immigration in the following way: "[S]ome people would say we're already under attack by aliens-not space aliens, but illegal aliens." It is an outgrowth of a historic sentiment that imagines Latinos irrespective of citizenship as foreigners and undesirable. It reflects an increasingly ferocious anti-Latino sentiment that both represents and treat Latinos as "illegal aliens" neither welcome nor deserving of the legal protections of the United States. It should come us no surprise given this larger history and the ramped up anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years. It embodies as Tanya Golash Boza, assistant professor of sociology at University of Kansas, told one of us: "In the white American mindset, the only group that gets an unhyphenated American identity is white." It should come us no surprise given this larger history and the ramped up anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years.
According to Alexandro José Gradilla, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at Cal State Fullerton, the chant embodies "a new political climate of 'papers please'" where all Latinos are presumed to be outsiders, threats to the national success of the United States. The racial hostility and the nationalist celebration at these high school basketball games, notes Gradilla, "signal a new racializing paradigm of conflating Mexican Americans with Mexican Immigrants-hence the chants of USA USA were appropriate to use against these possibly 'illegal' and 'alien' people." Given the history of sports, so often a place to authenticate national superiority, play out racial tensions, and exhibit masculine prowess, the efforts to nationalize the basketball, to use the victory as evidence of national/racial superiority, is reflective of the political orientation of sports.
The staging of anti-immigrant sentiments at a basketball game and the ease with which chanting for a predominantly White team slides into rooting for America is not surprising. The outrage and the ultimate apology from the school district ("Unfortunately, after the game, we had a handful of students who made a bad decision and we're very sorry it happened. They made a mistake and we're going to use this as a learning experience...") has prompted conservative commentators to argue political correctness run amuck and to otherwise deny any racial animus. According to The Blaze: "Joe 'Pags' Pagliarulo-a nationally syndicated radio host based in San Antonio and frequent fill-in for Glenn Beck-on Wednesday blasted the local media coverage of the controversy, saying reporters demonized the 'U-S-A!' chant, rather than presenting the story as students misusing it as a taunt." Similarly, Fox's Eric Bolling defended the players and questioned any need to apologize: "The political correctness of what they are doing... They are apologizing for chanting USA, within the USA, playing another team from the USA, who likely has legal American citizens on their basketball team!"
Equally predictable has been the apology that essentially said this is not who we are: we are not racist. Others have gone as far as to accuse students Edison of chanting "Alamo-all white," almost force the students from Alamo to respond unkindly. Absent from the initial reports and without video corroboration, this suggestion reads as a post facto allegation meant to get the Alamo Heights people off the hook-"they are racist too and perhaps were racist before we were racist."
At the same time, others have identified this situation as a teachable moment. The efforts to deny any malice, to label as a joke, to deflect, deny and minimize represents a dual move. At one level, the deployment of the race denial card and the focus on jokes endeavor to exculpate individual students as well as the school. At the same time, depicting the chant as an aberration ("kids made a bad decision"), as out-of-character for the students, school, and country, the chant becomes an instance where education and discipline has the potential to right any wrongs. It can be corrected, thereby erasing the structural inequalities evident in anti-immigrant legislation and the larger history that both scapegoats Latinos and imagines people of color as never true citizens.
Words matter. The chant uttered at this high school game isn't just a phrase but one saturated with meaning, history, and violence. In his brilliant piece on language, H. Sammy Alim reminds readers about the consequences of words and language. Writing about efforts to rid public discourse of the term "illegal," Alim, a professor at Stanford University, argues:
Pejorative, discriminatory language can have real life consequences. In this case, activists worry about the coincidence of the rise in the use of the term "illegals" and the spike in hate crimes against all Latinos. As difficult as it might be to prove causation here, the National Institute for Latino Policy reports that the F.B.I.'s annual Hate Crime Statistics show that Latinos comprised two thirds of the victims of ethnically motivated hate crimes in 2010. When someone is repeatedly described as something, language has quietly paved the way for violent action.
When Latinos are continually labeled as foreigners, as "aliens," as un-American and as otherwise not part of the national fabric, it is no wonder that Latinos are subjected to both racist taunts on the basketball court and "papers please" profiling throughout the country.
David J. Leonard is Associate Professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies at Washington State University, Pullman. He is the author of "Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema" and the forthcoming "After Artest: Race and the War on Hoop" (SUNY Press). Leonard is a regular contributor to NewBlackMan and blogger at No Tsuris.
C. Richard King is the Chair of Comparative Ethnic Studies at Washington State University at Pullman and the author/editor of several books, including "Team Spirits: The Native American Mascot Controversy" and "Postcolonial America."