Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Latino's perspective on Romney being Mexican

Romney better off as a Latino?
By Ruben Navarrette, CNN

(CNN) -- Sometimes a story comes along that is so utterly ridiculous that, as a commentator, your first instinct is to deal with it tongue-in-cheek.

And so it is with Mitt Romney's videotaped remarks to a roomful of donors at a fundraiser in May in Boca Raton, Florida. The GOP presidential candidate appears to say that he wishes he were Latino because he thinks it would be "helpful" to his quest and give him a "better shot" at the presidency.

Referring to his father, George, Romney told the audience:

"My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico ... and had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to  Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."

I'm tempted to respond with this: "Mitt Romney thinks it would be helpful if he were Latino. Well, Mitt, I'm Latino. And I think it would be helpful to me if I were worth $250 million. Wanna switch?"
Or, given President Barack Obama's heavy-handed immigration policies, with this: "What Mitt Romney doesn't realize is that if he were Mexican, there's a 94.6% chance that he would've already been deported by his opponent."

Romney's comments are clearly absurd, and so it's hard to take them seriously. Did the rich white guy really claim to want to be Latino because he thought it would help him win the presidency?

That's strange. Being Latino didn't seem to help Bill Richardson.

The former New Mexico governor ran for president in 2008, and he didn't get beyond the New Hampshire primary. Also, by Romney's logic, you would think that we've had a whole slew of Latinos elected president; there hasn't been a single one -- if you don't count Jimmy Smits playing President-elect Matt Santos on the final season of "The West Wing."

Romney should quit while he's ahead. Statistically, he has the golden ticket. He's a rich white male, and they're overrepresented in the exclusive club of the 44 individuals to ever serve as president. Barack Obama is an exception, and even he satisfies two of three characteristics: rich and male.

But, if Mitt really wants to get in touch with his inner Mexican, I think he'll find that it's not all churros and chocolate or pinatas and pan dulce. You see -- and you might find this hard to believe, Mitt -- but there is still a lot of discrimination in this country against Latinos as whites hunker down and try to hold on to what they have in the face of changing demographics.

For instance, Romney has two Harvard degrees, and so do I. But I'll go out on a limb here and guess that he never had anyone suggest that he was only admitted to that prestigious university because of affirmative action. Or that he is frequently told, as I am, to "go back to Mexico" -- which is ironic, given that, since I'm the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and Romney is the son of a Mexican immigrant, the GOP presidential candidate is one generation closer to the motherland than I am.

Yet, as difficult as it is, we must take Romney's comments seriously. There are three reasons that they're troubling.

First, judging from the videotape, when Romney suggested that his path to the White House would have been covered in rose petals if only he had been born Mexican, the crowd loved it. What are they thinking?

Are these the kind of people who tell themselves that their sons and daughters would have gotten into Yale or Princeton if some black kid hadn't taken their spot? Do they really believe that racial and ethnic minorities have it easy in this country? And if so, what country are they living in?

Second, if you look at the rest of Romney's remarks -- about the 47% of Americans who pay no taxes and "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it" -- he makes a good point. Many Americans do have an entitlement mentality, and it's a real problem.

Where Romney went wrong is that the sense of entitlement isn't limited to those on government aid. It includes the kind of fat cat donors who were in the audience. They get tax breaks and corporate subsidies. They raise their kids to think they're entitled to not do the jobs that immigrants wind up doing. Romney scolded those who think they're entitled, and then he seemed to wink at the audience and tell them: "present company excluded."

Lastly, it's hard to come up with a better example of an American who sees himself as a victim with a sense of entitlement than Mitt Romney. Think about what he said. This was no joke.

Romney sounds frustrated. By suggesting that he'd have a better chance at winning this election if he were Latino, Romney is playing the victim. Poor me, I had the misfortune to be born a white male. It's clear that he thinks he was entitled to a much smoother path to the White House.

Is Romney able to fix what's broken with America? Or are people like Mitt Romney what's broken with America?

Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Perspective: GOP grooming Latinos, not Dems

Opinion: Republicans are grooming Latino leaders, Dems are not
by Jaime Rojas Jr. for NBCLatino

We saw this week the Democratic National Convention and its sea of diversity among its delegates on the Convention floor, a very stark contrast to the Republican National Convention faces we saw on television the week before. But behind the scenes, I see a very different picture regarding the grooming of Latino leadership for the future of American politics.

The Democrats paint a party of the “people” who represents the last frontier to protect what’s left of the American middle class. At the DNC, they showcased their Latino leadership. We saw my mayor, Antonio Villariagosa, prominently displayed as the chairman of the Convention. Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, is billed as the rising Latino star in the Democratic Party.

The RNC, on the other hand, spotlighted their chosen ones too: Congressman Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and Governor Susanna Martinez of New Mexico. So we ask: “Which political party is really grooming our future Latino leadership?” My short answer is….the Republican party. Here is why: The Democrats, with all their fanfare of diversity, really has no real infrastructure on a national or state level focused on grooming Latino leadership. Since Latinos just happen to make a large number in their party, really by default they have taken some leadership roles. And if you think about it, Democratic Latinos are not really in too many high level positions like governors or senior ranking congresspersons, considering the number of Latinos in the party.

The reason is simple. The Democratic Party has a “union” mentality when it comes to grooming its next leadership. You have to start practically at birth as a member of the Party and promote your way up the ladder, until it’s your time to eventually lead. Being from California, that process and mentality is obvious with the State Democrats and the union machine. So what real chance does a young Latino have of high level leadership in the Democratic Party, if they don’t follow this “promotional” leadership process…none.

The Republicans surprisingly enough, invested last year, on the national level into a fund specifically to identify and groom 100 top Latino leaders for the Party. Impressive? Well, the fund only started with less than 2 million dollars, which in today’s economy is not much, but it’s a start. For the first time we heard not just one but two Latinos, Congressman Marco Rubio and Governor Susanna Martinez on the short list for Vice President! We recently saw Congressman Ted Cruz come in and shock everyone with his win in Texas. He had some support (money) of the RNC too.

I believe the Republican party has the better chance of grooming and possibly delivering Latino political leaders that actually will not only look like us, but also represent us appropriately. Believe it or not, Latinos’ beliefs are very similar to those of the GOP: family, fiscal conservancy, small government, and support of entrepreneurship and business. Yes, I know, shocking but very true. With our potential voting power, Latinos can vote into office (or take out of office) the right candidate to represent and act on our legislative needs. What is good for Latinos is good for America…and what is good for America is good for Latinos!

The Latino community must continue investing in ourselves and believe that our time is here now. We must support leadership-training beginning with our youth, and support national organizations like the National Hispanic Institute, based out of Texas, who go after our cream of the crop of Latino youth and train them to think like leaders and entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, it is our responsibility, no one else’s, to train, groom and support America’s future leadership! Let’s all take this call for action….it is really the American thing to do, no que no?

Jaime Rojas Jr. worked for The White House’s Office of Public Liaison and Latino outreach for President Bill Clinton, and for The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. He is also the former President and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce (CHCC) and he wrote his first book in 2011 titled, “The Conservative’s Pocket Constitution.” Follow Jaime on Twitter @Jaime_Rojas