Losing the Latino Vote
As much as I dislike Obama and all that he stands for, I have to admit that his going out into the community after college and law school instead of going after the big bucks in corporate America solidified his credentials as a "man of the people." The question, of course, is whether he could have made it on Wall Street at all, considering his anti-capitalist and populist proclivities. Or maybe it was more than temperament. Maybe he just isn't smart enough to understand how the capitalist financial system works. How the country works. I don't believe he's a socialist but he is so far left that it doesn't make any difference what you call him.
Here in my home state of Texas, the left can barely contain itself with excitement in the knowledge that Latinos will soon make up the majority of the residents. They thus will fight any real attempt to get a handle on illegal immigration, opposing any type of voter identification or anything of the kind. Yet, I don't know many Hispanics, who are not in academia or members of activists groups here, who think of immigrant rights as the most important of all issues. Meanwhile, the so-called voter rights groups claim they are "non-partisan" but never deviate from the policies of the Democratic Party. The left in Texas is eagerly anticipating that Texas will become not just a swing state but turn a deep blue. If that happens, Texas will be another California -- broke, dysfunctional, and mired in its liberalism. Worst of all, Republican presidents may become an endangered species, which would please the left to no end.
I don't buy the claim that the Latino voting bloc is hopelessly fragmented. It is in some areas, pretty much as the black vote is in major cities. Latinos can be as racist as anybody else. Some really dislike non-Hispanic whites, or Anglos, as Mexican Americans call them. Many still see them as racists, as oppressors, which are images perpetuated by the radical left in the classrooms and in "civil rights" organizations run by the left. Mexican Americans have been told that they are victims of an unjust system and thus deserving of government largesse. Another truth is that many of them suffer from class envy. They don't much like rich people and would like to see them taken down a notch or two. If you happen to be rich don't be too ostentatious about it.
The most radical of Texas Latinos hate the United States -- or at least the way it exists now. They continue to fight the Battle of the Alamo, believing that the confrontation was not about freedom but about outsiders coming here and taking over everything. They, of course, ignore the fact that native Tejanos also fought against Santa Ana's despotic rule.
The Mexican American War is something else the Latino left keeps refighting over and over again. They detest the idea that what was once Mexican territory became part of the United States. These people don't necessarily want Texas returned to Mexico and don't seriously contemplate living there. What they want is to recreate the United States so that it fits the image they have conjured up in their minds. It is a vision that corresponds very much to what Obama envisions for the nation. They want this despite the fact that the country could be hurt in the process.
The majority of Texas Latinos are not radical. They are very patriotic and love their country. But many have not bee taught to understand how the American system works. Too many remain largely uneducated or undereducated. Many families don't have a history or culture of education. School dropout rates are incredibly high in the Mexican American community. They simply don't have the training or the background to do much analysis of the issues. So when Democrats tell them that Republicans don't like Latinos or want to take away their voting rights or Social Security they, of course, believe them.
Too many Latinos just make too many bad choices. They drop out of high school, marry too young, or have babies out of wedlock. They believe, too, that government should provide everything, and so they elect politicians who promise to keep those things coming. For their part, politicians who care more about holding on to power than what is good for the country will fight any attempt to change the system while the ones who want real change will be branded as racist, forcing them to back off. So nothing gets done. It becomes a matter of who the label sticks to. So far the left has done a better job of sticking the titles of racist and anti-immigrant to Republicans and conservatives. I watched Spanish-language news broadcasts during the presidential campaign and heard any legislation or policy that would help control the flow of illegal aliens into this country as "anti-immigrant."
The most optimistic among conservatives believe -- although "hope" is a more realistic term -- that as Mexican Americans, who comprise the largest Latino group in the United States, climb up the social and economic ladder, will become less dependent on the government and thus more conservative. The problem is that as long as the spigot remains open and people keep coming here from across the border, those Latinos who have moved up are quickly replaced by more poor and uneducated immigrants. Most of them come here illegally at first but then become voting citizens. So the cycle remains vicious.
During the presidential campaign a conservative group ran ads locally, highlighting Latinos who had left the Democratic Party and embraced the Republican Party and its values. Most of these folks were small-business owners. Whether this type of outreach will be bear any fruit remains to be seen. Even many successful and educated Latinos will never become Republicans. In Mexican American families being a Democrat is a tradition and a custom. To be anything else is like leaving Catholicism for Protestantism.
As long as Mexican Americans continue in this mindset and Democrats continue to demagogue the issues, Latinos in Texas and elsewhere will remain an underclass for a very long time. They will stay a large and widely undereducated voting bloc that will keep Democrats in power for the foreseeable future. And the country will be the worse off because of it.
Gil Dominguez is a San Antonio writer and college instructor. He is the author of They Answered the Call: Latinos in the Vietnam War and the upcoming short-story collection West Side Stories.