With all the talk of race in this election, the one large voting block that has been relatively ignored by the media since Hillary Clinton won its affections in the primaries is Latinos. But this week has brought us a trio of stories about the Latino — and particularly the Latina — vote in this election. Despite massive outreach to the Latino community by the last two Bush campaigns, many people assumed that the Republican party squandered their political capital with their anti-immigration furor since 2004, while Latino turnout for Clinton in the primaries made others wonder if Latinos would support Obama in the general election. And it turns out that both groups are right — but that the former folks are more right than the latter.The Times notes that only 26 percent of Latinos favor John McCain at the moment, a sharp decline from the 44 percent who voted for Bush in 2004. This is despite some racism among Latinos towards African-Americans, as picked up by the Washington Post:
Geronimo Cruz, a retired factory worker living in Mora County, worries aloud that "blacks are for blacks," and that in the White House, Obama would care for his racial brethren in the inner cities before looking out for the white and Hispanic rural lands. He cites hip-hop videos as proof that confident, aloof African Americans are more interested in a good time than hard work. He, like many others, refers to Obama as "El Negrito," a diminutive that can be affectionate when referring to one's grandfather, as in "abuelito," or condescending when referring to the potential President of the United States.
The Post, by the way, calls describes those comments as indicative of "subtle racial concerns." I guess compared to "Traitor" and "Kill him!," maybe they are! So what's the problem with McCain for Latinos, who, as Laura Ramírez Drain tells the Washington Post, used to kind of dig Republicans? Janet Murguía, executive director of the National Council of La Raza has an answer:
"The Republican brand has been tarnished as result of the immigration debate and the extreme rhetoric that came out of that debate. We think McCain remains an advocate of a comprehensive approach, but his standing has been undermined by those within his own party and the tough immigration plank in the 2008 Republican platform."
Many Latinas agree, while others cite the need for health care reform and the poor economy as reasons they are backing Barack Obama this time. In fact, the Latinas who are supporting McCain tend to gloss over those issues and instead talk about how the need to criminalize abortion and eliminate same sex marriage are reasons to back him (in addition to the fact that some of them really like Sarah Palin). The WaPo:
Why McCain? The Latinas for McCain cite moral values. He is antiabortion and for "the sanctity of marriage."
A couple of small businesswomen also parrot McCain's line that Obama's tax plan will kill their businesses. Roxana Cazares Olivas, a small businesswoman herself, former Bush backer and a founder of Latinas Unidas por Obama sees plenty of reasons to back Obama:
"Immigration, the war, the economy, Katrina," she says. "We just need a change. . . . He not only captured me in his actions but also captured my heart." She doubts McCain's continued commitment to immigration reform, and says she has never forgotten Obama addressing a huge march for immigrant rights in Chicago in 2006.... Values matter, too. Sanctity of marriage? Olivas asks which candidate left his first wife and broke up his family. Abortion is tough. She balances it with immigration reform, which she sees as a moral issue, as well. "Yes, we're not for abortion, but immigration is a deal-breaker," she says.
It is a little funny, actually, that the campaign that accused Democrats of holding women hostage on abortion earlier this year is benefiting in some small way from women tied to the abortion issue — and that Latina women like Olivas, who opposes it, are choosing the Democratic candidate despite it.
Photo: Barack Obama Speaks At The La Raza Conference SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 13: L, Isabel and Francisco Flores wait outside before hearing Presumptive Demcoratic presidential nominee Barack Obama at the National Council of La Raza Annual Meeting on July 13, 2008 in San Diego, California. The NCLR is the largest Hispanic Civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States and works to opportunities for Hispanic Americans.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)
McCain Is Faltering Among Hispanic Voters [New York Times] Will Race Deter the Hillary Hispanics? [Washington Post] Democrats or Republicans, Latinas Are Swaying the Vote [Washington Post] Earlier: Hey Carly Fiorina, Who Exactly Is Holding My Uterus Hostage?