Friday, June 15, 2012

The Democrats' Latino mirage *update*

Terrence McCoy at the Houston Press asked some really discomfiting questions this week. His article is blunt and brutally direct.

The quixotically optimistic Texas Democrats -- who haven't won a statewide election since 1994 -- bellowed a lot of things at the Texas Democratic Convention last weekend, but, really, most of it seemed to translate to one refrain.

All together now: The Hispanics are going to save us! The Hispanics are going to save us!

Gawd, this again? They've been rapping this for a decade now while amid the political wilds, pointing to charts, delivering diatribes en espa├▒ol and citing statistics which, admittedly, are staggering: Hispanics account for 38 percent of the Texas population, 44 percent of Houston's -- and nearly 4 million Latinos across the state can vote. By 2040, Hispanics will account for an absolute majority in Texas. This shift of tectonic proportion may remake Texas politics -- but there's just one teensie-weensie problem. For Democrats, for Republicans, for Latino issues in general. Hispanics don't vote.

Democrats may presage the looming Hispanic vote, but the percentage of residents in this demographic who actually do so has, in fact, dropped. In 2004, roughly 42 percent of Latinos went to the polls. Then, in 2008, that number deflated to 38 percent. Two years ago, even lower: around 22 percent. Across the nation, the population of registered Hispanic voters shriveled from 11.6 million in 2008 to 10.9 million in 2010.

So what's going to make this year any different?

Oh, maybe this.

Asked by pollsters, Latino voters overwhelmingly support Barack Obama. So much so, in fact, that if Republicans don't cut into that support, Mitt Romney's chances fall to virtually zero.

Republicans have certainly mismanaged their relationship with Latino voters. There is no love for the GOP. But the Obama Administration appears hell-bent on doing everything possible to put the Latino vote back in contention. How? By maintaining a callous and deeply unpopular deportation policy.  [...]

There is no way to understate the effect of this news. It has dominated Spanish language media, and cynical Republicans have jumped at the opportunity to show fake concern for the results. It has given Sen. Marco Rubio a chance to grandstand with his own inadequate version of the DREAM Act, while Republicans blast (legitimately, for once) the administration for breaking its promises on immigration reform. As a result of this intense media focus, the Latino community is incredibly well informed on the issue—they'll speak to you about "prosecutorial discretion" and know who John Morton is (do you?).

As one attendee at Netroots Nation noted at a panel on immigration reform—a temporary halt to deportations for non-criminal undocumented immigrants would be worth tens of millions of dollars in Spanish-language television ads for the Obama campaign.

Instead, the Spanish-language media is dominated by stories about Obama's broken promises—first, his promises to tackle the issue in the first year of his presidency (which he didn't bother doing), and second, his promise to reduce the number of deportations. Believe it or not, splitting up families is not good politics.

This administration has deported more people than previous Republican administrations. Yet he hasn't gained a single vote from the nativist xenophobic Right. Not only would halting non-criminal deportations be the humane thing to do, it would also be good electoral politics.

If the Obama administration is trying to find the right time to make a (semi-)genuine appeal to Latinos, right about now would be good.

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Update: And just like that...*snap*

The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.

(Other election advisories will remain in effect.)

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If they would rather keep squandering yet another opportunity to salt away this election, then perhaps they had better just shift their focus to female voters instead. Because every day things like this happen, the more galvanized the opposition to the Misogynist Caucus of the GOP becomes. I picked up this bumper sticker last weekend from the TDW; it's perfect.


Then again, if the Democrats keep failing to get it re: Latinos, women, etc.,  there's always another option.

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