In five and a-half years of living and reporting in Washington, DC I had only been to the White House twice, once to shoot a stand up for a news story and the other time as a guest of a friend from grad school who was working for the Bush Administration and offered a tour. In one month, I have been invited twice -– once to moderate The Champions of Change panel honoring the life and legacy of labor and civil rights icon César Chávez which I blogged about in The Champions, a Change: TWLC Goes to the White.
Two days before Cinco de Mayo, I was back, one in a throng of Latinada invited by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to celebrate this “holiday”–where alcohol companies and politicians fiercely compete to “capture” as many Latinos as possible–and it’s OK.
TWLC's White House Cinco de Mayo Invitation
We are the A minus listers, A- and not “straight A” because the real A listers such as Univision nightly newscast co-anchors María Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos, as well as National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murguía were invited to a small, private breakfast on Wednesday with Vice-President Joe Biden.
Still, both occasions reflect a politically astute strategy: Just over six months from the general election, the President shows no signs of easing up his full court press of Latino voters that amped up last summer. Mr. Obama is equal parts community organizer, rolling his “r’s” to connect with mi gente; pressing our community’s buttons when he challenged the Republican Congress with calls to pass comprehensive immigration reform and send him the DREAM Act because he’s got the pens–lots of them–ready to sign this legislation into law.
Our Prez has got the Mont Blancs, but make no mistake, he has a sword and he’s wielding it: shrewdly not addressing the Latino unemployment rate which has consistently trended two points above the national average which stands at 8.1% or the disconnect between speeding up deportations while not mobilizing the political capital needed to make good on his promise of immigration reform.
Critics deride President Obama for having spent the bulk of his career as a community organizer. Let me remind you where he worked–in the Chicago of current Mayor Rahm “Drop (an F bomb) Like It’s Hot” Emanuel and the Daley political mafia–as well as the South Side. The politics are dirty and the streets are mean.
So what are my options? Mitt Romney went so far to the right to become the Republican nominee, that he actually advocated “self deportation” of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, many who are part of mixed immigration status families, ostensibly to please the party’s fringe elements, including his informal advisor Kris Kobach, the intellectual author of Arizona and Alabama‘s restrictive immigration laws.
The Romney campaign has suggested that engagement with Latinos is about to start, which includes more hires. What are they going to do? Focus on legal immigration? Immigration for highly skilled immigrants in the STEM fields of science, techología, and math? Groovy, in the competitive global economy of an ascendant China and India, we need as many of them working and starting businesses stateside as possible.
But my organic Whole Foods shopping self needs field hands to pick my strawberries. Career Mami needs La Nanny to raise her kids while she busts hump to bring home the bacon. And Pops out in the ‘burbs need el jardinero to mow the lawn because Junior can’t since he has a soccer game, followed by piano lessons, then a play date and well Pops, he wants to golf on Saturdays.
For Latinos, one party is easier to like, make that love. But gente, remember how powerful your vote is. Make a candidate and party work for it.
Politicians can often times be wolves–political predators–in sheep’s clothing.
You can outsmart them by studying the issues and the candidates–by not following the flock.
An earlier version appeared on The Wise Latina Club. Republished with permission.Do you feel Latino voters today are a bloc that is “up for grabs”?
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