The party conventions are over and some 90 days remain before voters in America decide which path and reality they want to negate and create for the nation. For Latino voters, a great deal has been written about our importance and political influence. However this has been more political hype and pandering than a demonstration of action. All of the media coverage has simply created more of a myth than a realization that we are ready to contribute to the resolution of problems that challenge this nation’s foundation and future.
We can go back to the 1980’s and the so-called “Decade of the Hispanic”. It was a marketing slogan by Coors beer to the growing Latino market but morphed into a political statement of growing potential. Since then every two years election cycle we have had the portrayal of Latino voters as “sleeping giant”.
Very little has changed since the 80’s until 2008 when Latino voters were an important faction of voters that contributed to the election of President Barack Obama. We did not come together with other minority and ignored voter group through some phenomenal organizing approach by the Democratic Party. It was the hope that these voter factions would finally begin to realize a more inclusive America. An America that too many in the Republican Party believed should limit opportunities and application of the democratic principles found in the words and provisions of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
What has changed in 2016? There are now more groups that have more grievances than there were in 2008. More interesting is that so many non-minorities are saying the same things that so many minorities have said and felt for decades—we have been ignored, we have been betrayed, the system is rigged against us, the American dream does not necessarily include us. Amazing isn’t it that these words and feelings of exclusion are coming from white communities in the rust belt, in the south, all over the nation. When these policies and behavior of exclusion were taking place against minorities, Latinos were described as not being grateful, as exaggerating the acts and policies of exclusion, of neglect. Now we hear that we need to make America great again. Is that code for addressing the concerns and “we never thought this would happen to us” anger and resentment of our fellow white citizens?
Latinos are in a very sensitive and important position. We have been on this path for several decades. We have begun to take on political importance and our demographic growth reflects that we are a vital component of this nation’s future. But are we prepared to govern in the manner this nation needs and has lacked for decades? Can we go beyond being victims of exclusion? Can we go beyond the frustration, fear, unfairness so many in our community and others have experienced for years and generations? Many white Americans have described this perspective as not having merit, as an obsession with having a hyphen and dividing America.
We can make a strong case that we have not behaved in the ugly manner we have seen in the last year. We have not propped up an egomaniac and bigot who is described as “shaking up the system”. Can you imagine the response if Latinos or Blacks had pushed such a candidate on this nation?
So the choice for President must be more than the two candidates. We must not simply be another group of grievance, demanding things that should have taken place years ago. We must lead, find and develop solutions that address our structural mistreatment and not JUST immigration! We must apply the understanding that there are many others who feel offended and excluded. Our focus must be on ideas and policy not Democrats or Republicans. Haven’t we seen that both political parties are more about pandering, fear mongering, and un-kept promises?
Arnoldo S. Torres is based in Sacramento, CA. He is a well-known commentator in Spanish language media on Latino policy issues.