Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hispanics: Obama’s Fly in the Ointment

With the large state primaries looming in the near future and their large Hispanic populations, Senator Obama will have a tough time succeeding in those states without the support of Hispanic voters. If the exit polls of the Super Tuesday primaries are any indication he could lose the nomination not because whites would not vote for him or blacks not supporting him, but because Hispanics for the most part have not. While there are a number of theories why Senator Obama has not done well with Hispanics, I would like to investigate a few of my own as to why Hispanics have continued to support Senator Clinton over Senator Obama.

One of the biggest hurdles for Senator Obama and Hispanics is the name recognition that Hillary has among Hispanics, many Hispanics have fond memories of the Clinton’s and have more trust in the Clinton brand. Ex-President Bill Clinton has always enjoyed high popularity and favorable ratings from Hispanics and that seems to be getting transferred to Hillary. Hillary of course has also been seen as someone who is willing to speak out for Hispanic issues, so there is a familiarity with the Clintons. Many Hispanic voters, especially older immigrants are not familiar with Obama and his stands on issues that matter to them. Senator Obama will need to increase his outreach to Hispanics as many have seen his campaign as in the early stages ignoring the Hispanic vote. I think Senator Obama mistakenly assumed since he received so much of the Hispanic vote in his Senatorial campaign that they would naturally support him nationally. The problem with this approach was that he forgot that his opponent in that election was Alan Keyes and not Hillary Clinton.

Another issue that has arisen is the tension that exists between blacks and Hispanics in many of our larger urban areas. There has never been a lot of cooperation between blacks and Hispanics even though one would assume that they share many natural common issues. For some reason Hispanics and blacks have bought into the zero sum game, that in order for one group to prosper it has to be at the expense of the other group. They have accepted the narrative that there are only a limited number of opportunities for minorities and we have to fight each other for the few slots available.

Still, others wonder whether such surveys accurately reflect the reality on American streets, where tensions among blacks and Hispanics have increased in past years as Hispanic immigrants pour into inner-city neighborhoods, competing with their black American neighbors for jobs, housing, services — and a seat at the table on local school boards and town councils.

Hispanics have surpassed blacks as the nation's largest minority, comprising about 15 percent of the U.S. population today.

"We've been fighting in this country for our place — and so is every minority," Jimenez said, surmising that Hispanics' Super Tuesday snubbing of Obama stems from viewing him as "a competing minority rather than a serious candidate for president."

There is also the issue of color in the Hispanic community in many Latin American countries leadership and wealth is based on skin color, the group with the lighter skin color or a closer link to Span have a history of looking down on and dominating their darker skinned indigenous brethren. There is also a history of this phenomenon in the black community where many lighter skinned blacks looked down on their darker skinned brothers. I don’t know if there is anything as depressing as the prejudice found within minority groups as well as between the groups. Rather than seeing their common enemy they have instead focused on fighting for crumbs. Too often blacks have feared and resented Hispanic immigrants who they believe are taking employment and other opportunities. Hispanics have resented blacks who they fear have been anti-immigration and territorial.

It is possible for black candidates to enlist the support and gain the votes of Hispanics, but it requires a lot of work and some face time. These things the Obama camp did not do in the early contests, but have done a better job of lately. I just hope he will have time to introduce himself to the Hispanic voters. I think as he continues to pile up states and delegates before the Texas and Ohio primaries the Hispanic vote will continue to increase. If Obama wants to win the nomination and then win the general, he will need the votes of the Hispanics. If Hispanics look at Obama’s record they will see that he is not some Johnny come lately and that he has stood with them on many issues. Let’s not let racial and cultural animosity prevent us from electing someone who will serve the interest of all of us. Si, se puede!


1 comment:

Malcolm said...

While watching the primaries last night, I heard a few interesting things about this.

1. Hillary is starting to lose ground to Obama with Hispanics.

2. Even though she has (so far) a majority of Hispanic support, there are questions having to do with how many actually vote in primary elections.

3. I’m not sure how this works, but apparently the delegate distribution is based on the voting numbers from the LAST election. So, if you have a massive Hispanic turnout in a district that had a low turnout in the last election, they would still count for fewer delegates even though their numbers in THIS election might be higher.

Even with Texas and Ohio, I still say Hillary won’t be able to catch up.

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