I’ve been itching to write this follow-up post to my post on Latinos voting for Clinton, especially after noting that somebody at the NY Times linked to it. (Thanks!) But, as usual, life beyond blogging got in the way. So here it is, albeit a few days overdue.
Since writing that post I’ve done a bunch of research and reading (with help from the folks who commented.) Here’s some of what I’ve found most insightful and enlightening.
Roberto Lovato has been writing a whole lot about Latinos and the election over at his blog, Of América. In one recent post, Lovato points out that, though the media spin focused on the general trend of Latino support for Clinton, Obama has begun to pick up speed with the Latino community:
Preliminary results of the most intense primary in recent memory indicate that predictions of a monolithic Latino “firewall” for Clinton have fallen short. The candidates split key Latino states in different parts of the country. Clinton won states like New York and New Jersey while Obama won states like Colorado and Illinois. Exit poll results also demolished widely-held notions that Latinos are unwilling to support a black candidate. Obama succeeded in dropping Clinton’s Latino advantage from 4-1 (68% to 17% according to a CNN poll conducted last week) to 3-2 last night. And in almost every Latino-heavy state that voted Super Tuesday, Obama received more than the 26 percent of the Latino vote he got in Nevada just 2 weeks ago.
One of the articles that I’ve appreciated most is Gregory Rodriguez’s take on the “Latinos don’t vote for Black candidates” myth that set the tone for much of the media coverage of the Latino vote in recent weeks. That notion was brought into the media spotlight by a Clinton pollster, Sergio Bendixen, who told a reporter from the New Yorker that “the Hispanic voter … has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support Black candidates.” When asked about Bendixen’s comment in the Democratic debate held before the Nevada primary, Clinton says that rather than representing a view held by her campaign, Bendixen was “making a historical statement.” In truth, however, history demonstrates that Latino people vote for Black candidates with some frequency. Rodriguez debunks the idea that Latinos generally don’t support Black candidates with multiple instances of Black candidates winning large portions of the Latino vote in mayoral and congressional elections. He also asks and answers an important question:
So what would the Clinton campaign have to gain from spreading this misinformation? It helps undermine one of Obama’s central selling points, that he can build bridges and unite Americans of all types, and it jibes with the Clinton strategy of pigeon-holing Obama as the “black candidate.” (Witness Bill Clinton’s statement last week that his wife might lose South Carolina because of Obama’s growing black support.) And two, no Latino organizations function in the way that, say, the Anti-Defamation League does for Jewish Americans. In other words, you can pretty much say whatever you want about Latinos without suffering any political repercussions.
Matt Barreto and Ricardo Ramírez also addressed the topic in another piece from the LA Times’ Opinions section. Barreto and Ramírez stress that “the Latino vote in 2008 should be viewed as a pro-Clinton vote, not an anti-Obama or an anti-black vote,” driven largely by the name-recognition that Clinton has gained in her sixteen years of national political prominence. However, they also point out that Obama has not been doing as good a job as Clinton in actively reaching out to Latinos, though he’s been stepping things up recently.
In short, while Obama has become well known in a relatively short time among political observers, he did not rise to national prominence among Latinos until this campaign. Moreover, this name-recognition advantage for Clinton was enhanced by a strong and aggressive advertising and outreach effort by her campaign and a string of high-profile endorsements. She has hired an independent Latino pollster and aired significantly more Spanish language radio and television ads. This must be contrasted with the Obama campaign’s anemic and particularly ineffective outreach effort to the Latino segment of the electorate. Even Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a prominent Latino supporter of Obama, has criticized the presidential candidate for insufficient outreach to Latinos.
Zentronix over at the Can’t Stop Won’t Stop blog has some good analysis on the Latino and Asian American support for Clinton:
Emergent voting blocs respond to leaders in their community. If the candidate wins the leader, she wins her followers. Insurgent voting blocs instead respond to calls for change, and may focus more on single issues or agendas. If a candidate stakes out a good position, she captures the community. Hillary played the politics of emergence.
Early, she locked down important leaders in the Latino and Asian American communities. In Los Angeles, that meant securing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s support, and the predominantly Latino unions that have supported him. She also landed the support of Fabian Nunez and Dolores Huerta. In San Francisco, that meant seizing on Mayor Gavin Newsom’s popularity amongst Asian Americans. She also captured a who’s who of Asian American elected officials starting with Controller John Chiang and moving on down. Just as important, Hillary’s campaign locked up a huge number of the leading Latino and Asian American party operatives–the people who actually deliver the voters.
… Clinton’s main advantage is that she has the access to power and the party structures that deliver promises to officials and operatives. Obama doesn’t. Emergent politics favors individuals seeking power. Think of it this way: Hillary, the woman candidate, is bringing Latino and Asian American leaders into the old-boy’s network.
And finally: on her blog Multiplicative Identity, author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez takes the authors of a January NY Times article on the Latino vote to task for an infuriating sin of ignorance committed by far too many in the media: treating the terms Black and Latino as if they were mutually exclusive.
Immigrants from the Dominican Republic made up the largest single immigrant block to the city of New York in the 1990s. Five out of every six Dominicans are of African descent. Many Puerto Ricans are also of African descent. There are great movements afoot in popular culture throughout the Americans to make the link between Africa and Latin America – from Grupo Niche singing of blackness in the salsa classic “Etnia,” to the Nuyorican Poets rapping about being BlackTinos … How it is that the editors and reporters of the nation’s leading newspaper … can completely ignore the significant segment of this country’s Latino population that IS BLACK is beyond me.
So, that’s a roundup of what a bunch of very smart people are saying about Obama, Clinton, and the Latino vote. Coming soon: some of my own thoughts on the topic.