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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Day After...

(This entry can also be found @ http://cuentamecentral.com/?p=1579)

First she went after Latino students seeking a path to college or the military through the DREAM Act (http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=156949807669862). Then, she went after Latinos in general using political ads depicting Latinos as welfare check cashing, drug dealing, street gang members (http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=162670083764501). And not to be outdone by other rampant racist candidates, she promoted an online board game so offensive (http://www.harryreidamnestygame.com/) that the makers of the board game “Monopoly” sent her a “cease and desist” letter (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/01/sharron-angle-hasbro-cease-desist_n_777107.html).

Who is she?

Tea Party supported Republican Nevada Senate candidate Sharon Angle.

Did she win?


Although the race between incumbent Democrat Harry Reid and challenger Sharon Angle remained “too close to call” long after polls closed, one bit of exit poll data served as a clear weathervane: 90% of Latinos surveyed by MSNBC voted for Reid.

According to the Washington Post, 50% of Latino voters took advantage of early voting opportunities in Nevada. This represents a 13% increase since the last midterm election. One quarter of Nevadans are Latino, many are children, too young to vote, or immigrants who have yet to become citizens. 12% of all of the registered voters in Nevada are Latino. And yet Latinos made up 16% of voters taking part in this election. In other words, Latinos rejected Sharon Angle’s racist ads, showed up in record numbers, and outperformed other voters when it counted.

There will be a great deal of discussion about the Latino Vote in 2010, but everything you need to know about what will matter to the Latino Vote in 2012 you can learn by looking at Nevada. Latino votes for Reid did not come because the second he introduced the DREAM Act as an add on to the Defense Appropriations Bill, Latino voters went in droves to the Democratic Party like lemmings. Reid’s commitment to keep reintroducing DREAM until it finally had an up or down vote earned him a commitment from the national network of DREAM Act activists to make peer-to-peer contact with Latino voters. Undocumented students and their allies used traditional field tools like phonecalls and door-to-door canvasses, but they also maximized social media and online tools. National networks of youth multi-ethnic, multistate organizations, such as the Generational Alliance, used voter guides, mixtapes, ground events, and alliances in ways that added to the reach, volume, and capacity to peer-to-peer engagement efforts that in many ways eclipsed those run by Organizing for America, the Democratic Party’s 2.0 version of the 2008 Obama Presidential campaign. Cuéntame, the most popular Latino organization on Facebook, worked with undocumented students and responded when Sharon Angle attacked Harry Reid for introducing the DREAM Act. Cuéntame, translated the Generational Alliance’s voter guide for monolingual Spanish speakers and shared it in both languages with voters in Nevada. And Cuéntame’s deconstruction of Sharon Angle’s most racist ad traveled from Facebook, to Twitter, to email, to the media.

Pundits will discuss the fact that every single major national Latino organization denounced the so-called “Latinos for Reform” and their campaign discouraging Latinos from voting. Cuéntame’s rapid response to “Latinos for Reform” (http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=160651357299707 & http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=160644320633744) earned us immediate print and television coverage. Hopefully, this means that pundits and politicians finally understand that Latinos are not a one-issue electorate. While immigration reform is immensely important, it is not the only thing that Latino voters care about. We are not greyhounds who will chase it around any track. To be clear, with their record participation Nevada Latino voters loudly rejected Sharon Angle’s racist tactics, and everything about “Latinos for Reform.” Primarily because Latinos felt that the rationale offered by the organization for not voting was unsound. Latinos very quickly witnessed “Latinos for Reform” challenged by organizations such as Cuéntame, and also saw Robert de Posada dissected by media voices such as Maria Teresa Kumar, the Executive Director of Voto Latino, who ably pointed out on more than one occasion that de Posada was a National Republican Party insider who, despite all of his abstention rhetoric, voted early in this election.

The one extremely critical factor that pundits will likely miss is the role that the late voter registration deadline in Nevada played in Reid’s victory over Angle. In the vast majority of states, the deadline to register to vote for this election was during the first week of October. By the time Pew Hispanic’s poll became public on October 5, declaring that 50% of Latino registered voters were planning on skipping out on the midterm election, the voter registration deadline had passed most everywhere. But not in Nevada, or California. Thousands and thousands of voters registered in Nevada before the October 12 deadline, and in California before the October 18 deadline. Cuéntame partnered with United We Win (Voto Latino), Ya Es Hora (NALEO, AltaMed, etc.), PowerPAC Foundation, and a number of other partners to register voters online and in person during the months of September and October. The numbers of voters we registered alone constitute enough voters to move a number of the close races pundits will debate when examining the results of this midterm election. It is no coincidence that a surge in late voter registration in California, for instance, created the Latino electorate that made Democrat Jerry Brown the next Governor of California. A simple Google search will reveal that Latino registered voters were not terribly excited about Brown initially. Republican Meg Whitman appealed to Latinos through huge ad buys on Univision, billboards in Latino enclaves like Boyle Heights, by opening campaign offices in places like East L.A., and by appearing with Latino leaders, hiring Latino staffers, and taking shots of tequila with Mexican Mariachis (http://vodpod.com/watch/4692604-mariachi-politics-taken-to-a-new-level-with-carly-fiorina-meg-whitman). There will be much discussion of Nicky Diaz Santillan and her press conference with Gloria Allred, and how this led to Meg Whitman’s loss of Latino support. But again, as was the case in Nevada this is not a sign that Latinos only care about the immigration issue. It is proof that Latinos refused to be used as political pawns. What led to Whitman’s demise was not that her maid was undocumented, but that she was fired solely because Whitman wanted to run for office. It’s not just that Whitman opposed the DREAM Act, it’s that in a debate on Univision, the network where she aired ad after ad swearing that she cared about Latino educational achievement, Whitman told a young Latina that she was lucky to have received her K through 12 education, but did not deserve to go to college because she would be “taking someone else’s place.” SEIU called this phenomenon of juxtaposed paradox “las dos caras de Meg Whitman” (“the two faces of Meg Whitman”). And Facebook/YouTube users captured it through a parody song called “Old Meg Whitman Had A Farm, E-I-E-I-O” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SsEcJh8q5E). The bottom line, however, is that just as Latinos in Nevada refused to be Sharon Angle’s scapegoat, Latinos in California rejected Meg Whitman’s bait and switch. It’s not clear who convinced Meg Whitman that Latinos would trust slick ads in Spanish, despite the fact that these ads directly contradicted all of her ads in English, but whomever that person is should be fired because he/she cost Meg Whitman the election. It turns out, $163 million later, Latino voters understood multiple languages, and were not for sale.

Anyway, as I said, there will be a great deal of discussion about the Latino Vote in 2010, but everything you need to know about what will matter to the Latino Vote in 2012 you can learn by looking at Nevada. Latino voters sent Harry Reid back to the Senate, but did not give all Democratic candidates across the board a thumbs-up. Democrat Rory Reid lost the Nevada Governor’s race to Republican Brian Sandoval. Latinos in Nevada and in New Mexico played a role in electing Republicans to the office of Statewide Executive. Latinos in Florida played a role in sending Marco Rubio to the Senate. This is an important lesson for Democrats who are already planning President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, and for Republican would-be challengers ready to throw their hat into the 2012 Presidential race:

At one time, George W. Bush enjoyed the support of 44% of Latino voters. He lost this support because of an increasing quagmire in Iraq, a rapidly unfolding economic crisis, the unfunded mandate of “No Child Left Behind,” a culture of leadership that rewarded, “Yes men,” but told those associated with controversy to fall on their swords and go away, etc. It was not because he failed to promote Latino officials to high offices, such as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. It was not because he failed to use the bully pulpit to promote immigration reform. It was not because he failed to reach out to Latinos through churches and ambassadors such as the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

Barack Obama won office with 67% of the Latino vote. He might lose this support because of a quagmire in Afghanistan, a slow recovery from the economic crisis, the controversy ignited by “Race to the Top,” a culture of leadership that rewards, “Yes men,” but tells Van Jones, Yosi Sergant, Desiree Rogers, and so forth, to fall on their swords and go away, etc. It won’t be because he failed to promote Latino officials to high offices, such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It won’t be because he failed to use the bully pulpit to promote immigration reform. It won’t be because he failed to reach out to Latinos through churches and ambassadors such as the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans…

But it might be because Latinos don’t feel his heart is in it.

After witnessing how much time and effort and sacrifice were involved in guaranteeing a filibuster proof majority in the Senate during the process of health care insurance reform, Latino voters are well aware of what it looks like when this White House goes all in. To win reelection, President Obama must carry Latino passions with him every step of the way on the road to 2012. If he does not, Latinos will be extremely unlikely to respond to a campaign effort that suddenly hires Latino staffers, recruits Latino volunteers, and only works to make itself visible in Latino communities during the weeks that lead up to the first Tuesday in November.

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