Rafael Anchía: Obama is preaching the politics of hope - not division
05:24 PM CST on Thursday, February 14, 2008
Mike: For the first time in our history, we have a candidate who is representing every American, he is an inclusive candidate. In the California debates, Hillary baited him to respond to the statement that she will be making history as the first "Woman President" as if he was going to pigeon hole himself as "Black Candidate".... my wife and I debated and agreed that he will not fall into the Hillary trap, sure enough, he did not even address her, he simply went on with his appeal to all Americans giving hope.
Rafael in his article in Dallas Morning News rightly points out that "Obama is referred to as a "black" candidate, in truth he is of mixed race, as are many Latinos. And, as the son of an immigrant, his experience can affirm that the American dream is still intact for everyone, regardless of where one's parents were born. His dedication to his family, strong work ethic, opposition to the war in Iraq and deep faith are all qualities that are important to Latino voters." Indeed, he represents the hopes of every American; born, naturalized, white, Black, brown or yellow, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Muslim or others. Obama has become a powerful icon of pluralism and inclusiveness.
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During recent weeks, I have watched with increasing dismay the media suggestions that Latinos will not vote for Barack Obama in the Democratic primary because of underlying racism or tension that exists between African-Americans and us.
What surprises me most is the overly facile and inaccurate juxtaposition of Latino vs. African-Americans as a "race" conflict. I chair the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Educational Fund and, in that capacity, work with Latinos at every level of government across the country.
And guess what? We are black, indigenous, white and everything in between. We are also blond-haired and blue-eyed, we are Catholic and Protestant, Republican and Democratic, and, as far as I have been able to determine, we are not unanimously supporting one candidate more than another. The idea that all Latinos speak with one political voice is a false dichotomy and makes flawed assumptions that show a basic ignorance of Latinos and our very diverse culture.
As the son of a Mexican mother and Spanish father who grew up in a Cuban and El Salvadoran neighborhood, I have lived this diversity and recognize that Latino Democratic primary voting trends are much more about familiarity with the candidate and much less about race.
Hillary Clinton has done well among Latinos during the early Democratic primary season and figures to continue that success in Texas. However, rather than suggest she might win a greater share of the Latino vote in Texas because of racism, a more responsible view would acknowledge that the Clinton brand is still strong here. She campaigned in South Texas for George McGovern in the 1970s, was the first lady of a neighboring state in the 1980s and was the first lady to a president popular among Latinos for most of the 1990s.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, however, Texas provides Sen. Barack Obama with a huge opportunity to court Latinos. Texas Latinos have a recent history of supporting non-Latino African-American candidates. Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and Houston Mayor Lee Brown were elected and then re-elected against Latino challengers (Margaret Donnelly and Orlando Sanchez, respectively) with sizeable support from Latinos.
After beating Latino candidate Victor Morales in the Democratic primary runoff in 2002, Mr. Kirk actually did as well as or better among Latinos in the Rio Grande Valley during his senatorial bid than Laredo gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez.
And while Mr. Obama is referred to as a "black" candidate, in truth he is of mixed race, as are many Latinos. And, as the son of an immigrant, his experience can affirm that the American dream is still intact for everyone, regardless of where one's parents were born.
His dedication to his family, strong work ethic, opposition to the war in Iraq and deep faith are all qualities that are important to Latino voters. A recently released analysis of Super Tuesday results by the Willie Velasquez Institute shows that Mr. Obama is making important strides among Latino voters, including among late-breaking undecided Latinos.
Super Tuesday results also showed that Mr. Obama makes up big ground among all voters who see him and are exposed to his message. With the Texas Democratic primary still several weeks away, there is time for Barack Obama to further connect with Texas Latinos.
With all the distracting talk of an African-American-Latino electoral divide, it is easy to lose perspective of the ultimate goal of electing a president who can bring the United States together.
Our main focus should not be on who can appeal to which racial or ethnic group more than another, but which candidate can unite all races, ethnicities, age groups, faiths and economic classes as a nation to address our common challenges and to restore our historic position as a respected leader of the free world.
I am the Latino son of immigrants, but, rather than engaging in the contrived politics of division, I want Barack Obama, a black man of mixed ethnicity, to be my president. How's that for the politics of hope?
Rafael Anchía is a state representative from Dallas, the 2005 LULAC "National Man of the Year" and chairman of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Educational Fund.