The DNC is launching an ad campaign encouraging Latinos to vote, and high-profile editorials from La Opinión and Maribel Hastings agree that engaging at the ballot box is the best way for Latinos to win the policies they want. Today, Alan Gomez has a similar op-ed at USA Today pushing Latinos to participate this November. Why? Gomez highlights the variety of races this year where Latinos could make a big difference:
I will never understand how skipping an election is a solution to anything.
Growing up in Miami, I saw firsthand how a small group of immigrants can use their political might to influence decision-makers in Washington and beyond. From the first waves of Cubans who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s, that group has developed an outsized influence on American politics.
Florida was reliably Democratic until the 1950s, but has since become a presidential swing state in part because most Cubans vote Republican. Now, all presidential candidates make multiple stops in South Florida to have their cups of Cuban coffee. Four politicians with Cuban blood have been elected to the U.S. Senate. Cuban voters have ensured that the U.S. maintains its economic embargo on Cuba.
It’s impossible to compare the Cuban political story with that of Mexicans, Salvadorans, Dominicans and other Hispanic groups, partly because Cubans are more concentrated and can collectively flex their political muscles in one state, which happens to be the nation’s fourth-largest. But this election has hundreds of contests that can help Hispanics improve their situations and build their political might.
In California, for example, voters will tackle Prop 47. That initiative would reduce prison terms for drug offenses, which imprison Hispanics at a disproportionate rate, and redirect some of the savings to combat school dropout rates, a major problem in Hispanic communities.
The Hispanic vote will also be critical in determining who gets into office. In Texas, Leticia Van de Putte, who is of Mexican descent, could become the state’s first Latina lieutenant governor. Large Hispanic populations in Arizona, Florida and Illinois could tilt close governor’s races.
And in Colorado, where more than 20% of the population is Hispanic, a drop in Hispanic turnout could swing the Senate race in which Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who urged Obama to make his immigration changes, is in a tight race with Republican Rep. Cory Gardner.
I get the anger. I understand the frustration. And whether you think granting U.S. citizenship to undocumented immigrants is the right thing to do or unwarranted amnesty, there’s no question that Hispanics have been both buffeted and taken for granted by politicians in recent years.
But the only way to fix that is by continuing to enhance their political clout.