Immigration dominated last night’s MSNBC/Telemundo Democratic town hall, the final major event featuring Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders before Nevada’s Democratic caucus on Saturday.
Latino voters in the state are heavily expected to influence Saturday’s results. Nevada is a case study in how rapidly-changing demographics can help reshape the nation’s political discussion, with both Clinton and Sanders making forceful commitments to take on immigration reform during their first 100 days in office.
In fact, it wasn’t lost on many observers of last night’s town hall that the audience make-up seemed to be far more representative of the changing face of America, particularly in comparison to the Republican debates and town halls.
Both Sanders and Clinton received Spanish-language questions from audience members, translated live on television by moderator José Díaz-Balart. Díaz-Balart, MSNBC’s sole bilingual anchor, has also been one of the few Latino journalists to moderate either a Republican or Democratic Presidential town hall or debate.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last night, Díaz-Balart emphasized the powerful dynamics coming into play as more and more Latino and immigrant voters make their voices heard: “Por fin — Finally!”
Rachel Maddow: “Well, the candidates were both absolutely psyched. They were both incredibly intense. They seemed fired up. They both got a little bit testy and feisty with you guys. Did you sense a difference in them in terms of their disposition towards this event last night?”
José Díaz-Balart: “I did. I think that they both realized that things are getting closer and tighter, than maybe both expected in places like Nevada or as we like to say, the original way, Nevada. But they came in and they were very, you know, clear on their positions.
And Rachel, finally, I am so excited about the fact that tonight both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were able to hear from people that really represent a lot of what the United States is like, from coast to coast. Not only the 53 million Latinos that live in this country and that contribute every day to this economy and to this culture but also issues that have affected everyone.
I’m glad that there was a family there that a mother who told Bernie Sanders and then later Hillary Clinton talked about the fact that her husband was deported and that husband has not been able to see his daughter grow up.
I’m glad that you see a face there because you know what, Rachel? That’s reality every single day of people’s lives. And the mortgage crisis and how financial institutions targeted and exploited Latinos and African-Americans so that they could prosper even more on the backs of hard working people, and no one really has a face to that crisis. I’m so glad.
Finally, they saw the faces of those affected in places not just like Iowa and New Hampshire. So yeah, I think they were also reacting to what they were feeling and sensing in this room.”