Charlotte, NC—Nydia who? Xavier quien?
A bunch of fulano de tals.
The Democratic National Convention began this week in Charlotte, NC, days after that other party’s political powwow ended, and for a Latina looking for a little sabor—this ain’t my place.
I thought this was “our” party—but the fiesta was better in Tampa, where Republican candidate Mitt Romney and his gente must have made a much bigger effort to make me feel at home. And it paid off, too. According to Latino Decisions, the Latino spotlight at the Republican gathering has produced “a noticable bump” in support among Hispanic voters—where Romney has been lagging forever. Four percentage points may not seem like much, but in a race that has both candidates neck and neck—especially in battleground states—four points can mean the White House.
Republican haters say it’s just a natural hike after the nationally-televised three-night convention and wonder if Romney can sustain it. Do they think we’re tontos utiles? Just useful fools?
If the Democrats keep snubbing us like this, that bump may keep—or it may even grow.
Rather than three governors, two senators and several members of Congress, Hispanic headliners here include a playboy mayor—more known for his good looks and white smile than his good policy—and a twin politico from Texas who the Latino Dems hail as their own potential Hispanic presidential candidate one day. Thank los santos that at least they got Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, to fill out the B-list bench.
Julian Castro may forever be the first Hispanic to make the opening keynote speech at a Democratic convention. But the $4,000-a-year mayor of San Antonio is no Marco Rubio, the Florida senator was thisclose to getting named running mate and his name is also floated as the potential first Hispanic POTUS in four or eight years. And Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa—who everyone says is shopping for a Cabinet position —might just be one of the best-looking politicians of all time. After all, he did date Miss USA. But Villaraigosa is no Luis Fortuño, the governor of Puerto Rico.
At first blush, when one compares the Latin flavor of last week’s Republican National Convention to the DNC’s event that began Monday, the “minority inclusive” choice falls short—even if they bring out the big guns, Sen. Bob Menendez and Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who are both expected. Gutierrez is scheduled to speak at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz and others called the Republican convention Latinos “window dressing” and said Hispanic inclusion and influence in the Democratic Party is for real. She chose 19 Hispanics out of the 75 convention official positions—a number that has never gone to double digits before—and five of the 18 standing committee chairpersons are Hispanic this year. She said the Hispanic involvement was from “a very deep bench.”
I say maybe it’s too deep.
Jose Parra, director of Hispanic media for the convention, told VOXXI that nearly 14 percent of the delegates are Latinos. That represents almost 800 delegates—more than 100 more Latinos than at the 2008 Democratic convention where Barack Obama was nominated—and it’s almost three times the number of estimated Hispanic delegates at the RNC.
“Our presence is not just symbolic. It’s an integral part of this convention,” Parra said.
In other words, we Hispanics are there—but on the floor. I don’t know about you, but that’s like saying that we have fair representation in Hollywood and on TV—as maids, pool boys, gardeners, drug dealers and the like. No leading roles for us. Not on TV. Not at the DNC convention, either, where there are more Latinos on the janitorial and food service staff than there will be on stage.
“They know we’re not happy. They’re concerned about our loud voices,” said Ana Roca Castro, chairwoman of Latism, a Latinos in social media group that had a tweet-up at the EpiCenter within the convention security perimeter Monday night that also provided a stark contrast to the Hispanic shindigs at the RNC. There was never a line at the door and no cigar rollers passing out puros like there was at Noche Nuestra last week. There was nobody on stage, as Willy Chirino performed in Tampa. And the party ended before 11 p.m. They had to kick us out of the Cuban Club in Ybor City last week way after midnight.
Roca, who supports Barack Obama and shrugs her shoulders like she has no choice, agreed that it seemed we were not invited to DNC’s inner circle—or at least not given full access passes.
“We’re not happy because a lot of the promises he made were not delivered. If you look at the facts, Latinos are in really bad shape. The level of deportations is scandalous,” she said, then turned her attention to the deferred action order signed by the president in June that gives certain illegal immigrants under a certain age the ability to stay and work or study in the country for two years.
“But that separates families. You have kids literally separated from their parents because they are put in foster care while the parents are deported.”
So her theory is that more Hispanics weren’t invited because we’re not willing cheerleaders.
Romney’s campaign co-chair and former Sen. John Sununu (NH) said Hispanics were not more representative on stage in important leadership roles because they just aren’t there in the Democratic Party.
“What you saw in Tampa at the Republican National Convention is the Hispanic leadership of America—Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Marco Rubio of Florida,” Sununu told VOXXI after a counter-convention press conference by the Romney campaign. “We displayed our leadership and you could tell by the way they connected with Mitt Romney that they’re there because they want to be, because they should be.
“The Democrats have brought their extras and filled the crowd with a lot of names but they don’t let them become part of the leadership positions, they don’t run these Hispanics for governors in their states,” Sununu said, adding that the only three Hispanic governors are all Republican.
So, donde esta mi gente?
“That’s a good question for the Democrats,” said National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Executive Director Arturo Vargas.
“The advantage the Republicans have is that they have Latinos in high profile office,” Vargas told VOXXI moments before he was on a panel discussion about the Latino vote. “The Democrats mistake would be to take the Latino vote for granted.”
I think they already have. And I miss Tampa.