As my esteemed colleague, Marlena Papavartis, and I have stated various times in our blogs: there is no single monolithic “Hispanic vote.” Political pundits and politicians, however, often fail to understand this basic concept. This past weekend was no different, with President Barack Obama telling Univision that he would attempt to “tackle immigration policy in the first year of a second term.” Obama, a Democrat, was also quick to point out that he would need a cooperative Congress to succeed in passing such legislation. He regretted that he was unable to get support from the current Republicans in Congress.
The probable GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and his staff seized upon Obama’s remarks. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul criticized Obama for only broaching the subject of immigration reform when seeking votes. She also reminded us that in the 2008 election, Obama promised to address immigration reform during his first year; therefore, this is a promise he has made and broken, before.
Unfortunately for the Romney campaign, Obama and the Democrats can use Romney’s own words and positions against Romney to paint him as a hardliner on the immigration issue. The GOP and its politicians have proposed some of the harshest anti-illegal immigration laws, in recent memory, at the state level. Some of the laws, Arizona SB 1070, for example, have had provisions that are being challenged in court by the federal government as being unconstitutional. Romney and other GOP presidential nominee candidates have routinely supported these laws. Romney has also eschewed the advice of his some of his GOP colleagues (Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio) to tone down his rhetoric in the immigration debate. Instead, during a February debate in Arizona, Romney heaped praise upon Sheriff Joe Arpaio and referred to the controversial Arizona SB 1070 as a “model” for other pieces of legislation. Romney’s position on immigration may hurt him with the majority of Hispanic voters.
Such assertions are the real reason I believe that neither he nor Obama deserves the “Hispanic vote.” The Romney campaign cites many studies that show that the US Hispanic population does not rank immigration as the most important issue to them. In fact, those studies all show that, like the average American voter, jobs and the economy are at the top of their wish list.
I am a US Hispanic voter, but I am first and foremost an American and would like to be treated that way. I am disheartened by empty and broken promises, and by militant anti-immigrant rhetoric and laws that violate my civil liberties. I also am primarily concerned with the current US economic situation. In my opinion, Obama’s pandering to the US Hispanic population is similar to Romney’s attempt to rally his conservative base with tough talk about border security and immigration. Both campaigns fail to fundamentally understand that US Hispanic voters are Americans and therefore, for the most part, have the same concerns as all other Americans. Until the Obama and Romney campaigns can figure this out and treat me as an American voter and not part of a fictitious monolithic bloc, I remain unconvinced that either one deserves my support. Sadly, you might see this reflected in low US Hispanic voter-turnout in November.
– Max Rava
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