You can rest assure after the ballyhoo over the last election results subsides political analysts on both sides of the fence will use all of their tools to systematically analyze the results. They will tear into statistics, study changes in voting patterns, disaggregate data to determine where voters were registered and voted; determine how many changes in party affiliations occurred and keep an eye out for the growth of independents.
Latinos realize that every vote counts and conversely failure to vote translates into a loss of power, representation and control of its collective destiny. One of the realities is that for groups to obtain power in partisan politics people have to vote; something that Latino communities historically are not accustomed to. Data from the PEW Institute informs us that “only 57% of the eligible Hispanic electorate is actually registered which means approximately 213,000 Hispanics are not incorporated in the Colorado electorate…Gains have evaporated in the most recent elections.”
When I asked a good friend of mine prior to Peña’s mayoral victory in the 1980’s, why she thought Latinos did not vote, she retorted, pa que? She was making a good point, unless self-interest is served, that is, if someone doesn’t feel that there is a reward at the end of the day, they may not vote as a form of silent protest. Having self-interest in and of itself is not an inherent wickedness. Honest people will share their self-interest; others may try to form an impression that they are doing things for the greater good.
For marginalized members of la Raza, when you have nothing and you perceive that you have nothing to gain, voting doesn’t matter. It is when a person has been in hell forever and gets a taste of heaven that his or her personal dynamics will change. Perhaps, the message in this last election is that when groups are dissatisfied with what is happening in national politics, abstention makes sense, it sends a direct message to the power brokers that something has gone awry.
Many Latinos have climbed into middle class status and have become politically sophisticated. They realize their continued growth when used with precision and with good intentions presents a direct threat to the existent power brokers; they are also aware that they are on the verge of becoming a powerhouse. There has to be something else brewing in the pot to account for the dismal turnout and the equally dismal loss.
Latinos are dismayed at the failure of President Obama to keep his palabra as I had mentioned in another column. A link has been established from local politics to national politics. Groups, like individuals, do not like to be lied to or taken for granted. The subtle payback is nonparticipation in elections. Winning back the trust of the community will require some pretty heavy lifting.
The ritual for building back trust is usually very simple, so simple that we often forget it. It is called asking for forgiveness and promising that things will improve. However, what happens when promises continue to be broken?
The broken palabra does not just affect undocumented workers that placed themselves in harm’s way through a public display on the streets of Denver in 2006, at the risk of deportation but also from those allies who are in communion with them. And although undocumented immigrants cannot vote, others have carried the banner of voting for them. In the process of trying to untangle the mess called comprehensive immigration policy, the marginalized have built bridges with many of the groups that have been struggling with this issue. Those advocacy organizations also have to keep trust y la palabra with their constituents. And although, behind closed curtains, people will vote whatever they deem necessary; breaking a promise in the voting booth doesn’t diminish the guilt that lingers on afterwards.
Inviting nationally known Democrats into Denver trying to muster up support for ex-Senator Udall at the tail end of the process was absurd. The presence of Representative Luis Gutiérrez and Senator Michael Bennett at late minute rallies was too late; the contract had already been violated.
One of the ironies is that Obama refused to use his presidential privilege until after the November elections in order to keep control of the political machine; however when the votes were counted many Democrats still lost elections and heavy losses were incurred. Democratic forecasting was incorrect. President Obama can turn the tide if he chooses; but he will have to take action before he speaks. His actions will definitely speak louder than his words.
Perhaps a tad of authentic shared governance is in order; a public invitation to participate in collaboration with the decision makers is not a bad idea, but it has to happen at the beginning of a process not at the end. The Latino community has become too sophisticated and can see democracy cloaked in authoritarianism.
The Democratic Party has a lot of back pedaling to do. The party might want to prepare by inviting the masses of the people to the table, not only those who they believe possess the power to sway the vote, but those who work every day to make government more accountable. The party has just begun.
Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist.
©11-11-2014 Ramón Del Castillo
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