I had the opportunity to speak at the prestigious National Press Club on the "Races to Watch" panel about the Latino vote and candidates' impact on Election 2014. Hosted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), I joined Daniel Garza from the right of center and Koch brothers funded the LIBRE Initiative and Cristóbal Alex, from the Latino Victory Project which was co-founded by Democratic National Committee finance chief Henry Muñoz and actor Eva Longoria. Click here to read our Q & A with Eva Longoria when she was in Washington, D.C. for her organization's launch.
Whether as a journalist or now as a so-called Latina influencer, I have for more than a decade reported and observed the political process. I've learned to not trust candidates, politicians, or political parties--not because they're bad, but because special interests and power often times preclude doing the right thing or standing up for the little guy. From judicial appointments to legislation such as gun control, getting anything done in Washington, D.C. (note that in state houses and towns across the nation, agendas are moving forward) is an act of God. And when something is achieved, no one is happy because everyone gave too much and gained so little. Always the overachieving scholarship student, it's been hard for me to accept a government that seems to strive to earn a perennial C-.
Democracy is messy. But it's the one we've got. And it belongs not to the Koch Brothers or Barack Obama, but us. A mistaken belief is that my vote can change the system. Not quite and those who peddle in the currency of change need to watch it because the opposite of hope is desencanto or disillusionment. That's a powerful force. But stronger is the agency that derives from our consistent, collective action which over time can shape and influence the politics and policy of our day.
Yet Latinos, despite their mammoth demographic and economic might are yet to translate this into political and social power. Why? That's a question I've attempted to answer in the original series “My Latino Midterm Election” which examines federal data and local interpretations of it (for example, nonpartisan research centers or universities) to quantify voter engagement. Countless nonprofit community organizations and millions of foundation dollars later, Hispanic voting patterns quantify a disappointing return on investment. While the vote has increased and shattered records, about half eligible Latinos don't cast ballots or register. This was the case during Election 2012 when 12 million voted but 11 million did not. And if we drill down at the increases, are the numbers more a reflection of demographic destiny or civic participation born from the realization that I have skin, bruises, sweat, and tears in the game called American democracy and society?
The #fail is epic with blame to go around: political parties and candidates don't grasp a new America that is young and diverse, requiring an outreach and engagement strategy of these "new voters" at the heart of a campaign's DNA and media budget (and not an "add on" in the weeks leading up to the election). It's shameful that before Election 2014, in many races, a large portion of Latinos haven't been micro-targeted and contacted by candidates from both parties. It's a disgrace that more Hispanics aren't registering and participating at the local level such as school boards and town councils. School budgets and public safety are just some of the issues that affect people's lives decided at the local level.
Back to the briefing, the last question was what would be the "story" the day after the election. My answer: the same as the day after Election 2012:
Wow! The Latino Vote!
Forever optimistic, I hope the current round-the-clock last minute efforts to mobilize voters will include more Hispanics than what political pundits and the media predict. And with many races close, a win may come down to a relatively small number of votes. Just a few thousand Latinos votes could change the balance of power in Washington and have big repercussions going into the Presidential election of 2016.
Indeed, our vote is our voice. For Latinos, many come from mixed-status families and neighborhoods which magnifies the power and significance of our ballot because our vote contains the hopes, frustrations, and desencanto of our collective familia.
Vote for yourself.
But remember, you're also voting for them.
Click below to watch the video of the press briefing at the National Press Club:
To learn more about how the Hispanic demographic growth and voter registration are playing out in close 2014 midterm races, click here to read the original series “My Latino Midterm Election.”
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