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Jonathan Maslow

I'm commenting as an editor at a daily newspaper in northern New Jersey where Latinos are more than half the Passaic County population and the mayors of our two major cities, Paterson and Passaic are both Puerto Ricans, with heavy Dominican, Peruvian, Mexican and Central American minorities. I also spent 20 years as a journalist covering Latin America.
I think one can say with a good level of confidence that Latinos are united on metapolitics and divided several ways on issues.
Their background, mostly as poor immigrants coming from failed or weak economies, tends to give them a labor-oriented perspective on most economic issues.They definitely seem to favor government action/intervention on behalf of the people (el pueblo is a kind of mysitcal secular term in Spanish)in such areas as housing, job creation, workers rights, unions. And with almost universal Catholic affiliation, they are generally conservative on most social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage. In addition, from my own observations, Latinos have a strong warrior culture going all the way back to the Moorish invasion, and you find Latinos overreperesented in the military services-- and in the casualty numbers, too. At our newspaper we have covered the funerals of not a few Hispanic soldiers killed in Iraq. It's always a heartbraking assignment: kids whose parents struggled to get here and toiled in deadend jobs, their sons and daughters who joined the services because they couldn't afford college--even community college-- and wound up on the wrong side of an IED in Iraq. Still, support for the war remains strong.
One area that is rarely discussed in the media is that Latinos prefer to live in cities and, at least in New Jersey, form the core of a new urban class of citizens who favor safe streets, mass transport, strong neighborhoods, public services, etc. Latinos in New Jersey have been the demographic base for revival of many urban cores. However, what's been missing up till now is a commitment by Latinos to education as the key to social mobility. This holds especially true for Latino women, whose families often do not support their efforts to become educated and lead independent lives, and, unfortunately, for too many Latino youth, who are lured to lives of crime, drugs and gangs as they are failed by the awful city school systems.
Liekwise, there is strong support among Latinos for small business enterprise and the chance to start a business and work your way up.
As for divisions: it's certainly true that Cubans who came out after the Castro revolution are staunchly rightwing on foreign policy, while Salvadorans escaping the civil war there are not enthusiastic imperialists. Puerto Ricans look down on Dominicans, who look down on..etc., etc. Cubans look down on everyone, except Spaniards. Nevertheless, these are not political divisions. Those may be characterized, I think by two factors: generation and when they came to the United States. I'm not sure this is completely valid, but the 2nd generation tends to lose their parents' social hangups, but also their parents's economic solidarity. Race and ethnicity tend to go away as factors in forming political beliefs. So do the old trust in government, politics and economic justice. It's these young Latinos that the Republicans are targeting, especially in the Southwest, with such policies as school vouchers (for parochial schools) and home ownership.
Politically, the Democrats have to make a major effort to win the Latino vote. The way to the White House runs through the Southwest.

Clay Shirky

I have to disagree with you about the "generally convincing" nature of Sargent's article. Speaking as a Democrat who campaigned for Dinkins twice, but was one of 30K defectors who put Bloomberg into office last time because the thought of pulling the lever for Mark Green made me ill, I think Sargent's article ignores two critical features: Bloomberg is a good mayor, and Ferrer is a machine hack.

The article consistently misrepresents the basic political forces at work, like suggesting that Guliani won by stoking the fears of blue-collar whites of crime. This is nonsense -- the man who defeated Guliani in his first run was none other than...David Dinkins, and those blue-collar whites were *less* likely to have voted for Dinkins in his first election. It was the *fact* of crime that lead to the 4% shift in voting patterns in the Dinkins-Guliani re-match -- the crack epidemic still raging, a race riot a summer, and no sense that anything much was possible, and the 4% that were swayed didn't include the blue-collar whites, who were in the Guliani camp the first time as well.

Similarly, this hogwash about Democratic malaise doesn't explain why Democrats keep getting elected to lower office in NYC. The town has not in fact gone Republican -- we've simply noticed that the Democratic Party is incapable of fielding anyone but lousy candidates for Mayor.

And again, the idea that people are suggesting that Bloomberg is a liberal Democrat is stupid -- no one, ever, has suggested that. He is plainly a centrist, and no one mistakes him for a liberal. Sargent had to throw the 'liberal' label in to avoid coming too near the truth -- the Democratic party is incapable of running a centrist (read: electable candidate) for Mayor, because of the influence of the machine.

The richest line in the whole article is here:

"And what if you believe that Bloomberg, in many ways a successful mayor, would simply do a far better job than Ferrer? Shouldn’t that trump such abstractions about GOP long-term machinations? Perhaps."

Perhaps? Thanks pal -- you want us to vote out a good Mayor, and vote in someone who has written so many IOUs to get where he is that his entire first term would be spent returning favors? No thanks. We'll take two scoops of the good Mayor, please.

Sargent wants the Democratic party to matter to New Yorkers more than good governance. It doesn't. I thought after we ended Mark Green's career they would have gotten that message, but seemingly not. If the Democrats hand us a candidate we can vote for, we will. Until then, no.


To qualify these observations, I had the privilege of serving as field director for the No on Prop. 187 (anti-immigrant initiative) campaign in northern California in 1994, worked to encourage the expansion of the new citizen (basically Mexican-American) vote throughout the 90s, and took part in the 2004 campaign in New Mexico.

My experience points to a lot in common with Jonathan Maslow's comment above. In California, Pete Wilson's manipulation of white fears of being swamped in a tide of brown invaders set off that mystical embrace of el pueblo and comunidad he mentions. Those Latinos eligible naturalized and registered to vote in droves, mostly as Democrats. In 1994, the electorate was 81 percent white; about 9 percent Latino. By 1998, the electorate was 14 percent Latino.

But from there the trend has stalled. Many of the naturalizations followed on the legalizations begun with the new immigration law of 1986 -- functionally it takes ten years for folks to come online as participating citizens. The new immigrant Latino population remaining is young, uneducated and poor. Jack Citrin and Benjamin Highton wrote an analysis called How Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration Shape the California Electorate for the Public Policy Institute of California that does a good job looking at possible futures. Many of us think that Latinos in California will only become voters in greater numbers as the demographic characteristics of that population come to more closely resemble those of the white population: more schooling, more economic stability, and some aging.

So will they continue to be Democrats? In California, despite defections to the magical figure of the Terminator, I think the answer is yes, for a long time. Republicans are perceived as old white people who treat Spanish-speaking immigrants badly, who want to deny healthcare and education to the children. It is that simple. Democrats will get the votes of people who feel that way about Republicans pretty easily -- having prominent figures like Villaraigosa certainly helps. All the social issues that might tend to swing Latinos to the Reps won't cut in a big way until/unless Latinos feel that they get fair treatment and their culture(s) and families get respect from Anglos. I suspect that where there are even newer Latino populations (like Iowa and the South) this pattern might be even more pronounced, IF Democrats are differentiated at all for other white people.

Here in California, it is hard to imagine Ferrer being much identified as a Latino -- but I am constantly surprised at the extent to which relatively apolitical Latinos think of Bill Richardson as part of el pueblo, so I could be way wrong about this.

Latino Pundut

That's kinda wierd he wouldn't be identified as a Latino in Cali. Wonder why? Is it b/c he is not Mexican?


Latino Pundit -- yes, Nueva York is simply very far away if home was Mexico. But I could be very wrong, as I said.

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