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Puerto Rico Herald

Remarks By DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe To The National Association Of Hispanic Publications

June 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Puerto Rico Herald. All Rights Reserved.

Good afternoon, and thank you all very much. Thank you, Mayor Miller, for that kind introduction, and congratulations on your recent election. We at the DNC look forward to working with you.

I want to thank Zeke Montes and everyone associated with NAHP for inviting me to be with you today. For millions of Americans, Hispanic publications are the primary source of news about politics and public affairs. You are an important conduit, the link between public officials and the Hispanic community. That's why we're committed to a building a strong partnership with you.

And in addition to being a news outlet, you contribute to your communities as job-creators and successful small businesspeople, and for that I salute you.

Before I continue with my remarks, I must comment on an outrageous report today in the press, which unfortunately proves that what Democrats had warned about is coming true. Attorney General John Ashcroft is playing partisan, ideological games with the Justice Department's Civil Rights division. He is moving out career employees, and moving in right wing ideologues, bent on reversing hard-won progress this country has made on voting rights and civil rights.

Folks, President Bush can talk to you about inclusion and compassion all he wants, but by making this blatant political move, the Bush Administration is betraying their real agenda of injecting their ultra-conservativism into the very fabric of our country's civil rights and anti-discrimination laws. Make no mistake - they want to turn back the clock. This is very dangerous territory that will adversely affect all minority communities.

It is clear that Karl Rove and the RNC are now running the Justice Department without any pretense of impartiality or non-partisanship. How much farther will they go?

I also want to single out Congressman Joe Baca and the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Silvestre Reyes. They and their colleagues are tireless champions for the rights, interests and values of Hispanic families all around the country, and I am proud to be working so closely with them.

Never before in our nation's history has the Latino community been so large, so visible and so influential. Now more than 35 million people strong, Hispanics have consumer power that can't be denied, and they are a political force that can't be ignored.

It is with great pride that I point out that Hispanics overwhelmingly choose Democrats as the Party to represent their interests. By a 2-to-1 margin, Hispanics voted for the Democratic ticket during the last presidential election. More than 90 percent of the nation's 5000 Latino elected officials are Hispanic. Last year, we elected new Democratic Hispanic mayors in heavily Latino cities like San Antonio and El Paso, but also in Austin and Hartford, Connecticut.

And this year, the state of Texas is going to elect Tony Sanchez its first ever Latino governor. As momentous as that is, Tony put it best when he said that he's not running to be the first in anything...but he is running to make Texas the first in everything.

Tony Sanchez is a proud son of Texas. Born in Laredo of modest means, he worked his way through school and built a business that has helped generate more than 70,000 Texas jobs. He brings practical, real world experience to this race. As opposed to his opponent, a professional politician who's resting on the laurels of his predecessor.

It was a tough primary race. All of the issues were vigorously debated. But for the first time ever, they were debated in the language spoken by more than 7 million Texans. Texas truly made history this year, with two Latino Democrats seeking the state's most powerful office. It had a galvanizing effect, breaking voter turnout records, bringing more people into the party and into the political process.

And I believe this surge of Latino voting power won't just make Tony Sanchez Governor of will help us elect either Ron Kirk or Victor Morales to the United States Senate...and it will signal the beginning of the end of Republican dominance in the Lone Star State.

Texas isn't the only place where we have strong Latino Democratic candidates for this year's elections. There's Bill Richardson running for Governor of New Mexico. Dario Herrera is running in Nevada's new congressional district. We've recruited Eddie Diaz, a former police officer who was partially paralyzed in the line, to run for Congress in the Orlando, Florida area. And in Southern California's new 39th congressional district, Democrat Linda Sanchez has won the nomination and is sure to join Loretta Sanchez as the first two sisters ever to serve together in the House of Representatives.

The bottom line is this: after Election Day 2002, there will be more Latino Democrats holding office than ever before. Despite the fact that Republicans actively and cynically tried to use the redistricting process to disenfranchise Latino voters.

As proud as we are of our standing among Latinos, we Democrats know that support can never be assumed; it must be earned, day in and day out. That's why we've launched a multi-faceted, multimillion dollar Hispanic Project, designed to broaden and deepen our ties to Latino voters. The Project is run by Andres Gonzalez, a San Antonio native with strong ties to the Hispanic community and 20 years of experience as a political strategist.

Under the Project, we are enhancing our relationship with media outlets like yours, speaking bilingually to the Latino community as never before. Last year, for the first time ever during an off-year election, the DNC bought time on Univision and Telemundo, to highlight President Bush's failed leadership on the economy and immigration.

Through the Hispanic Project, we're also working more closely with Latino elected officials and grassroots activists. We're building an aggressive surrogate program, identifying leaders who can spread the Democratic message to Latino audiences at the local level. And we're working with our state Democratic parties on an innovative voter registration program for newly naturalized citizens.

We gave the Hispanic Project a kind of test run in the 2001 elections, and the results couldn't have been better.

In Virginia, we helped reach over 4000 Hispanic households through door-to-door canvassing, as Mark Warner received better than 60 percent of the Latino vote on the way to an historic victory.

In New Jersey, where the state Coordinated Campaign was led by Bob Menendez, the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congressional history, we deployed a successful Latino vote program called "Si Se Puede." And yes we did -- helping Governor Jim McGreevey get nearly three-quarters of the Hispanic vote, up from 48 percent in his 1997 race.

Looking ahead to 2002, we will be stepping up our activity and working in Hispanic communities all across the country. And as we do, we are fully aware that there can't be a one-size-fits-all approach to Hispanic outreach. Latinos are not a monolithic community with a single perspective. They defy regional and demographic stereotypes. They are urban, suburban and rural. They are farmers and laborers, but they are also bankers and publishers.

We also recognize that Latinos don't live just in the Southwestern border states and certain neighborhoods of New York, Miami and Chicago. In fact, of the 7 states that more than tripled their Hispanic populations over the last decade, 6 are in the Deep South.

Our political strategy is guided by an understanding of these realities. But on some level, the Republicans grasp these realities too. They can read census data too. They have an outreach plan too. But what we have -- that they don't -- is an actual history of fighting for the issues that matter to Latino communities.

You see, your outreach is only as effective as the program you offer and the values you promote. At the end of the day, all the outreach in the world means nothing if you're reaching out with an empty hand...without ideas or an agenda that will actually change people's lives. The Republicans are pouring all this energy and resources into what is essentially a marketing campaign. But the product they're trying to sell has a fundamental design flaw.

With all due respect, this outreach plan of theirs is something of a joke. Did you hear the latest? They're going to teach members of the Republican National Committee to speak Spanish. So while we're out there fighting for jobs, health care, education and Social Security, Republicans are sitting in a classroom taking vocabulary tests.

Actually, I think it's a nice idea to teach Republicans to speak Spanish. Because I think the Hispanic community should be able to hear in two languages about the Republican agenda that ignores their interests in favor of the special interests.

You see, for Republicans, pursuing the Hispanic vote is a calculated political strategy. For Democrats, it's an extension of our values. It's part of our belief in economic empowerment, inclusion, racial tolerance and civil rights. We know that partnering with Latinos is more than good's the right thing to do.

For example, we've been fighting consistently for an extension of the 245(i) program, which allows undocumented immigrants to stay in this country while taking the steps to adjust their status and become legal residents.

Republicans are vehemently opposed to 245(i) -- until they realize the political liability of their hard-line stance. Then they scramble to throw together a half-baked, watered-down solution -- a very narrow extension of the program, which passed the House Tuesday night.

Why the sudden change of heart on 245(i)? Ask yourself: is it just a coincidence that Republicans softened their position and passed this bill during the very news cycle that Democrats are making history by nominating a Latino for Governor in the nation's second largest state?

Last month, Dick Armey introduced an outrageous amendment on the House floor that would have barred legal permanent residents from making contributions to political campaigns. But this week, with the spotlight shining on a victorious Latino Democrat in his own state, suddenly he's sounding like the Statue of Liberty, promoting 245(i) and celebrating America as a nation of immigrants.

If the Republicans are such champions of 245(i), where were they a year ago? Where were they last spring, when the President had a chance to act on this issue...but waited until 2 days after the 245(i) deadline passed before expressing his support for an extension?

Folks, this isn't like being 2 days late returning your library book. These are real lives and real families you're talking about.

Republicans say they want and deserve more Latino votes, but many of them seem to think 245(i) is a new BMW model. They say they respect the Hispanic community, but sometimes it seems that all they know about Latinos is that Alex Rodriguez is one heckuva ballplayer.

Let's just compare our agenda to theirs. On supporting minority small business, for example. By creating Empowerment Zones and Community Development Financial Institutions, the Clinton Administration did everything in its power to help minority entrepreneurs get the capital they need to succeed. Meanwhile, it's Republicans who have tried repeatedly to eliminate the SBA's 8(a) program for small, disadvantaged - and predominately minority -- businesses.

Let's look at Social Security, a program that two out of every five Hispanic seniors depend on as their only source of retirement income. The President wants to take this guaranteed benefit - one that people have worked for and earned - and turn it into a high-stakes investment gambit. His system of private retirement accounts would essentially turn Social Security into Social Insecurity. If you think private retirement accounts are a good idea, go down to Houston and talk to some former Enron employees.

Then there's education, perhaps the single most important factor in Hispanic upward mobility. The President travels around the country bragging about the education bill he signed. Again, nice rhetoric. But then the budget comes out, and you find out the truth: cuts in dropout prevention and other critical programs.

Let's look at election reform. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Republicans don't want to strengthen democratic participation. After all, they're the ones that benefited from the rampant disenfranchisement we saw in the 2000 presidential election. But now they've really outdone themselves. They want to force new voters to present photo identification when they arrive at the polls, a provision that could keep as many as 1.3 million Hispanics from exercising their right to vote.

Make no mistake about it folks...this photo ID requirement is a direct descendant of the poll taxes and literacy tests of the segregationist South. The next thing you know they'll want you to present your country club membership card in order to get a ballot.

And you can't help but note the irony. As the National Council of La Raza pointed out: how can a political party have any credibility at all when it is trying to win over the Latino vote while at the same time trying to suppress it?

With much fanfare and self-congratulations, the President announced his decision to grant food stamps to legal immigrants as part of his welfare reform proposal. But if you look beyond the headlines, you'll see that the very same proposal would deny welfare benefits to immigrants who have come to the United States since 1996. So the President won't let immigrants starve...but he also won't give them access to health care and other social services that help them survive.

The President is trying to so hard to pander to everyone that he doesn't know what he believes anymore. In that very same welfare reform plan, it says that people making the transition from welfare-to-work don't have the right to a minimum wage salary. The next day, the Administration reversed itself, saying that provision wasn't supposed to be in the proposal and the whole thing was a result of staff misunderstandings.

You see, we Democrats don't have that problem. We don't have "misunderstandings" about core values like paying people a living wage.

President Bush says he wants to be a different kind of Republican. But at the end of the day, a Republican's still a Republican. When it comes time for the rubber to meet the road, the president is stuck in neutral. Whenever he and his Party are forced to make a decision between moderating their agenda or pandering to their base, they just can't help themselves. They always show their true colors by choosing the extremists on the right.

It happened again in California last week. Republicans had a chance to embrace a moderate candidate with appeal to racial minorities. But instead, by an overwhelming margin, they chose a far-right, garden-variety conservative in Bill Simon.

It happened in the Texas primary too. There was only one Latino Republican on the statewide primary ballot -- Xavier Rodriguez. And he lost, even though he is a sitting State Supreme Court Justice. Republican primary voters, not surprisingly, preferred the Anglo candidate, who was the plaintiffs' lawyer in the Hopwood case, which ended affirmative action in the Texas university system.

I have a message for his poor opponent. Senor Rodriguez, you have no chance of beating the radical right in a Republican primary. I have a voter registration card right here. If you want to win, you need to switch over to the Party that nominates and elects Hispanics -- the Democratic Party.

No matter how sincere the Republican rhetoric sounds, let's remember that this is the Party that gave us Governor Pete Wilson and Prop. 187.

This is the Party of Texas Senator Phil Gramm who said that legalization of undocumented workers would happen over his "cold, dead political body."

This is the Party of Congressman Tom Tancredo who says that an earned legalization program "leaves our nation vulnerable to terrorist attacks."

This is the Party of Congressman JD Hayworth, who recently called legal immigrants "enemies of the state" on the floor of the House of Representatives.

So, when it comes right down to it, folks, the Republican Hispanic outreach effort is nothing more than a bunch of empty platitudes, token gestures and the President's video appearance at this conference tomorrow. Their rhetoric of compassion is at odds with the harsh reality of their agenda. They care about immigrant votes, but not about immigrant lives.

Let me close on this note. This week, the entire nation recognized the six-month anniversary of the vicious attack on our nation. All of us stand with President Bush and the courageous men and women of our armed forces as they wage this war against terrorism. And it's worth pointing out that, throughout our history, no group of Americans has performed more heroically in defense of freedom than the Latino community.

September 11th was an act of unspeakable brutality that must be avenged. On that point, we all agree. The question is: How do we emerge from this crisis an even stronger, freer, more just nation?

Because, folks, as much as race relations have much progress as we've made...we've still got a ways to go. This week, several Latino organizations, including NALEO and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, received envelopes with a white powdery substance and a note that included some of the most vile ethnic slurs imaginable.

There are still people who don't share our vision of a multicultural America. To fight these forces of hate, we need leaders who truly understand our minority communities. We need leaders whose commitment to racial justice is a matter of pure conviction...not something a pollster told them they should be concerned about.

We Democrats support the President one hundred percent on the war effort. But we also believe that we must do more to promote at home the values we are so successfully defending abroad.

We know the imperative of military triumph. But we also know that the flag we're fighting for must symbolize a nation that truly embraces diversity, a nation that both practices and preaches racial tolerance.

That's why I'm a Democrat, and that's why the Latino community is overwhelmingly Democratic. We will continue to fight for these values, and we will continue to stand with the Latino community in their quest to become full partners in the American Dream. Thank you very much, and I look forward to working with all of you as we step up our Hispanic outreach in the coming years.

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