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The New York Sun

It Is Time To Tone Down The Rhetoric


12 November 2004
Copyright © 2004 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC. All rights reserved. 

The biggest reason for Bush's victory," Dick Morris's syndicated column says, "was that he finally cracked the Democratic stranglehold on the Hispanic vote." Mr. Morris concludes that President Bush's emphasis on social value issues, and his opposition to gay marriage, was the reason for his success. The columnist writes, "Hispanics are, of course, Catholic and deeply committed to traditional values." So what happened in New York, Mr. Morris?

What Mr. Morris has written is correct. Mr. Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote, an increase of 10 percentage points since the 2000 election. Many Hispanic political insiders, however, view the Latino vote as a myth. The numbers aren't that different from the 2000 turnout, and the increase is negligible because only about 44% of eligible Hispanics voted.

Numbers make me dizzy, but people always intrigue me, and what I find most fascinating, and what is being overlooked, is how differently the Puerto Ricans voted here in New York from how they voted in Puerto Rico.

For the first time, a Republican was voted in as the island's resident commissioner to Washington, D.C. Luis Fortuno, whom I interviewed this summer, will be representing Puerto Rico. He is a proponent of statehood for the island. When I asked a local policy insider how he viewed Mr. Fortuno's victory, the response was: "I don't think he necessarily represents a trend in Puerto Rico. Probably 99% of the islanders who voted for him didn't know he was a Republican or what that means. Remember, he ran as a candidate of the PNP." The PNP is the New Progressive Party: Partido Nuevo Progresista.

Aha! That is probably the best excuse for nonpartisan elections I've ever heard. If state Senator Olga Mendez, who switched her party affiliation to Republican two years ago, had run as a Democrat, she would probably have been sent back to the state Senate. Luis Fortuno was basically elected on the issues, not his party affiliation.

In New York, as always, Puerto Ricans generally voted the straight Democratic ticket. Who can blame them? New York's Republicans may have a platform that benefits minority groups, but they just can't sell it.

Now Mr. Bush has named Alberto Gonzalez to be the new attorney general. The president is also pushing his immigration program forward, and of course to many this means the president is courting the Hispanic vote. Ahem, the election is over, so why is he doing this? I will venture to suggest that it is because he believes it is best for the country. Period.

The Hispanic vote; the moral values vote; the war factor; Hollywood backlash; Swift Boat Vets - why is everybody rehashing why Mr. Bush won and Senator Kerry lost?

It bothers me that Jerry Falwell has resurrected his former Moral Majority movement based on the election results. He says his Faith and Values Coalition, as it may be called, will be the 21st-century version of the former organization.

I think we need to tone down the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle. The Democratic leadership may be way out of touch with mainstream America, but that doesn't mean the GOP has the inside track on morality.

I'm not ashamed to consider myself a member of the religious right, if all that means is that I am pro-life and I do not advocate gay marriage. One does not have to be an "evangelical" to share those beliefs. We are not dumb, stupid, bigoted, or homophobic simply because of our political positions.

The tendency to stereotype is just as bad on the other side of the issues. One weekend talk-show host on WABC radio gave a monologue that typifies the narrow-mindedness on the right. He asked a woman who was seeking government help to feed her family why she had three children if she couldn't afford it. Another host mocks any caller who drives a Volvo. I have six children and at one time owned a Volvo I had bought for $500. I voted for Mr. Bush.

It's time for all of us to stop with the name-calling. My sisters, whom I love, do not share my political views. They do not vote as I do. They are good people and good Americans.

We need to step back and take a good hard look at our daily lives. Our country is doing much better than many European nations are, and that is because it has a political system that, while flawed, works best when its electorate is informed and participates fully in the process.

It's tempting to think that Hispanics will be considered by both major parties in upcoming elections.

It would be even better if we were just considered American citizens.

Last time I checked, you do need to be one to vote.

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