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Parties Pursuing The Hispanic Vote Democrats Focus on Latino Partnerships
Parties Pursuing The Hispanic Vote
By JANET MURGUIA
July 18, 2005
THE CHAIRMEN of the Republican and Democratic parties are taking part in the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza in Philadelphia for the first time in our organization's history.
The presence of both parties at the largest national Hispanic event of the year and at the recent National Association of Latino Elected Officials conference in Puerto Rico is a testament to the growing interest in the Latino community and, in particular, Hispanic voters.
And what is it about this electorate that is attracting the parties' attention? While nearly two million more Latinos voted in the 2004 election than did in 2000, a startling 27 percent increase, it is not size alone. A substantial number of Hispanics still remain outside the political process, and Latinos represent only 6 percent of the electorate.
And it is not because Latinos are predictable voters. Despite almost a 2-1 registration balance in favor of the Democrats, Hispanics have split their votes so often in recent elections that they have cemented their status as a swing vote.
We believe that the attention is much more about the parties' interest in their long-term viability. This year, nearly 700,000 Latinos will turn 18, and there are still nearly 7 million eligible Latinos who did not vote in 2004. No party will be able to dominate the political arena if it ignores Latinos. Yet, to date, there have not been any substantive efforts by either party to grow the Latino electorate.
Our current voter mobilization industry is almost completely geared toward likely voters, not potential voters. Very few organizations are involved in helping those outside the system engage or re-engage in the political process. This is especially true for potential Latino voters who, despite the recent attention, are still not "top of mind" to traditional mobilization efforts.
That is a key reason that NCLR and a group of its affiliates, community-based organizations serving the Latino community, have rolled up their sleeves to help identify the most effective ways of reaching out to this community on a sustained basis, not just every four years. But the key to successful engagement is to convince everyone involved in voter mobilization that expanding the electorate should be as important as focusing on the low-hanging fruit of likely voters.
Moreover, there is a growing realization that engaging the electorate must be coupled with policy advocacy and community organizing. It is important to note that the community-based organizations that are the most likely to be successful in engaging their communities politically can best achieve that success by also becoming more visible and more vocal advocates for their communities at the state and local level.
And the issues that Latinos care about are the ones all of us do - education, health care, security, and the economy. Progress on ensuring that all Americans are safe, treated fairly, receive a high-quality education, are able to have greater economic opportunities and maintain economic security, have access to health care, and are able to create and sustain strong communities is an American agenda, not just a Latino agenda.
FOCUSING ON this agenda could have the added benefit of reinvigorating many other groups of voters - young people, other minorities and urban voters - who are not currently voting at the levels they should or could.
Ultimately, it is this combination of increased electoral participation plus advocacy and organizing that will enhance the relationship between elected officials and all their constituents, create the political space to address the needs of all these communities, and in the process encourage more people to engage in the electoral process.
Janet Murguia is president of La Raza, which is holding its annual conference in Philadelphia through tomorrow.
Democrats Focus on Latino Partnerships
By ABE LEVY
August 6, 2005
SAN ANTONIO -- Democrats took their fight for Hispanic votes to the president's home state Saturday, vowing to increase their party's appeal among the nation's fastest-growing minority group by giving Hispanics more resources and leadership positions.
"There will soon be a Hispanic governor in the state of Texas," Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told the more than 400 party leaders attending the third Hispanic Leadership Summit. "There are people sitting in this room who will run for governor."
A strong focus of the weekend summit has been turning back the Republican Party's advances among Hispanic voters in recent years.
The summit was designed to collect feedback from the party's Hispanic supporters and help shape a new marketing campaign this fall. Democratic organizers hope to map out a key message that reflects historically Democratic values such as social justice and equal opportunity, as well as issues that need greater publicity, such as family and patriotism.
"The party has been ignoring the Latinos for decades, and it's time we say 'No more,'" said U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano of California.
Democratic elected officials often spoke in Spanish and English during their speeches Saturday. Many were from Texas, where the GOP is firmly in control but where Hispanics are expected to be the majority in coming decades.
Issues such as public education, health care, voting rights and immigration protection should continue to be party priorities, they said. The challenge will be relating that platform to the lives of an increasingly diverse Latino population, said U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio.
Dean's message to the summit included a call for a "new partnership" among minority groups, because, he said, they will become the majority population nationally within a few decades.
This direction should give the Hispanic population reason for hope, said Abraham Amoros, a press secretary in the Pennsylvania governor's office.
"Too often, we end up apologizing as Democrats," he said. "Our party has a lot of successes and a great story to tell. We ought to be proud of who we are."