Will Being Latino Hurt Richardson at the Polls?

LatinaLista — The last time I wrote about Bill Richardson when he was just thinking of running for President, it was to wonder why more young voters hadn’t heard of him or why more Latinos didn’t realize he was Latino.
Since then, Bill not only has officially declared his bid for President but has been making up for lost time. He is getting his face out there before young people on YouTube, Jay Leno, The Daily Show — all the while reminding people that he is Latino, in espanol no less.
But given the national climate as the immigration debate rages, I can’t help but wonder if being a Presidential candidate, who is Latino, a sure ticket to the ultimate American Dream or a suicide mission waiting to happen?


Before I go further, I have to admit I like Bill Richardson. Not just because he’s Latino but he is one Latino Listo!

Bill Richardson announces his bid for President
(Source: NYTimes)
Yet, with all Latinos feeling the repercussions to some extent of the hate being directed at undocumented immigrants in the hopes of driving them out of the country, it would be naive of anyone to think that Richardson won’t feel it in some way, especially the more he claims his Latino heritage.
In the minds of people who are totally unfamiliar with the Hispanic culture or the Mexican border region, there is not a whole lot of difference between Latinos born on one side of the border or the other.
Mix that mindset with political pundits with national followings whose sole purpose of making a living is to distort the facts and sensationalize them to the point of intimidation/threats, then Richardson will be forced to forego talking about the issues and instead have to educate the pubic on what is a Latino born in the US.
Think that’s loco?
So did I until I got e-mails from people who kept telling me to “go back to Mexico” just because I advocate for the undocumented.
The sad thing is these kinds of people, no matter how screwy they are in their thinking, already have one advantage over a good percentage of the Latino community – they can vote.
With only 7.6 million Latino voters in the last Presidential election (47% of Latino citizens), we don’t have the political prowess to beat the kind of exaggerated propaganda that is already making headway at the polls where discriminatory laws are being overwhelmingly approved.
Not having a Spanish surname buys Richardson time with non-Latino voters but just a bit.
Richardson may be keen to emphasize his Latino roots now, but it won’t be long before he’ll have to do what too many Latinos are having to do these days: explain that we can be both Latino and American.
And – President too.

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7 Comments

  1. Matt Ortega said:

    Hey Marisa,
    I must say, nice set up you got here. It’s beautiful.
    Speaking of getting Latinos registered to vote and out to the polls, did you see this drive Univision is putting together?

  2. ekwhite said:

    I don’t think being Latino will hurt Bill Richardson. Being too middle of the road will.

  3. ekwhite said:

    I don’t think being Latino will hurt Bill Richardson. Being too middle of the road will.

  4. turtlebella said:

    I’m hoping that he doesn’t have to start being un-Latino anytime soon. I don’t understand why people have such a hard time understanding latino and american at the same time. I mean, hello? Irish-American? Italian-American. Maybe it’s semantics? That it’s not Latino-American??? But yeah, I guess talking about Latino people pushes buttons about immigrants and ‘illegals’ – arrrggghhh.
    It makes me so happy to see a Latino in this race (and a Black man and a woman…I am so heartily heartily SICK of all the oldish white men being in charge all the time!!!). My mom used to live in New Mexico and she really doesn’t like Richardson, but I figure it’s like H Clinton being in the race- I don’t like her but I’m glad that we finally have a woman that has a chance. Richardson may not be perfect candidate for me (that would be very very hard, I am too far to the left), but good enough. And I have to say- I am always happy when he says if Bush builds a wall on the border that he will tear it down! if he becomes president.
    Personally, my husband and I are hoping for a Obama-Richardson ticket. An all POC ticket!!!! Yeah, baby.

  5. Nadie said:

    it won’t be long before he’ll have to do what too many Latinos are having to do these days: explain that we can be both Latino and American.
    That is just SAD. Not just that, but one can be both Latino and, you know, a HUMAN BEING.
    I’ll admit I won’t be voting for Richardson, but that’s because I’m a conservative on the other issues. That said, Bill Richardson is infinitely preferable to me (and, I suspect, most others from right of center) than the other candidates. He’s a pragmatist, a proven leader, and seems far more in touch with all Americans (go figure, huh! A Latino who gets Americans!) than the others. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s got much chance in the primaries; not so much because he’s Latino, but because he’s not a bomb-thrower, not controversial–and that’s a shame, because he’s exactly the kind of candidate who would be good for America.
    But you’re right, I’m sure there will be people who wouldn’t support him because of his heritage. It makes me sick to think so, but with the immigration debate being what it is right now, I think you’re exactly right.
    I’m so sorry there are scum who actually tell you to “go back to Mexico.” I’m not sure why I feel compelled to say “I’m sorry,” but it makes me sad for you and for the world we live in.

  6. Amanda said:

    I’m sure it will hurt him. How could it not? This anti-Latino attitude cuts across partisan lines, and is especially directed toward Mexicans. I don’t know that it would be so difficult for a Cuban or Puerto Rican or otherwise “distant” cousin of the Mexican to become President, especially if they were fairer-skinned than Richardson but equally Anglicized in surname.
    But, let’s face it… Richardson is undeniably brown. And, although born in the U.S., he was raised in Mexico City, Mexico and became governor of New Mexico. It’s just too much Mex for Americans to handle. I think the fact that he grew up on “el otro lado” will place him under much more scrutiny than Obama’s cocaine admission. Plus, as my 8th grade Georgia Studies teacher reflected, “I am shocked at how acceptable it has become to degrade Hispanics. I have heard you (students) say things about Mexicans that you would not dream of saying about Blacks, not even in your worst nightmares!” And this was 6 years ago. It’s gotten much worse since then. So, if we are questioning whether America is ready for a Black president, I think a Mexican president is out of the question.
    Which is unfortunate, because I like Richardson, too. Initially I kind of held back, viewed him with a lot of apprehension, afraid he would “make us look bad”. But he is an extremely qualified candidate, and I truly would support him over the other candidates even if he were not Latino. I think his diplomatic background is just what we need right now. But I doubt that most other people see it that way. Siiiiigh
    On a more positive note, the new site looks really nice!

  7. turtlebella said:

    Amanda has a point- the Mexico in New Mexico is a problem…lots of people think it’s not even in the US!!!! (hello? were you paying attention in middle school social studies??? Who knows, people get thrown by the Mexico part, I guess.)

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