Culture

Will Being Latino Hurt Richardson at the Polls?

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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