LatinaLista — Identity politics, as defined by Wikipedia, is “ political action to advance the interests of members of a group whose members are oppressed by virtue of a shared and marginalized identity (such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and neurological wiring). The term has been used principally in United States politics since the 1970s.”
If it were not for Obama’s eloquence and unflappable demeanor during the debates and on the campaign trail, there would be arguments made that Obama won the election based on what his election meant as the first President of color rather than the attributes he brings to the most stressful job in the world.
Though critics don’t want to hear it, Obama is President who happens to be African-American.
His success in crossing that threshold mandated by the majority against any person of color who has ever run in an election against a white candidate speaks volumes for how far we as a society have come and how far African Americans have come to garner a “national” vote.
Looking at Obama’s success, it’s not illogical for Latinos to want to achieve the same thing — to be able to vote for a Latino candidate more for the qualifications they bring to the table rather than for a familiar surname or ancestral culture.
So, the question remains: Does the election of Obama mean that Latinos can now look past identity politics and vote solely based on qualifications?
Aside from doing a lousy job so far of grooming anyone for national politics that can exercise the kind of restraint, eloquence and intellect like Obama, Latino leadership, on community, state and national levels, have not been known to fully invest in supporting Latino candidates over a political career.
Complacency has settled into maintaining the status quo rather than to grow it. Power in the Latino community in Washington is concentrated into too few hands and when that happens greed and vanity keep a tight reign on those positions and, in turn, limits real power and influence.
So as it stands, unless a Latino candidate shows gross incompetence, he/she will most likely be elected based on the fact that they are Latino/a, and with the growing Latino voting power that was illustrated in this election there is a real possibility that unqualified candidates will be voted into office in the future.
Yet, there is a bright side — something can be done to correct this problem.
Latino leadership, at all levels, must actively start mentoring people who want to run for political office. Not just the young, idealistic, fresh-out-of-college students but the middle-aged residents who know what the issues are, how they impact the community, how they must be changed and have the ganas to change them.
A new attitude must be developed where Latino candidates don’t look at each solely as competitors but as partners in creating a bigger role for Latinos in government —Â again, on all levels.
And lastly, the greater Latino community must do more to create the kinds of opportunities that foster an interest in public service.
It’s only until opportunities to create qualified candidates are available will future Latino candidates earn the national vote and be able to say they are a politician who happens to be Latina/o.