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Hillary or Richardson? A Latina Dilemma


(The following is an edited version of a longer op-ed written for Hispanic Link News Service)

A documented characteristic of Hispanic voters is that no one political party can really claim us as all their own. For Latinos, it’s never totally been about the elephant or the donkey, as it has been about the man.

Now, it is also about the mujer (woman).

With Hillary Rodham Clinton joining the ranks of presidential wannabes, the race didn’t just get interesting for Democratic voters — it got hard for Latina Democratic voters.

For the first time in our history of electing a President, the possibility exists for either a woman to be the 44th President of the United States, or a Latino — New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

If ever there was a time when Latinos could seriously be considered the swing vote, it will be in an election that pits gender against ethnic pride.

Especially since Latinas comprise the biggest majority of Hispanic voters.

According to a 2004 HispanTelligence (R) research report on the Hispanic electorate, women between the ages of 25 to 44-years-old comprise the largest group of Hispanic voters at 23.21 percent.

Which makes for an interesting scenario: With qualifications roughly being equal, do Latinas support someone who shares in the experiences of childbirth, balancing career and family and enduring patronizing discrimination or do Latinas support someone who shares in the experiences of living a bicultural life, having a common ancestry and on the receiving end of ethnic jokes?

Either choice would prove historic, and the potential impact Latinas have in who faces off against the Republican contender is sobering.

After all, George Bush’s own win in the 2004 election is attributed to his increase among both females and Hispanic voters.

If the election was held today, polls tell us that Hillary would win the Democratic nomination. In fact, anecdotal accounts from across the country and throughout the blogosphere are showing that Hillary’s participation is exciting women of all ages and from all walks of life.

Lisa Stone, a founder of the women’s blog network BlogHer, noticed among her roster of women bloggers that the discussion of Hillary running for President has extended beyond the usual field of political bloggers.

Mommybloggers, who last week were debating how long to put their children in time-out, are this week in animated discussions about what having a woman in the Oval Office could mean.

In fact, the idea of Hillary running for the presidency is almost eclipsing her stand on the issues, or at the least, allowing her, in the minds of some, to start with a fresh slate.

Talk doesn’t dwell on whether or not she voted for the war in Iraq. Instead, people are talking about her electability as a candidate.

There is no doubt Latinas, and most women, will have to struggle over deciding if the country is ready for a female president.

Yet, if we’re lucky, maybe the decision that will have to be made in the 2008 presidential election won’t be just about if the country is ready for a woman commander-in-chief, but if the country is ready for a woman/Hispanic ticket.

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