Hispanic voters crucial to the 2012 campaigns
Understanding that people with radical ideologies, liberal or conservative, don’t comprise a too significant portion of the constituency, Obama and Romney will need to target and appeal to a wide range of moderates and persons undecided if they wish to be elected to office.
This challenge will prove far more difficult than appealing to either extremes of the political spectrum, who need little more than some rallying and to hear catchphrases like “freedom” and “change” from their respective representatives to cast a vote.
Hispanics are characterized for being in the center of the spectrum; their pro-life views, church involvement, family values and strong belief that work is the means to success make them side with conservatives; simultaneously the conservative’s inclination to military intervention abroad, apparent insatiable thirst for money and aggressive stance against immigration pushes them toward liberal candidates — at least that’s the stereotype that both parties have adopted, and around which campaigns, ads and different strategies revolve.
There being 6.6 million registered Hispanic voters, candidates must target this ethnic group accurately and effectively to increase their chances of winning. So, how can democrats and republicans better target Latinos? By stepping away from the stereotype.
First off, Hispanics or Latinos are not a homogenous group, and often struggle to find things in common with one another. Persons with a Cuban, Puerto-Rican, Mexican, Guatemalan, Venezuelan or any other Latin American heritage will have drastically different political views; consider the structures of their respective governments, and notice there are as few similarities between Latin American countries as are between the United States and them.
Then are factors of income and status. A privileged and wealthy Hispanic person will probably share very similar views to any other ethnic group with an equivalent status; conversely, the poor and underprivileged will side with the general electoral pattern of persons in their class.
Add to this their generation in this country, and the divide will only expand. On April 17, Obama released ad campaigns in Spanish; yet, few Hispanics who are not immediate immigrants speak Spanish often, if at all. Also, if they have taken the trouble to learn English in order to participate more actively with their teachers, employers, neighbors and state and federal representatives, they expect equal treatment. Some may take ads in Spanish as condescending and even offensive — politicians should acknowledge Hispanics’ ability to understand and communicate in English. This acknowledgement is a sign of respect, which is more valuable than “bonding.”
There are also different senses and degrees of entitlement. An immediate immigrant will see everything and anything this great nation has to offer as a blessing or bonus. Often times, their wages having increased along with their security and standard of living, and not being accustomed to receive anything from their past governments, legal immigrants will take however little this country offers with gratitude, and expect few if anything. Later generations, seeing themselves as citizens with equal rights to any American will have much higher expectations. They may become activists, criticize uneven distribution of power, ethnic stratification and demand compensation through affirmative action for racism that is ingrained in today’s systems from past discrimination.
In conclusion, as is often the case with over-generalizations, the current stereotype about Hispanics’ political inclination is unfounded and if candidates wish to send an effective message, they must administrate surveys and be more attentive to the Latino population; otherwise, it is best to stop targeting them altogether through ad campaigns, for it is better to not be targeted than to be targeted wrongly.