American Voices: Gustavo Arellano on the 2012 Latino vote
My family and I should be the ideal voters for the Republican party. We don’t like big government, and stress personal responsibility over government handouts. I’m disillusioned with President Obama, and my parents don’t like the social liberalism of the Democrats. But best of all, we’re Latinos: christened last decade as the nation’s large minority, withmuchos of us in swing states.
But guess what: No way will any of us vote for the Republicans in 2012. No way, no how. See, their current batch of presidential candidates obsess over Mexicans invading the United States. Intelligent minds can disagree on illegal immigration, but intelligent minds left the GOP on this issue long ago.
Instead, we get candidates who threaten to build an electric fence on the U.S.-Mexico border — the same border my dad snuck across in the trunk of a Chevy some 40 years ago. He’s an American citizen now who has never missed a vote or a payment on the house he and my mom bought 23 years ago with the salaries of a tomato canner and a truck driver. No bailouts for us.
Romney, Bachmann, Cain and the rest rail about us refusing to assimilate, but they obviously never spoke to my siblings or me. We only spoke Spanish upon entering kindergarten, yet here I am, speaking to ustedes in the King’s inglÉs. Masters degrees for me and my sister Elsa, with another one on the way for our hermanaAlejandrina. And the youngest of us, our brother Gabriel, he doesn’t worship Mexico. He worships the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Immigration isn’t the only issue Latinos care about. I work in Santa Ana, California, the largest city in the United States with an all-Latino city council. It’s a place where quinceañera shops and street vendors that sell chicharrones dominate the downtown.
Here at my friend’s store and coffee shop, Calacas, owners Rudy and Jackie CÓrdoba want better schools for their sons, lower taxes for their business and better job opportunities for the city’s youth. Yet to politicians, the CÓrdobas and other Latino voters are at best a piñata, whacked every four years for our support. What does that mean? Outreach efforts that involve mariachis and tacos, tequila shots and mangled Spanish, and always coronations via sombreros. No es bueno.
Want us to vote Republican? Drop the culture argument. We Latinos assimilate and succeed just like previous immigrant groups, like the Irish and the Italians and the Poles of yesteryear. Don’t paint doomsday scenarios about the “browning of America.”
Almost all the Latinos I know, people with success stories, we vote Democrat by default, not because we have an affinity for burros, but because we won’t vote for a party that fundamentally fears us. Remember this, GOP, lest you guys go the way of the Whigs, because when we Latinos get offended, we get even at the ballot box.