Women & Latinos in 2012: Final Words

Women and Latino VotersWay back in June, on the 12th day to be precise, Joshua Baca, the National Coalitions Director at Mitt Romney for President sent an email blast to supporters reading as follows:

“While we finally reached the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination, we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
 
The general election means our campaign needs to be more active and involved in every community all over the country.  By filling out the short survey below, we will make sure to keep you updated on the latest news and developments in your community.

Please select your gender:
Male
Female

Which of the following groups do you associate yourself with (select multiple answers if more than one applies)?
Students
Sportsmen
Farmers/Agriculture
Hispanic Outreach
Veterans
Social Conservatives
Small Business Owners
Young Professionals
Nurses, Doctors, and Healthcare workers”

At the time, I chuckled over the decision to blatantly call attention to “Hispanic Outreach,” noting the dissimilarity of this descriptive with counterparts such as “Sportsmen,” “Small Business Owners,” “Nurses, Doctors, and Healthcare Workers.” But after watching the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, and the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, it dawns on me that Mr. Baca’s email actually hit the nail squarely on the head.

In this election, Democrats and Republicans alike care deeply about the answers to these two questions: Are you a woman? Are you Latino?

It’s not that they don’t care if you’re African American, Asian American, Native American, Middle Eastern American, an American member of the LGBTQ community, etc., it just that they aren’t willing to spend as much time and money to reach you.

How do I know, you ask?

On the first day of the RNC, television and online viewers heard from eleven women and Latino speakers in primetime: Utah Congressional candidate Mia Love, actress Janine Turner, Washington State Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, New Hampshire US Senator Kelly Ayote, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Delaware Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidate Sher Valenzuela, Texas US Senatorial candidate Ted Cruz, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, First Lady of Puerto Rico Lucé Vela Fortuño, and First Lady hopeful Ann Romney.

And that was just day one. That doesn’t even count…

the remarks given by Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Olympic gold medalist Kim Rhode, former Massachusetts Secretary of Workforce Development Jane Edmonds, former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, and Florida US Senator Marco Rubio, on

…nights two and three.

On the first day of the DNC, television and online viewers heard from thirteen women and Latino speakers in primetime: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, former Colorado Republican Maria Ciano, National Abortion Rights Action League President Nancy Keenan, Illinois Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, Arizona mother (of a daughter with preexisting conditions, uninsurable pre-Affordable Health Care Act, and requiring health treatments beyond the lifetime cap elimination ObamaCare achieved) Stacey Lihn, California Congressman Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s half sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 Lilly Ledbetter, Texas Congressional Candidate Joaquin Castro, San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julián Castro, mother of four armed services members Elaine Brye, and First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

And that was just day one. That doesn’t even count…

the remarks given by Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau, US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Maryland US Senator Barbara Mikulski, Miami Dade College students Johanny Adames and Angie Flores, Planned Parenthood patient Elizabeth Ann “Libby” Bruce, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Executive Director of the Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization Network Sister Simone Campbell, U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, undocumented American, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals candidate, and DREAM Act activist, Benita Veliz, Spanish-language media icon (a.k.a. the Latina Oprah) Cristina Saralegui, women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke, UAW Local 1112 member and Auto Industry Rescue beneficiary Karen Eusanio, former employee at a plant in Miami controlled by Bain Capital Cindy Hewitt, Massachusetts US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, 2012 DNC Chair, and Los Angeles, California Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, actresses Kerry Washington, Scarlett Johansson, and Eva Longoria, daughter of President John Kennedy, and author Caroline Kennedy, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, on

…nights two and three.

As I said, in this election, the Romney campaign, and President Obama’s reelection team have their eyes squarely set on women and Latinos.

Ann Romney’s RNC address, not Mitt Romney’s nomination acceptance speech, is more widely credited with the Romney-Ryan ticket’s seven-point gain in favorability among women voters in the week following the GOP convention. The DNC caused the numbers to shift again, but the Republican Party PR machine cut President Obama’s overall lead among women voters to six percentage points during the days between the conventions. The spin Romney surrogates have put on these numbers is the blanket assertion that what women really care about is the economy. But there’s a more intricate story behind these numbers that is rarely discussed despite the number of pundits who pontificate about polls, or talking heads trading hackneyed political horserace predictions.

Romney-Ryan is the first GOP ticket to really zoom in with laser-like focus on unmarried women. Historically, Republicans have not worried terribly about their deficits with single moms, and single women without children, because even in their worst years, the GOP has managed to perform well when it comes to married households. McCain-Palin pulled in 47% of married female voters with children, and 53% of married female voters without children in 2008, while Bush-Cheney pulled in 57% of all female married voters in 2004.

But there has been a demonstrable rise in the number of single female-headed households in the US. Over the last two decades, the demographic breakdown for the fastest growing group these households belong to is, white women, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree. These are the women, the moms, the heads of household—the female swing voters—most likely to consider themselves independents, and whose allegiances are so evenly divided between the GOP and the Democratic Party, that any shift toward/away from President Obama or Mitt Romney, could tip the scale, and decide this closely contested election.

Obama-Biden currently leads Romney-Ryan with unmarried women, 57% to 32%, the President’s reelection team is determined to maintain this margin, and Mitt Romney, as well as the countless hyper-funded, anti-Obama Super PACs, are determined to reduce it.

As Irin Carmon writes in Salon,

“We all know why the Democratic National Convention this week has included a robust and explicit defense of reproductive rights… It’s the same reason why the Republican National Convention last week plopped onstage all the women it could find… The question is, will reproductive rights actually make the difference with women voters? … Polling on reproductive rights is notoriously tricky and depends on how you frame the question, and this election has been an opportunity for Democrats to reframe it… And with a little assist from Todd Akin and Paul Ryan, more Americans have had an opportunity to hear which party officially wants abortion to be legal under no circumstances. In any case, Democrats don’t have to speak to all women; they have to energize a base amid stated fears of an enthusiasm gap, and they have to get single women who stayed home in 2010—and who had voted for Barack Obama over John McCain 70 percent to 29 percent…

Democrats have embraced the opportunity to do something they haven’t done on a national level in a while: reframe the debate… Republican overreach has given Democrats an opening to argue that reproductive rights are about more than just abortion… and that abortion restrictions are about a profound contempt for women’s decision-making and autonomy… This has been enabled by the convergence of clueless conservative men, from Rush Limbaugh [who called Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ because she testified before Congress in support of mandated insurance coverage of contraceptives] to [Missouri US Senate candidate] Todd Akin [who said women couldn’t get pregnant from ‘legitimate rape’]… Whether the Obama administration was setting a trap for Republicans in the primary debate by unveiling its women’s health provisions, including mandated coverage for contraception, or throwing a bone the way of pro-choice groups after the bitter Plan B capitulation, the timing was brilliant. Activists had a case to make for Obama to women who already care about this stuff but might have been losing enthusiasm for the president, throwing the attempted defunding, both public and private, of Planned Parenthood into the mix, and Republicans were plausibly coming for your birth control…

Obama has never much wanted to talk about abortion… but there he was in April, criticizing abortion restrictions that don’t do that badly in public opinion polls when they’re framed as ‘informed consent.’ ‘Now we’ve got governors and legislatures across the river in Virginia, up the road in Pennsylvania, all across the country saying that women can’t be trusted to make your own decisions,’ he said at a Women’s Leadership Conference. ‘They’re pushing and passing bills forcing women to get ultrasounds, even if they don’t want one. If you don’t like it, the governor of Pennsylvania said you can ‘close your eyes.’ It’s a quote. It’s appalling. It’s offensive. It’s out of touch. And when it comes to what’s going on out there, you’re not going to close your eyes. Women across America aren’t closing their eyes’… [President Obama was] seizing the moral high ground… connecting abortion rights to a broader issue of women’s freedom and not just of women’s privacy—it was unmistakable, and it was unflinching. This is a strategy that can backfire, of course… But, needless to say, winning will trump ideological purity… The question is, will reshaping the debate work?”

Romney campaign surrogate, former California US Senate candidate, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, has been making the rounds in the big name media circuit, stating that President Obama and the Democratic Party “treat women as a special interest group,” as “single-issue voters,” instead of acknowledging that “women care about every issue.” Such an argument would likely prove immensely effective in making inroads with the single white female heads-of-households, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree, both the Democratic Party and GOP are working hardest to covet. But unfortunately, any compelling argument made by a Republican woman in the public sphere, is ultimately undermined by the blecch-inducing utterances of a Republican man.

I’m looking at you, Jase Bolton from Michigan, Todd Gilbert from Virginia, Tom Corbett from Pennsylvania, Cliff Stearns from Florida, Todd Akin from Missouri, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin… Etc. Etc. Etc.

Going After the Latino Vote

Please allow me to once again state the obvious:

In this election, Democrats and Republicans alike care deeply about the answers to these two questions: Are you a woman? Are you Latino?

It’s not that they don’t care if you’re African American, Asian American, Native American, Middle Eastern American, an American member of the LGBTQ community, etc., it just that they aren’t willing to spend as much time and money to reach you.

While the pole positioning for women has come to rely upon the applied understanding of the demographics of subpopulations—zooming in with laser-like focus on single white female heads-of-households, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree—the battle for Latinos is much more cut and dry.

The Romney campaign has made only one consistent argument to Latino voters (and has relied almost exclusively on Spanish language media to make it): If everything sucks for everyone, everywhere in the US, everything sucks way worse for Latinos because President Obama “didn’t do what he said he was going to do.” In July, this argument took the form of an ad stressing that the national unemployment rate was 10.3% for Latinos, compared to 8.3% for all Americans. And now it’s taken the form of a 30-second spot featuring refrains such as, “Obama has no idea what we’re going through,” “Promises and promises and nothing,” and “Are things better for you? Not for me.”

The play here for courting voters is very obvious and doesn’t necessarily distinguish itself from the play Romney-Ryan are making to cut into President Obama’s overall lead with women. The difference here is that a best case scenario for the GOP, and the hyper-funded anti-Obama Super PACs, is to compete for and win a sizeable percentage of single white female heads-of-households, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree, while the best case scenario for the GOP, and the hyper-funded anti-Obama Super PACs, is for Latino voters to stay home, or find themselves disenfranchised by the introduction of new voter ID requirements, the reduction of early voting and vote-by-mail options, and the limits placed on voter registration campaigns conducted by nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations.

The margin that the Romney campaign must make up for when it comes to Latino support for the President is simply too significant to overcome in the fewer than two months remaining before Election Day. If Latinos show up in large numbers on November 6, the way they showed up in large numbers in states like Nevada in 2010—where Latino voters comprised 12% of all of Nevada’s registered voters in 2010, but comprised 16% of the members of the electorate taking part in those midterm elections—then Romney-Ryan will most assuredly only see the White House as members of a tour group; via press images, novelty calendars, or souvenir postcards.

Although Latinos played prominent, primetime roles at the RNC and DNC, the GOP and the hyper-funded, anti-Obama Super PACs aren’t interested in actually courting Latino voters by offering clear alternatives to the President’s positions, or articulating something akin to a laundry list of campaign promises. There are and will be no shiny objects intended to draw attention to the Romney campaign’s stances on (or avoidance of) hot button issues considered critical to the Latino electorate.

Any such tactics would prove a losing formula. Instead, the strategy must be to foment feelings of disgust, disappointment, and desperation among Latinos, writ large, and direct these feelings toward President Obama. The expectation? That fanning the flames of the Latino enthusiasm gap, coupled with the onslaught of laws designed to restrict voter registration, early voting, and vote-by-mail, as well as to suppress the participation of voters who tend to support the Democratic Party will rob Obama-Biden of the hard fought states of Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

After all, Mitt Romney would never have been able to fully erase the fact that he captured the Republican Party’s nomination, in large part, by running to right of a crowded field of hard-line, anti-immigrant candidates. The policy of “self deportation,” currently enshrined in the GOP platform adopted at the RNC, was based on the logic that if conditions for any and all undocumented immigrants became intolerable enough, they would do the work of removing themselves from the US, so the government wouldn’t have to. Key components of this magic formula for making life in the US unlivable for immigrants included a clear as day pledge by Mitt Romney to veto the DREAM Act if it should ever cross his desk. And last, but most certainly not least, asserting unapologetically his support for, “Arizona as a model for the rest of the nation,” SB 1070 style laws in all 50 states.

Occasionally, Latino Republicans, and other GOP-friendly people of color will make an argument similar to the one Romney campaign surrogate, Carly Fiorina makes when asked about the gender gap separating Romney-Ryan from Obama-Biden. Women should not be treated as a special interest group, or single-issue voters, because women care about every issue. Simply replace the word “women,” with the word “Latinos” or “Hispanics” and voila, you have what appears to be a strong declaration about the ever-presence, integration, and incorporation of historically marginalized populations, allowing for any amount of spin; lending itself to the sound-byte friendly talking-points any surrogate worth his or her salt is expected to communicate.

Unfortunately, facts are facts, even in a world where truth is confounded with truthiness.

Mitt Romney may have talked a good game back in April about “getting Hispanic voters by overcoming the issue of immigration.” And he may have had a Communications Adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, who believed in hitting the “reset button for the fall campaign… like an Etch A Sketch… shake it up and start over again.” Nevertheless, as columnist, Maureen Dowd, recently pointed out, “He remains too insecure about this base… Mitt is running from his elusive better angels… he once seemed to have sensible, managerial instincts, [but the fact that] he won’t stop ingratiating himself with the neo-Neanderthals… [is] the biggest reveal of all”

One week ago, Mitt Romney enthusiastically endorsed the reelection of Iowa’s Steve King, despite the fact that he is one of the most strident anti-immigrant, anti-Latino voices in the US Congress: A member of the House of Representatives, who argued an electrified fence should be built along the southern border (without advocating anything similar for the northern border, much less the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines). An elected official, who compared immigrants to dogs, and then doubled down on this comment, instead of apologizing for it.

An obstructionist legislator, who pursued a lawsuit to prevent DREAM Act eligible students from receiving the benefits of President Obama’s deferred action (DACA) program. A hateful xenophobe, whose white-supremacist propaganda was on full display during the Congressional hearing he held to promote a federal “English only” policy, despite data from the Pew Center, affirmed by the Economist, and aligned with studies by Nielsen, that immigrants from Latin America, and their children, learn and use English as their primary language, at rates that rival any previous wave of immigrants from anywhere in the world.

If Mitt Romney were actually interested in winning Latino votes, he would not have made this endorsement. But since Mitt Romney is only interested in keeping Latino voters home because they lack the will to vote for President Obama, and making sure that those who do actually show up to vote are inconvenienced, hassled, and harassed by early voting and vote by mail restrictions, as well as new voter ID laws, created by GOP-controlled legislatures, intended to suppress the votes of those who elected Barack Obama in 2008, backing Steve King is exactly what the doctor ordered: Red meat for the GOP base that has gobbled up anything and everything offered up by Federation for American Immigration Reform attorney, and Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach.

Malcolm X, (El_Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) famously said, “I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong, than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil.”

Only by applying this standard is it possible to say anything positive about Kris Kobach.

As Kansas Secretary of State, Kobach sits on the Objections Board that has yet to determine whether or not President Obama’s name will be allowed to appear on the November 6 ballot. The decision is pending a review of the authenticity of the birth certificate produced by the State of Hawaii. When asked to comment on this monumental waste of taxpayer dollars, and irreplaceable time in the lives of the human beings forced to take part in this absurdity, Kobach said, “I don’t think it’s a frivolous objection.”

You might be thinking, “Ok, so one Romney immigration adviser is a guano-crazy birther, who believes in unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, and fuels rumors that President Obama was born in Kenya, that he’s a secret Muslim, that’s he’s the Antichrist, and so forth, but at least he lives and works in a small red state, and doesn’t have any real influence over what happens nationally, or what’s in the GOP 2012 Platform, right?”

Wrong.

As Suzy Khimm wrote in Mother Jones,

“If there’s a controversial new anti-immigration law that’s captured national attention, chances are that it has Kris Kobach’s imprimatur… Kobach helped Arizona lawmakers craft the infamous immigration law that passed in the spring of 2010… [and] coached legislators across the country in their efforts to pass dozens of similar measures, ranging from Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri to the small town of Fremont, Nebraska… Kobach, 45, has spent much of his professional life developing the legal framework that a growing number of officials have used to justify laws further criminalizing illegal immigration… [But he got his big break targeting Middle Eastern immigrants in the wake of 9/11, when] he helped create a program that required all visiting citizens from 25 mostly Arab countries to be fingerprinted and monitored—a policy that critics said amounted to racial profiling…

Kobach advanced an idea that had long been circulating in conservative legal circles: that local and state officials have the ‘inherent authority’ to enforce federal immigration laws… If local and state governments were to strike out on their own, they could undermine federal efforts, create jurisdictional chaos, and detract from law enforcement efforts by discouraging immigrants from cooperating with police… Kobach joined the Immigration Reform Law Institute and began working with local officials across the country to combat illegal immigration on the ground level… defending legislation in Pennsylvania and Texas that would revoke operating licenses for businesses that hired illegal immigrants and fine landlords who rented to them…

Obama’s Department of Justice has aggressively challenged the major laws that Kobach has helped author. In addition to filing lawsuits against the Arizona and Alabama laws, the DOJ has taken action against Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose officers Kobach helped train in immigration enforcement. In December, Arpaio’s officers were forced to handin their federal credentials due to complaints about their immigration enforcement tactics, which the DOJ called illegal and discriminatory… legal challenges haven’t slowed down Kobach, who has endorsed Mitt Romney and provided the candidate his immigration talking points… He successfully shepherded through a new Kansas voter ID law, claiming that the current laws allowed immigrants to commit voter fraud… He’s now advising Kansas legislators on a bill that would give local police far more latitude in checking the status of suspected illegal immigrants—effectively bringing Arizona’s law to his own backyard.”

But wait, there’s more.

Kobach put his stamp on the Republican Party Platform. It now:

  • Prevents any claims immigrants might have to human rights or religious freedom by banning the use of international laws or those outside Judeo-Christian traditions in court.
  • Calls on each of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia, to demand would-be voters produce proof of US citizenship before being allowed to register, and require them to present state-issued photo identification cards before allowing them to actually vote.
  • Calls on each of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia, to establish laws modeled after AZ SB 1070 in order to pursue and persecute undocumented immigrants—requiring law enforcement officers conduct immigration checks on anyone who has been detained, and making e-verify mandatory for all hiring, regardless of job type or sector.
  • Calls on the Department of Justice, the US Attorney General, and all other federal entities to drop lawsuits against states and local authorities that have passed such laws.
  • Denies any and all federal funding to institutions of higher education that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of whether they meet a given state’s residency requirements and/or have graduated from one of its high schools.

“Neo-Neanderthal,” you say?

You betcha.

There’s a special place in hell for someone who was given the exceptional privilege of attending Harvard and then Yale Law School, who is suing the Secretary of Homeland Security so qualified students won’t be able to attend college or graduate school programs because they arrived in the US as children without permanent legal status.

While Jeb Bush lays the groundwork for his 2016 run with the release of a book that declares, “Immigration is vital to America’s future, fueling its growth, vibrancy and creativity.”

unai montes-iruesteKris Kobach (and by extension Mitt Romney) can be found on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch page, and in segments on Rachel Maddow, and other cable news programs, about an irrefutable personal and professional relationship with Russell Pearce—a man whose political aspirations hit a glass ceiling when mounds of evidence surfaced linking him with confirmed neo-Nazi, minuteman border vigilante, and murderer of women and children, J.T. Ready.

Unai Montes-Iruesate

Published: Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Comments

  1. marta says

    The Mitt is trying to divide and conquer– Latinos against Blacks, Whites against everyone else. Will it work? We’ll find out shortly just how malleable American voters are.

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