Mitt Romney’s dad may have been born in Mexico, but the candidate doesn’t seem to be getting any traction out of it… yeah… maybe he’d be better off if he was “born Latino”, but he might do even better if he had some clue about Latinos, or about Latin America. Or at least had supporters who did.
Of course, I don’t pretend to be Latino and I don’t speak for all Latin American Policy Wonks, so I don’t have any doubts that Mr. Romney has Latino, and Latin Americanist support… not a lot, but some. His party’s appeals to “traditional values” has some support, although the traditional communal and/or Catholic values of Latin Americans diverge quite a bit from the Protestant Ethic and individualism of the U.S. conservative movement. The older Cubans, with their fixation on hitting the re-set button on a half-century of change on that island find the Republican Party more ideologically comfortable, as do more recent Venezuelan self-exiles (although few are U.S. voters) and second, third… sixth generation Latinos (or, as in Texas and New Mexico, people with Spanish surnames whose families have been there for a several centuries) aren’t likely to be all that different than their “Anglo” neighbors when it comes to political and social thinking. Still…
I donno… maybe Mr. Obama is “not macho enough for Latinos“, whatever that might mean, but he apparently was macho enough to hold his own against Mr. Romney in last night’s U.S. Presidential debate. Señor Romney used the phrase “undocumented illegals” . Perhaps, to be charitable, he may have meant “undocumented… illegals“, trying out both terms in the same sentence — either way, it was bi-estupido.
While neither word is specifically applied (in theory) to Latinos (though try telling that to a Puerto Rican questioned about his nationality, or a Tejano told to go back to his own country in Houston, or just about anyone with a family name ending in “-ez”) it has a special political significance for Latinos. “Undocumented” indicates some willingness to understand the problem with U.S. immigration procedure, and the difficulties that has created for people living in the country without the proper authorization. “Illegal”— while widely accepted in the “mainstream press” is seen as implying the people described are less than human, and that they are at fault, and must be punished, and that their intentions in entering the United States were automatically illegitimate.
The first term likely to raise the hackles of the reactionaries who want to punish anyone not born in the United States, or having the wherewithal to navigate the byzantine U.S. immigration system (or… let’s be honest… anyone not white and Protestant) and the second serving to show a reasonable Romney, he managed to do neither… only show himself as speaking with a forked tongue.
More seriously, Latino and Latina writers are glomming on the specifics of Romney’s proposals — opening himself up to mention of his ties to Chris Kolbach, the Kansas lawyer who has made a political career out of writing anti-immigrant legislation (he was the mastermind behind Arizona’s “show me your papers” laws) — is going to play very poorly with those Latinos for whom these issues are important.
Latinos with ties to the old countries (except those nostalgic Venezuelans and Cubans), and Latin American foreign policy wonks (LAFPW), had to be appalled by the article (printed in Fox News Latino) by David Laska, Special Assistant to Chairman Edward F. Cox, Chairman of the NY State Republican Party. There is so much wrong with the article, that it’s impossible to know where to begin.
Cuba is not a “Bolivarian” country — it’s a Communist one, but it’s left of the U.S., and so are the Bolivarian countries, so just lump em all together.
Colombia and Brazil are not particularly looking towards the United States for much of anything. “Fast and Furious” — the ill-conceived anti-gun smuggling investigation that ended up killing a lot of Mexicans only became a U.S. issue when a U.S. agent was killed. The anger here is not with the Obama Adminstration, but with the entire U.S. gun culture… something Mr. Romney seems to be the result of not enough (opposite sex) two-parent families. Panama’s “Free Trade Agreement” with the United States, as well as Colombia’s were much more controversial in those nations than in the United States.
A “Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America” sounds to Latin Americanists (and FPWs) like the “Alliance For Progress”, or any number of “assistance” programs the U.S. has pushed over the last century that usually ended up with a bunch of dead Latin Americans… and a bunch of “undocumented… illegals” pushing their way into the U.S. to escape the U.S. created mayhem.