Battle for Hispanic vote is about future of politics in US
The Republican campaign for the Latino vote is focusing squarely on job creation. It has launched a Spanish-language ad called No Podemos Mas (We No Longer Can) to remind the community of the broken promises of four years ago. It has also sent Mitt Romney’s Spanish-speaking son, Craig, into the fray to energise party volunteers who are knocking on doors and making phone calls.
But some of Romney’s stances do pose problems for the Latino community. The Republican candidate has taken a tougher anti-illegal immigrant stance, while he has fought college tuition grants. His comments about the “47 per cent” of those reliant on welfare hardly helped his cause either.
Antillon concedes that some of the party’s positions have made life more difficult, but he insists that Obama is vulnerable when it comes to the economy.
“Unemployment among Hispanics in Colorado is 11 per cent, higher than the average for the state. When I go knocking on doors, people are confused.
“They were promised jobs four years ago, but they haven’t arrived. We don’t need welfare, we need jobs,” says Antillon.
Democrats, meanwhile, are taking nothing for granted. Barack Obama has a new ad in which he speaks straight to the camera in Spanish about his immigration reform, known as the Dream Act, which will give legal status to many undocumented young people.
In many ways, this battle for the Latino vote isn’t just about this election – it’s about the future of politics in America. A record 24 million Latinos are eligible to vote next week, a 22 per cent increase on four years ago. The country is becoming less white and more diverse. Last year, for the first time, the majority of children born in the United States were not white.
Are the Republicans, then, in danger of being on the wrong side of history? Party members insists it won’t be the case. They say people vote with their interests, not their identities, and that their policies on education, job creation and smaller government will ultimately resonate with Hispanics and other minorities, “Remember George Bush got 40 per cent of the Hispanic vote during his campaign, so the Democrats are not invulnerable,” says Pauline Olvera.
In the meantime, the battle for votes continues, one doorstep at a time. Antillon is hopeful the message will get through to his community through hard work and persistence.
“Many Hispanics have come here from countries that suppressed them,” says Antillon, whose parents were granted residency under an amnesty by Republican president Ronald Reagan.
“They are here for freedom, to live the American dream, to walk down the street and be able say, I want to change things. And that’s what we offer.”