Hispanic Racists and Hispanic Winners

It’s a wonderful time to be Sanchez and racist.  First, there’s California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, trashing her Vietnamese-American Republican challenger, Van Tran, by insisting breathlessly in Spanish on Univision that “the Vietnamese and the Republicans are trying to take away this seat” — and adding, without a particle of support, that Tran is “very anti-immigrant and very anti-Latino.”  (Not to worry though, she supported Hillary in the primaries, and so Bill Clinton will be there to campaign for her.)

Then, there’s CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, just fired by CNN for anti-Semitic remarks.  After calling comedian Jon Stewart (born Jon Leibowitz) a “bigot,” who “grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine,” Sanchez sought to describe Jews in “context” (since Jon Stewart, as a Jew, is a minority):

Very powerless people… [snickers] He’s such a minority, I mean, you know– please, what are you kidding? — I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they — the people in this country who are Jewish — are an oppressed minority? Yeah.

Liberal Hispanics can be racist and stupid!  Who knew?!  Welcome to the human race.  Perhaps we can get beyond the notion that racism is a pathology peculiar to white conservatives.  And here’s another reality: not all Hispanics are liberal (or suckers for liberal racist pandering).

Hispanics cannot be taken for granted by Democrats to quite the same extent as African-Americans and Jews.  The Hispanic community has spawned a range of political orientation, conservative, moderate, and liberal, that doesn’t give rise to the condescending counting of a minority as a reliable Democratic party voter.

Certainly the strong lineup of Hispanic Republicans running for office this cycle suggest that Hispanics are an electoral force to be reckoned with — by both parties, and not taken for granted, despite racial pleas by liberal Hispanics.  The columnist Carl Rowan wrote a while back, “a minority group has ‘arrived’ only when it has the right to produce some fools and scoundrels without the entire group paying for it.”  Very true.  To which I would add, a minority group has become an electoral force of consequence when the entire group is not entirely predictable.  Only then do politicians speak to them as adults.

Part of the backlash now against President Obama — by tens of thousands of Americans who voted to elect this historic president and felt proud to be Americans in casting their votes and celebrating his victory — has to do with President Obama becoming a predictable liberal.  Had he truly been a centrist, and a post-partisan president, as he promised, had he truly been post-racial, as he promised, then much of the animus against him would never have materialized.  But the President has not been centrist, and has yet to seize upon a single moment to be post-racial, despite multiple opportunities.

In short, President Obama has become a predictably liberal African-American politician.  Before the shouting begins, let me explain.  It used to be that white (and any other ethnicity except African-) Americans would fairly predictably vote against a black candidate because he or she was black.  That is no longer true and has not been for a while.  To take only the most recent example — against a white, moderate war hero, Obama won a larger proportion of white votes than any previous non-incumbent Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Whites at the center and to the right of center voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Barack Obama in 2008 because of a promise.  Both candidates were outsiders with little experience who promised to be different and centrist.  Jimmy Carter was trounced by Ronald Reagan in 1980.  2012 is a long way away — but Barack Obama is poised to lose a commanding Democratic party majority in congress in 2010.

The majority of white people are not liberals.  None of these people dislike President Obama because he is black.  They dislike him because he is liberal, and he promised not to be.  Americans voted in this historic election believing they had elected an African-American centrist, a man who would vindicate both America’s diversity and pragmatism.

But President Obama ended up being predictably liberal — on health care, enormous bureaucratic expansion, government spending, labor, labor appointees, environment, energy, immigration, racial issues, voting rights, Supreme Court nominees, and an awkwardly excessive pro-Islam foreign (and occasionally domestic) policy.  Americans might elect an African-American Republican in the near future, but it will be a while before they trust an African-American Democrat — unless, of course, President Obama successfully triangulates against a Republican congress and recasts himself, convincingly, as the centrist and post-racial president he originally promised to be.

Hispanics are better situated.  Democrats take African-Americans and Jews for granted.  They cannot take Hispanics for granted.  Hispanics are much better situated to win non-gerrymandered general elections — because they are not predictably liberal.  Because of Hispanic political diversity, it is possible to be Hispanic, moderate (or conservative), and electable — in either party, but only because Hispanics have credibility in both parties.

I wish no political future for racists like Loretta or Rick Sanchez — but for Marco Rubio, Brian Sandoval, and Susana Martinez, Godspeed.

[UPDATE: See Linda Chavez’s October 8th column, Democrats can’t rely on Hispanics forever, in which she makes the sensible point that Hispanics rank education their number one priority, and every substantive education reform measure comes from Republicans.  Republicans should be undertaking outreach to Hispanics on issues like education.]

[UPDATE: Rick Sanchez apologizes, sort of.]

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