Rarely has a major American voting bloc been so unrepresented than Hispanics are so far in the election for our next president. As a group, we are this country's largest racial or ethnic group, 54 million of us account for 17% of all Americans. Republicans and Democrats alike need the Hispanic vote to seal the deal. But, for the first time in years, not a single presidential candidate, Republican nor Democrat, has spoken favorably about our issues. Not one has stepped forward to champion our struggles, of which there are legion. To the contrary, we have now become a political issue ourselves, a "problem" to be "solved" by whomever seeks to gain the Oval Office next year. As I'll detail below, there isn't a single candidate this cycle with any credibility whatsoever on Hispanic issues and causes.
For the past several election cycles, Republicans have made an attempt to woo the Hispanic vote, and for the past several cycles, they've failed. After completely face-planting in the last two presidential elections, they've begun to recognize the obvious and allegedly made winning the Hispanic vote a priority. While I have more faith in Donald Trump suddenly growing a head of real hair than I do in the GOP winning Hispanic votes in 2016, let's open up the Republican clown car and take a look at the front runners just to see where they stand.
The first clown out of the car is, appropriately enough, The Donald. I don't think I have to recount his disgusting, insensitive remarks on "border security." Nor do I need to recount his follow-up remarks on the subject either. It is interesting to note that the reactionaries in the GOP don't like his immigration "plan" either (not because it's obviously racist, but because it might hurt the Kochs and their ilk), but with him polling in the low 20 percentiles, the attempt to gain the Hispanic vote will be over even before it begins. Nothing screams naked hostility to Hispanics quite like his plan to scupper the 14th Amendment and end birthright citizenship, an initiative that has already been endorsed by Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Rick Santorum.
Assuming GOP voters do suddenly wise up and send The Donald packing, the next rube out of the clown car is Jeb "Don't Call it a Dynasty" Bush. Putting aside the manifestly insane idea of installing yet another Bush in the White House, Jeb brings to the table a thorough understanding of the "immigrant experience" because he married a Latina. In other words, I know all about slavery because I have black friends. To his credit, he has outlined a six-point immigration plan to address what he considers a criminal act of love, but the plan is heavy on the border security aspect, which is nothing more than naked pandering to the chickenhawks of the GOP. Additionally, border crossings are trending down, so the point of border "security" is increasingly moot. But most of all, it does nothing to address the legal status of undocumented immigrants already in the United States. So even though it sounds wonderful to the average GOP voter, to those of us who actually do understand the immigrant experience, the plan is decidedly unappealing.
The only other candidates remotely relevant to a Hispanic voter are basically a couple of honorable mentions: Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Rubio, a Cuban American, can't seem to tell why his parents came here in the first place, or at least he can't seem to tell it honestly. What his immigration plan is, not even the ultra right wing can say. But whatever it is, it probably couldn't be any worse than that of Ted Cruz. Cuban by way of Canada, Cruz's ties to the Hispanic community are already suspect due to his shaky command of the Spanish language. But that is by far the least of his sins. On immigration, just as on everything else, Cruz is somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan. He has already chosen to double down on the border security nonsense, and considers even the tepid reforms suggested by his party to be "amnesty." And if you liked The Donald, you'll love Ted - he fell all over himself to praise Trump's "colorful" immigration rhetoric.
So the alternative must be one of the Democratic candidates, right? Not so fast. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the only two Democratic candidates that matter, are sometimes perceived as having Hispanic issues at heart, but when you take a closer look at it, that's not always the case.
Bernie Sanders has put forth some decent plans for recent immigrants, and his social justice message is admittedly quite appealing. However, he continues to hang on to the plainly false notion that immigration depresses wages, is against visa programs that he believes will do the same, and that reform is somehow a vast Koch brothers conspiracy to obtain cheap labor. Frankly, Sanders offers Hispanic nothing but outdated rhetoric.
The Democratic nomination is Hillary Clinton's to lose. However, all she's done to reach out to Hispanics is apologize for positions she's held in the past.
In 2003 he said she was "adamantly against illegal immigrants" and put forth a typically elitist view of Hispanics as nothing more than day laborers. Three years later, she was all for an immigration crackdown and a border fence. More recently, she suggested that children who risked their lives to come to America be callously sent back to their countries of origin in Central America. These are not the positions held by someone interested in helping the Hispanic community.
Yet again, we have another campaign cycle where Hispanics are invisible people to be taken for granted by Anglos who aren't even putting an effort into their pandering. Yet again we have to sit back and wait another four years before we might see a candidate with even a modicum of respect for us and our problems. Maybe one day there will be a serious candidate who doesn't see us through the spectrum of cartoonish stereotypes and is ready to take charge of the issues of vital importance to us and our children. But unfortunately, that day won't be in 2016.