David Galarza remembers the heady days of the 2008 campaign season “like it was yesterday”: the trip down from New York to central Florida’s critical I-4 corridor in the final get-out-the-vote push for Barack Obama, the faces of hope and expectation.
“You could feel the energy,” said Galarza, 42, a long-time labor activist who is Puerto Rican. “On election day, I talked to friends out early in the morning in New York, in Harlem and Bed-Stuy, in traditional African American and Latino strongholds. They were saying they had never seen anything quite like it. People were out everywhere. That happened all across the country. We won’t see that again.”
The euphoria in such communities propelled Obama to capture two-thirds of the Latino vote on his journey to the White House. Four years later, however, the exhilaration of that historic campaign has given way to dread within the politically- and demographically-diverse Latino electorate.
The proud and happy faces have been rendered somber and weary by the loss of jobs, benefits and homes. After years of toil and sacrifice, Latino families — along with blacks and other minorities — find themselves vanishing from the ranks of America’s dwindling middle class.
“It’s debilitating for all the people who believed all those slogans,” said Galarza, who has no plans to campaign for Obama this year and isn’t sure how he’ll vote. “It’s a colossal slap in the face.”
Still, the anti-immigrant hard line, the perception of hostility, from the GOP field has left Latinos with few choices, creating the possibility that some will stay away on election day, according to voters and observers.
“The enthusiasm you saw in 2008 has been transformed into dread and fear in 2012 and that is driven a lot by a Republican Party that apparently has moved even more to the right,” said political scientist Angelo Falcon, president of the New York-based nonprofit National Institute for Latino Policy.
The strident tone, particularly by Republican front runner Mitt Romney, even has some conservatives concerned. After Monday night’s debate in South Carolina, for instance, Romney invited a trio of anti-immigration advocates – including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is best known for helping Arizona write a controversial immigration bill that was adopted in South Carolina and other states – to do his political spin.
“There are many who still think you can run a campaign as if Latinos were not listening,” said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a Washington D.C.-based Republican group. “That may have been the case 30 years ago. But Latinos now are really part of our society. They’re listening… Whoever was responsible for giving the ultimate advice that led to (Romney’s immigration) statements, I think doesn’t have a clue about winning a presidential campaign in 21st century America.”
Source: The Huffington Post | Ray Sanchez