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New Political Power

Excerpt from Chapter 1

In March of 2012, TIME magazine proclaimed on its cover “Why Latinos Will Pick the Next President,” using a Spanish headline, “Yo Decido” (I Decide) and a mosaic of Latino headshots to make their point even stronger. According to census data, every month 50,000 Latino citizens turn eighteen and are therefore eligible to vote. The American electorate is growing by the minute. And it’s not only about presidential politics. Did you know that Hispanics already account for more than 50 percent of the adults in the eighteen-plus population in twenty-five congressional districts? Those kinds of numbers can swing an election, and politicians know it.

The growing importance of the Latino vote and how the candidates courted or alienated the Latino community became an important narrative during the 2012 presidential campaign and had political pundits scrambling to sound intelligent about what impact the Latino vote might have. Blatantly missing across all networks were Latino journalists who could intelligently talk about the issues that really mattered most to Latinos as well as how they would vote and why. There are very few prominent Latino journalists in network or cable news, which just adds to the overall invisibility of Latinos in American culture. I hope that will change in the next five years, especially since Univision announced a joint venture with ABC News to launch a 24-hour cable news and lifestyle network directed to bilingual or English-dominant Hispanics called Fusion. It will be launched in 2013 and will help elevate our voices in English-language media. But we are a long way from where we need to be.

Case in point is that much of the coverage around the Latino vote in 2012 was singularly focused on the immigration issue—not on what candidates were saying about their political platforms regarding jobs, health care, and education—which were the top issues for Latinos.

What most people inside the beltway fail to understand is that immigration is not strictly a Latino issue, it is an American issue. However, for Latino citizens—not only the recent arrivals, but those who may be generations removed from their families’ migration—immigration becomes a personal issue because of the anti-Latino rhetoric and hate speech that surrounds much of the discussion of the topic these days.

It’s kind of hard not to get your back up when Bill O’Reilly agrees with a caller on his radio program, The Radio Factor with Bill O’Reilly, that illegal immigration “has the same impact as a major terrorist attack” that surpasses the impact of 9/11, and that immigrants are “biological weapon[s].” Or when Michael Savage on his radio show, The Savage Nation, says that “[t]he immigrants, when they take over America, won’t be as enlightened as the (European) people running America today. There is a racial element to the ‘immigration invasion.’ ”

In the end, what we do about the 11.1 million undocumented people who are living in the shadows in the United States is an issue all Americans have to figure out. And, ultimately, how we treat this issue says a lot about who we are as a country. Let me just remind you what Alexis de Tocqueville once said: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

To read more, please click here to buy Latino Boom II.