July 14, 2003
Bush bashing at La Raza convention

Raul Yzaguirre, the president of the National Council of La Raza strongly criticized President Bush for his "two years of neglect, disinterest and disrespect" towards Hispanics at their annual convention in Austin.

Yzaguirre criticized the administration's policies from health care and immigration reform to education and tax cuts —characterizing the latest tax bill as "dramatically tilted toward the wealthy, excluding millions of hard-working Latino families."


The leader of the nation's largest Hispanic rights organization, Yzaguirre urged Latino voters to exercise their growing political clout and hold the Bush administration accountable.


"As we gather here, the Bush administration is analyzing the Hispanic vote, studying political maps and plotting their Latino strategy," Yzaguirre said.

But, too often the plan to win the Latino vote comes down to photo opportunities, he said.

"Now, these are beautiful pictures. ... We see smiling Hispanics, big crowds, lively musicians and beaming politicians. Everything looks so, so wonderful.

"But in reality these pictures are what I call piñata politics," Yzaguirre said. "You know what happens at a piñata party. They blindfold you and hope you are satisfied with a few trinkets that fall to the ground."

Democrats shouldn't feel too cocky about this, though:

Yzaguirre emphasized, however, that the council is nonpartisan and said Democrats "must and will be held to the same standard I hold President Bush to today."

In a speech peppered with Spanish phrases, Yzaguirre challenged Hispanics to take control of their own destiny.

"When we are thrown a bone, let's throw it back and demand a steak," he said.

"When we are overlooked, let's stand up and demand to be seen and heard. And when we are told to be patient, say 'Ya basta!' We have already waited much too long," Yzaguirre said, garnering a standing ovation.

Indeed, a leading Democratic activist had some cautionary words for her party:

"Next year, Latinos will have more political influence than ever before, certainly in the selection of the Democratic presidential nominee," said Maria Cardona, who leads the centrist New Democratic Network's "Democratas Unidos" Hispanic Project.


For weeks, Cardona has been delivering an urgent message to the Democratic Party leadership and the campaigns of all nine Democrats seeking the party's 2004 presidential nomination: "The party can no longer consider Latinos a base vote."

"If we do," she said in an interview, "we'll continue to lose percentages to Republicans, and we can say goodbye to winning back the White House in 2004. We have to treat Latinos like a swing vote, because they are like any other swing vote: They are the ones who will make the difference."

Cardona's briefings have produced a flurry of Latino-related initiatives from Democratic presidential hopefuls.

And last month, at the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, six of the nine candidates appeared at a forum, some delivering their opening statements in Spanish and others mentioning the moderator, Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, the nation's only Latino governor, as a possible vice presidential nominee.

Cardona's message to her party and its presidential candidates is rooted in a recent poll of the Hispanic electorate by Florida-based Sergio Bendixen for the New Democrat Network. Bendixen found that 34 percent of Latinos support Bush's re-election, roughly the same Latino support he got in the 2000 presidential election.

Bendixen concluded, as have other analysts, that to win re-election Bush must win at least 40 percent of the Latino vote in 2004.

Democrats, to win next year, probably must best the 72 percent of the Latino vote that Bill Clinton got in 1996. But the generic Democrat in Bendixen's polling got only 48 percent of Hispanics in a hypothetical match-up with Bush.

I suppose that means that if Bush gets between 28 and 40% of the Hispanic vote, the election could go either way. I've posted about this before, and I'm quite sure it'll come up again many times in the next 16 months.

John Kerry, who has received the endorsement of Henry Cisneros, addressed the convention yesterday and took his shots at the President.

"Last election, he promised so much to win your votes," Kerry said. "But President Bush won't be running on his rhetoric this time, he'll be running on his record."


"This president is accountable for making a mockery of the words 'leave no child behind,' " Kerry said, noting that one in four Hispanic children in the United States. are without health insurance. Kerry said that, if elected, he would fight to ensure health coverage for every child.

Howard Dean is scheduled to address the convention today. That should be fun.

By the way, for those who have complained that our local daily has had historically insufficient coverage of the Hispanic community, I note that the only stories I've seen on the La Raza convention have been AP wire stories. Make of that what you will.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 14, 2003 to The making of the President | TrackBack

This is surprising given that Bush has placed more Hispanics into government and more in higher posts than any previous president.

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on July 14, 2003 7:51 PM