Posted on Tuesday evening for Sept. 5, 2012.
The polls all say Hispanic/Latinos are solidly in President Obama’s corner. To what degree is the question. The surveys suggest their support bumps up against 70 percent – higher than the share Obama won in 2008. I pay very close attention to my family when I am around them for signs that corroborate national political storylines. I learned the hard way to pay attention to them, especially one sister in particular who undoubtedly is the most conservative of my seven siblings. She did not even like the sainted Ann Richards. During the Monica Lewinsky debacle at the White House, however, she volunteered immediately when I inquired from Washington that she did not think that President Bill Clinton should resign. Of course, my sister said, what he did is terrible, but do not rush to judgment. I was skeptical for days thereafter but she was proven right when Clinton not only did not resign but went on to be an exceptional President. And a great ex-President.
So it is that over the Labor Day weekend I became convinced that the support for Obama among HispanicLatinos has increased and that the intensity level is high – higher than four years ago. I believed before – but am now convinced – that HispanicLatinos took the incessant drumbeat against immigrants by the Republican right wing personally. Recent polling by Miami pollster Sergio Bendixen suggests the same thing. It was not what my sister and her husband said this time. But they harbor no doubt. Not so four years ago. Even after Obama won the nomination. They were not really sold on him. But something has changed.
Watching the convention in Charlotte last night, I sensed a similar sentiment among the delegates that anyone could see was coming together as real energy – further persuading me that this talk of less enthusiasm among Obama’s supporters from four years ago is one of those stories that the media sometimes seizes upon and does not let go. Polls can only provide guidance, and while the media tries to cover every aspect of an election narrative, its perspective at times gets stuck within the Beltway.
Giving fire to that sentiment was the almost palpable theme present and alive last night that was absent from the GOP last week. The Democrats actually have a message that resonates: This has been a successful Presidency and the alternative is not one to be trusted and one that can be shortened to a few words: Swiss banks accounts. Speaker after speaker swung for the fences, and some hit some very long balls. Delegates were standing individually at odd times, leaping to their feet at different points, motivated by their own personal energy. They were pistons moving up and down – parts of an engine ready to fire. They then began to rise and move as one. It seems unimaginable to me that Democrats watching on television were not similarly moved. The Republicans are going to have to count on some force that they do not possess to withstand the onslaught of women arguing for Obama’s re-election last night – especially if last night reflects a potent force out there gathering itself to deliver a historic vote on behalf of a candidate whose opponent literally would roll back time.
Obama himself seemed to have come alive in the last week on the campaign trail. Said to be cold and cautious, he unleashes a different person from within that spawns an infectious energy that is now energizing his party. He is after all its leader. Perhaps last night represented the first puncturing of the ball of energy out beyond the Beltway ready to burst forth.
The young mayor of San Antonio, Julián Castro, certainly burst forth. I do not know what my sister and her husband thought of Castro but compared to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s annoying self-indulgence last week in Tampa, Castro was agreeably, comfortably, powerfully uplifting. He captured the sense of giving and community the nation needs today to see it through its current passage of rough times. He hit a tremendous triple with the bases loaded – and he is waiting to come home and score some day.
Ann Richards – the last Texas Democrat to deliver a memorable keynote address – certainly would have liked it.
Jesse Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman and writes at HispanicLatino.com.
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