Little at the Republican convention in Tampa jolted the 70 percent or so of Hispanics and Latinos – whom the polls suggest are already in President Obama’s corner – to rethink their support for his re-election. I still do not know what henna is exactly even after I looked it up on the internet. I thought I overheard a woman at a restaurant in Charlotte say that “Romney makes me want to rip the hens out of my hair.” A search on Yahoo for ‘hens’ and ‘hair’ later got me to henna. Ripping either from your head sounds dreadful – perhaps bad enough for even traditional Republican-voting Cubans to reconsider their presumed vote for Mitt Romney. If the question does linger for more than a passing moment in any HispanicLatino mind, it can be answered with another question: Why HispanicLatinos?
It is evident to anyone – other than the members of the Tea party – that HispanicLatinos are elementally important to the country. A successful HispanicLatino population ensures a successful America. Yet nothing in Romney and his campaign suggest that HispanicLatinos will accelerate the economic and social progress they must make in the immediate years ahead if they are to help sustain the country’s economy and its finances. In contrast, against the weight of the mess George W. Bush bequeathed him, Obama already has done some heavy lifting. Compared to other Presidencies, his is already a success. And HispanicLatinos will look back at Obama’s administration as equal in importance to Lyndon Johnson’s years in office. HispanicLatinos must sense as much, given the surge of support for Obama in HispanicLatino precincts as measured by the polls.
Johnson opened up the full potential of the current, modern generation of HispanicLatinos by setting up social, economic and educational opportunities for their parents who endured years of neglect or enforced discrimination. Johnson laid down a foundation for progress that Obama has reinforced now with the stability of affordable healthcare. Aside from preventing the nation from slipping into a second Great Depression in the first months of his first term, Obama’s decision to fight for and achieve meaningful healthcare legislation will translate into incremental increases in income for millions of HispanicLatino households in the years ahead. More important, though, is that if health care costs can be controlled then a growing, more productive HispanicLatino population can help increase the country’s longer-term prospects.
Aside from averting the whole-scale devastation of a vast majority of HispanicLatino households had the Bush economic bloodletting not been stanched, Obama brought HispanicLatino solders home from war in Iraq – with more to come from Afghanistan – and through executive action gave life to some parts of the proposed Dream Act. And Obama’s Department of Justice also has taken on states that have enacted modern Jim Crow laws to restrict HispanicLatino voting rights and that consider HispanicLatinos as second-class citizens.
Here is an additional data point that should be of interest, especially in Florida: Cuban American households are the oldest of all HispanicLatino households, meaning they depend on Medicare more so than any other group. Medicare vouchers and additional paperwork would add additional worry to the most delicate and vulnerable years of human life – a byproduct of the Romney-Ryan plan for Medicare and Medicaid. Would ‘reforming’ Social Security be far behind?
HispanicLatinos should not even have to scratch their heads on this one. They should shake the henhouses if necessary to generate a turnout that does not bring into question Obama’s re-election. He has succeeded as President. And if he succeeds in a second term, so will HispanicLatinos – and America in the long run.
Jesse Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman and writes at HispanicLatino.com.