Posted Wednesday evening for Sept. 6, 2012.
It was Bill Clinton who was the first President to put into words something already afoot: The remaking of America. In the days after he won election in 1992, Clinton said he wanted a Cabinet that reflected America. He proceeded then to assemble a Cabinet that included two HispanicLatinos, San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Denver Mayor Federico Peña as Secretary of Transportation.
Clinton – the most capable and aware President since Lyndon Johnson – understood what few Americans did, that the country had begun a historic demographic shift already changing the country. Sometime in 1972 or therabouts, twenty years before Clinton organized a more demographically correct Cabinet, the population replacement rate of the “white” population had already dipped below the necessary 2.1 births per woman and it has fallen each year since to probably 1.7 today. Such a decline in demographic terms creates a void and triggers an extremely powerful force for change, with the potential to cause countries to disappear — a very high price for a nation to pay. But stepping into that breach a growing HispanicLatino population already was leading the formation of a new demography critical for the nation’s survival.
Coming full circle 20 years after he was first elected, Clinton addressed a Democratic national convention last night that reflected the new America that its new demography has created. Benita Veliz, the undocumented student who addressed the convention, represents a vital part of the new demography America needs and requires. Veliz introduced another immigrant from an earlier generation of HispanicLatinos, Cristina Saralegui, a Cuban American long a fixture on Spanish-language television at Univision and now Telemundo. Saralegui debunks the notion that all Cubans are Republicans. Saralegui delivered a full-throated personal endorsement of Obama that spoke about the future of the America that Clinton understood was changing long before most decision-makers.