An Aware Clinton and the New Demography 40 Years Later

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.

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Romney Lets Golden Moment Pass

I do not know what President Obama is going to say today in Orlando at the annual convention of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.  I did hear Mitt Romney yesterday and to say that it fell short of what he needed to do is an understatement.  By my timing, Romney spoke for 16 minutes.  In the 20 or so GOP debates during the presidential primary campaign, I estimate that Romney spent at least five minutes, on average, bashing immigrants and, by extension, HispanicLatinos who, while not making immigration their number one priority, do not cotton to that kind of language.  Romney’s antagonistic language in the last few months amounted to perhaps as many as 100 televised minutes – not to mention the endless repetition of his remarks as sounds bites across every medium in the country.  It isn’t as if HispanicLatinos do not know where Romney stands on things HispanicLatino.  And so 16 minutes hardly would suffice. 

But Romney amazed me:  The national Spanish-language networks, both television and radio, waited for him with genuine interest.  Univision and Telemundo were there, but also were the mainstream media, from which most HispanicLatinos get their news.  CNN and MSNBC carried the address live.  This was not a “gotcha” moment.  He had control of the entire environment.  It was a golden moment for Romney but, like the alleged vetting of Marco Rubio for vice president, Romney flubbed his opportunity.  Perhaps he expects Jeb Bush or Rubio to do what he could not do for himself.  Yet it does not work that way. Folks do not vote for surrogates. He could have achieved 100 percent coverage of the HispanicLatino community to make up for 100 minutes of discord.

If the Romney campaign hoped for some phrase, some language, some image, some narrative to register and make it across the many media gathered there that could begin to turn around the presidential race, the speech it prepared for its candidate was wholly and surprisingly absent of anything substantive.  Who gets this kind of tee-up and whiffs it? 

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HispanicLatino: More Human Drama than New Market

Markets is a word easily thrown about, especially in the changing landscape of television.  One definition of market is the old trying to catch up to the new – and to the news, perhaps.  In the roiled television industry, ‘market’ could also be defined as networks discovering they stood in the way of history.  Certainly, television has scrambled to catch up with the social media, and it has begun finally to move away from an old demography on which it has been stuck that each day applies less and less to the only definition of markets that ultimately matters – a way to make money.

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Reworking the Networks at Last: Breaking the News

There are many tough executive-level jobs in corporate America today.  The nation’s economy is being buffeted on all sides by foreign competition, skilled workers are at a premium and the nation’s infrastructure each day falls behind the rest of the world — among other issues. Few of those jobs are more challenging than leading a television network today (or a film production or advertising company for that matter).

Whether heading up an English-language or a Spanish-language operation – all are caught in some way by changing demographics; the evident and growing power of social media and new platforms; and an audience comprised of submarkets and subgroups hard to unify into a national market.  It is nothing short of mayhem – and confused mayhem at that – exacerbated by business models that probably need to be revamped or scratched.  Not surprisingly, rumors abound about the future of the current Spanish-language networks, the advent of news ones and the creation of new hybrids for English-dominant HispanicLatinos. ABC and Univision this week affirmed their intention to bring to life next year a new cable news channel that appeals to English-dominant HispanicLatinos.

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Barbarains at the Gate

President Obama in one speech displayed why only the angriest of furies that could be goaded into action by a Newt Gingrich can defeat him.  As important as the State of the Union speech last night was, so was the announcement by News Corporation – read that Fox – that it is creating a Spanish-language network to begin telecasting this coming fall.  It was only a matter of time before Fox plunged into the continuously expanding HispanicLatino market.  Continue reading

A Niche to be Filled

It should be fairly evident by now that HispanicLatino population growth can create new markets for smart business owners who are on top of and can interpret demographic change.   HispanicLatino population growth also creates new ways for corporations and businesses – HispanicLatino and non-HispanicLatino alike – to reach those new markets.

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The Unreality of Being Lola

Everything seems unreal.  The economy is stuck with no prospect of renewal.  We are still in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Greece, its economy about the size as that of Massachusetts, could set off the next financial contagion.  Millions of additional homes and properties are still underwater and face foreclosure.  Next door in Mexico 40,000 people have lost their lives since 2006 as the drug cartels metastasize.  And no one talks about America’s impending decline.  Unreal.

Adding to the unreality was the Republican presidential debate Tuesday in Las Vegas.  Vegas.  The city in the desert that should not be.  The most unreal of cities.  A desperate city of desperate people.

The debate undid the German expression Einmal ist keinmal (once is never), the idea being that if something happens only once it did not happen at all, for how is anyone to know anything about it relative to something similar.  And so the debate was just like the last one, another example of our collective race to the bottom.

The idea that Herman Cain is really in contention to be the nominee of a party dominated by white southerners is unreal.  That Willard Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts signed a version of the Obama health care plan and now disowns it is unreal, but not as unreal as the Republican rank and file willing to forget that fact in their single-minded blood-thirst to beat the President.  That Newt Gingrich – who abandoned his sick wife in the hospital – can talk about the need for the nation to come together as a community to provide heath care is unreal.  And any race in which two Texans are running for office after the spectacular fiasco that was George W. Bush is beyond any reality.

That Michelle Bachman is on stage is equally surreal.  When Harry S Truman became president, the pundits bemoaned his ascension, thinking him unfit, barely educated and corrupt.  Yet Truman was real, and he had studied Latin and Greek and was not the illiterate, uneducated phony the press expected him to be.  That the country countenances someone like Bachman as a candidate for president shows the depths of the unreality that has gripped the country – and the superficiality.

Who are these people? 

That is the question the Republican electorate seems to be asking itself.  One survey suggests that almost 70 percent of Republican voters remain undecided about the current lineup.  I have to wonder how many will still be undecided after the nominee is chosen.

The GOP debate on Tuesday started at the same time as the telenovela on Telemundo that chronicles the life of the tragic Lola Volcán.  Over-the-top soap operas on Univision and Telemundo are easy ways to re-enforce one’s Spanish.  Dashing dudes and curvacious women do much to conjugate.  Verbs, too.  Thinking that the candidates’ show on CNN was more important and real than Lola’s latest travails, I started watching the debate.  Lola was hands down more real. And so I escaped into that reality, at least for an hour, as she battles yet another demon in her life, an evil named Diana Mirabal.

If we could only stand up to the demons confronting the country as bravely and as resolutely as Lola does hers.

But our unreality, alas, is real.

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