By Evelyn Perez-Verdia
Jeb Bush wants to make it clear that the Hispanic vote is important to him. According to a Pew Research Poll, 64% of Hispanics living in the United States are Mexican-Americans like his wife, Columba Bush. Many Mexican-Americans tend to be Democrats. And Democrats can’t afford to lose them to Jeb. So here is how the batalla (battle) goes:
Los Demócratas Pegan Duro (Hit Hard)
On Monday, June 15, 2015, Democrats swung hard at a press conference at Florida International University, prior to Jeb Bush’s announcement for president at Miami Dade College in Kendall, Florida. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (a Caucasian Jewish woman and the chair of the Democratic National Committee) punched hard as she stated that “King Jeb” only looks out for himself and for people like him. She did what Democratic strategists plan to do from here on forward: never stop connecting him to his brother and father and stating that America is still “digging out of the hole” that his brother George W. created.
The chair of the DNC was accompanied by the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida, a group of volunteers who are doing the job of being very present in the community and being a voice that shows that Democrats care for Hispanics. On the other hand, the Florida Democratic Party says they do not have the budget to focus on Hispanics.
The Army of the United Colors of Benneton, Just Better Dressed
At Jeb’s presidential announcement, never in my life had I seen so many outfits on women that I wanted in my closet, so many media outlets, so many Asian-Americans at a rally and people in media showing their spicy moves (see reporter dancing behind me in video)
According to University of South Florida political scientist, Dr. Susan MacManus, Asian-Americans are the fastest growing minority group in Florida, even surpassing Hispanics. They tend to be Independent. They supported Obama in the past, and they have also supported Republicans, which makes them a potential swing vote.
One thing is certain, Jeb made sure that when he announced his candidacy for president, the moment would be about him, his beliefs and about his multicultural army. He wanted for everyone to have not one bit of doubt that he can attract people of all communities— Helen Aguirre Ferre, the first woman to chair of the Board of Trustees of Miami Dade College gave an amazing speech filled with vigor and bilingualism. Toni Jennings, a Republican and the first female Lieutenant Governor of Florida talked about her times with Jeb and about the Hurricane days. The whole room had chills when the African-American Reverend R.B. Holmes Jr. of Tallahassee, Florida gave a speech that had a Martin Luther King Jr. tune and words that supported a Republican.
Jeb, who wished to be seen as his own person, has decided to leave the name “Bush” in the past by deleting it from his campaign, focusing on his immediate family, and his mom; Barbara Bush who ties with Hillary Clinton as the most admired First Lady in the United States according to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll.
George the father and George W. the brother were not present. And as we talk about political battles, the reminder of war and extreme spending was not an issue that I am sure Jeb wanted to make present. When I asked Laura Hinojosa, a 36 year old, Colombian-American Democrat who lives in Delray Beach, Florida what she thought about Governor Bush. She said: “For me the problem is that when I hear the name “Bush” all I can think of are the useless wars and spending they got this country into. We have always gone to war for interests such as petroleum and in places where it should not be our war. Why are we not in war in places where there are truly human violations and people are dying of hunger? I have not analyzed him. However at the end of the day, he is a “Bush”. Interesting, the Pew Research Center has not polled Hispanics on their position on war since 2007. I cannot find any major pollster asking Hispanics what they think about going back to war.
Yes, Jeb is a White Caucasian Male
Over and over I saw that in terms of the organization of the event, every single candidate was slapped on their face with a white glove. However, some critics say that Jeb let everyone speak, but the white male which people state Jeb is doing so poorly with. Due to so much Latin “sabor” (flavor), have people forgotten that he is a white male? Some say that he should have paid a little more attention to the white vote at the event or have included a white male for that reason. He does need the white vote to win. Romney had 59% of the white vote in 2012. Yet, in order for any candidate to win, everyone is aware that they will need a slice of each community to be victorious.
The Undeniable Latino Strategy:
What better surrogates than your own good-looking (in my humble opinion) sons. As I stood with the media, the moment when I heard the cameras click out of control was when “46” as some Republicans like to call George P. Bush and Jeb’s son took the microphone. George P looked right into the camera, and in perfect Spanish said: “Tu vales muchisimo. Tu hermano hispano.””You matter so much, you, Hispanic brother.” They were powerful words that touched the pain of many who feel disrespected, forgotten and racially harassed in “the land of the free”.
Yet, Democrats continue to say to be careful. “In spite of his rhetoric, Jeb Bush is no friend of the Latino community.” said Maurizio Passariello, the recently named South Florida Public Relations Director for the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida. “His lack of support for President Obama’s efforts to offer relief to undocumented immigrants and keep families together. His indifference to the plight of Latinas working full time, who are making 56 cents for every dollar paid to a white non-Hispanic male and his plans to gut education spending, from early education through Pell Grants, clearly demonstrate that. He may speak our language, but he certainly does not understand our priorities.”
Are Hispanics Truly in The Democrat’s Pocket?
Being that Jeb Bush is from Florida and Hispanics in Florida had largest voter turnout from any state in the nation in 2012, it is time for the campaigns to take the Latino vote seriously. Just because so many Hispanics are Democrats, it does not mean they are faithful to the party. At the end of the day, they will pick who they like the most.
Jason Rubinstein, is an Ecuadorian-American Democrat with Jewish roots and Catholic upbringing who has placed an Obama sign in his front yard in the past. He has a master’s degree, an excellent job, speaks perfect English, and is the son of a former diplomat. He also was one of the many who signed a petition that asked the Florida parties to give the community a bilingual Communications Director. This time, he says that Jeb has his vote, depending on who is his VP. He hopes it will be someone from the minority community and hopefully a woman. It is one of those moments, where you look at what just happened and then you look a second time in disbelief. My reaction is exactly what can happen to the Democrats in 2016 if they do not get a bit more serious and start hiring Hispanics to be a fundamental part of their organization. I am not just talking about Hillary Clinton who has done an excellent job doing so. I am talking about involving Hispanic professionals (and paying them a just amount) in all campaigns where there is a large Hispanic population. It shows that the Democratic Party should not believe that Hispanic Democrats are in their pocket.
Why is Jason voting for Jeb?
“I think this a good alternative for the Democrats and for people like me who are not left wing nut jobs.” Says the Tampa native as we speak in Spanish. “Por mas Bush que sea” (Even though he is a Bush), I believe he is different from his brother. More open to the immigration issue which hits home. Due to the terrible situation that Ecuador lives in, I know people who are here undocumented. I could never support a person who does not support these people. It would be to go against “my people”. What I admire the most about him is that he had “los huevos” (the balls) to be of the ultra-conservative American aristocracy and that he would have married a Mexican girl with no money. Imagine what that must have been for them 40 years ago. “Tienes que tener bien puesto los pantalones para hacer eso, no te parece?” “You need to have guts to do something like that, don’t you think?”
It is true. According to a NY Mag article, after Reagan-Bush won the White House ticket, Jeb moved to Florida due to his wife experiencing racism among their white, Republican circles in Houston. When he was asked about it, according to the article, he said: “Subtle, sublte. It’s very different now, very welcoming, very open, particularly the big open areas.” Yet still not in places like Charleston, South Carolina, I suppose.
Jeb being in the race is a “batalla” to definitely not take for granted. We live in a time where you can no longer win with the white vote alone. The parties need to get serious which means investing in our communities and not expect for us to do everything for free while they pay hefty sums to others. We are aware of the racism that exists. We are aware because of the current positions we continue to have in terms of leadership. It definitely is not due to lack of leadership and expertise within all minority communities. As a community, you do not need to say anything, and we know it. We know when we are being pandered to. We know when we are being disrespected. Yet we remain quiet sometimes for fear of losing those promises that never happen. Those days are over, and if you do not pay attention, if you do not show respect for what makes America beautiful, and come to the realization that we are part of that beauty… you will lose the battle. A battle that Jeb seems to clearly understand.