Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro was the only Latino presidential candidate in 2020. Further, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has more social media followers and name recognition than Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer combined; AOC was given a mere 90 seconds at the DNC Convention, less time than Sally Yates (who?), and Julián Castro…well, he wasn’t invited at all. Similarly, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, the two most well-known Latinos in Republican politics were also snubbed at their party’s main event. Now, before anyone emails me a YouTube link of Michelle Lujan Grisham or Maximo Alvarez, please note that I’m aware there were some tokens on stage, but the message was still very clear: Latinos still don’t matter much to either party.
Before pointing fingers, I think it is always fair to first ask the question: Are we doing something wrong? In a word, yes. As Latinos, when we don’t get what we want, we tend to just stay quiet and move on…which politically speaking is an existential problem in itself because in politics, just like in business, power is never given, power is only taken. So, let’s get one thing straight: nobody is going to give us a damn thing.
Let’s also be honest with ourselves. Latinos are very hard workers and because America is so rich, many of us can keep doing our jobs, raise our families and live pretty good lives, even if we never see any Latinos in national politics – and because of this fact, too many of us are content staying quiet and not rocking the boat. However, our hard-working nature also makes it possible for us to be exploited. Most people just don’t understand that government policies are like a game of “Whack-A-Mole”, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. There are no such things as policies, especially economic policies, that benefit everyone. That is a myth sold to the most gullible among us. Economic policies always favor somebody at the expense of somebody else – always.
The people with power like to remind the rest of us that “anything is possible in this country”, and that if we work hard, we will have the same chance to succeed as anyone else. They do this while they continue to tweak the rules of the game in their favor. The truth is, you CAN succeed if you work hard, and there are many true-life examples of that, but we don’t all start from the same place and the rules are tipped in favor of those who have power. Over time, this invisible advantage results in a massive concentration of wealth, with very few Latinos in the club – just look at what has happened in the past few months. I’m not trying to be cynical here, but whether we want to believe it or not, government policies will have a lot to do with the opportunities our kids and grandkids enjoy. Frankly, if we want those opportunities to be plentiful, we need people who look like us and think like us in the highest places in government – plain and simple.
In my view, there are three simple ways we get there:
- Vote. If we don’t show up to the polls, we will never matter.
- Don’t be a partisan schmuck. This is hard, because we all live in echo chambers these days and rarely hear news that challenges our own political biases, but if we aren’t willing to cross party lines when it benefits us, we will continue to be ignored – just like we are now.
- Donate money to candidates and issues that support our causes. This is a discipline we have not mastered and it matters a hell of a lot more than we care to admit.
Until we get a lot better at all three of these things, we will always be passed over, and make no mistake, our kids and grandkids are who will pay for our impotency. As for the 2020 election, I think both parties had a golden opportunity and passed on it. My guess is whoever wins Florida, Nevada, and Arizona will win the election – three of the most Hispanic-populated states in the country.