Latinos rejecting Bush in greater numbers
By Rosalio Munoz
Two recent polls indicate that Latino opposition to Bush administration
policies is strong and increasing. More importantly, the polls suggest
that issue-oriented campaigns can significantly increase Latino voter
turnout against Bush and the right-wing Republicans in Congress, and
a significant role in defeating them.
The Latino vote for president has tripled in one generation, from 2.1
million in 1976 to an expected 6.8 million or more in 2004. Latino
are key in large states like California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and
York. They can make a critical difference in battleground states like
Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, and Nevada.
A Gallup poll conducted in June and released July 6 shows that Latino
voter approval of the Bush presidency dropping in one year from 67
in June 2003 to 40 percent today. The poll showed John Kerry leading
Latino voters in a three-way race for president with 51 percent, Bush
35 percent, and Nader 8 percent. In a straight-up race with Bush, Kerry
In 2000, Democrat Al Gore carried the Latino vote by 62-35. The poll
indicates that today, Latinos favor Democrats over Republicans in
congressional elections, 60-35.
It is possible that Kerry could reach 62 percent again or even surpass
with an issue-oriented campaign. This is clear from a second poll, this
one focused on Latino thinking on issues. The poll was commissioned by
National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Latino civil rights
and released June 26 at its national convention in Phoenix, Ariz.
The study shows that the Bush program – giving tax breaks to the rich,
cutting social programs for the poor and working people, pushing tough
and order policies, and emphasizing unending war – is far out of step
It reports that 62 percent of Latinos “would pay higher taxes to
government that provides more services.” Only 28 percent support lower
taxes and fewer services.
Seventy-four percent say too little is spent on education, 78 percent
more spent on preschool education and services, and 78 percent want
health care programs.
The survey showed education/schools is the number one priority for 34
percent of Latinos, followed by the economy and jobs (22 percent),
immigration (8), civil rights (6), health care (5), war on terrorism
and national security (1).
Discrimination is seen as a problem in the workplace by 75 percent, in
schools by 72 percent and in housing by 66 percent. On criminal justice
issues, 74 percent want a tougher approach on the //causes// of crime;
percent prioritize stricter punishment.
On immigration, 82 percent favor providing a clear path to citizenship
undocumented immigrants who have lived, worked and paid taxes for five
years. Eighty-seven percent support legal status for undocumented
who have lived here five years, enabling them to attend college and
without fear of deportation.
The huge support for an activist, pro-social services, pro-labor agenda
among Latinos is a long-term trend. It started in the New Deal when
policies of outright exclusion of Mexican Americans began to be
dismantled. Strong labor activity in the Depression, valiant service in
World War II, and mobilization for electoral power afterwards did away
with the slogan “no dogs or Mexicans allowed” and led to the cries of
Chicano Power and Si! Se Puede! in the ’60s and ’70s.
The predominantly working-class character of Latino communities in
general, and of the Mexican American and Puerto Rican communities in
particular, and their struggle for full equality is the basis of their
progressive political tendencies.
The NCLR study shows the highest percentage area of agreement among
Latinos (88 percent) is that it is important for the Hispanic community
work together to build political power. This impetus for unity can
a powerful force.
In 1994 in California, after the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 was
passed, the Latino turnout mushroomed in the following elections. This
June, the Bush administration oversaw an escalation of immigration
from coast to coast. Meanwhile Democrat candidate Kerry addressed the
and other Latino groups, proposing a raise in the minimum wage, more
funding for education and health care, a moderate immigration program
open a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.
The reactionary Bush policies and the liberal openings of the Kerry
campaign could help unleash a huge anti-Bush Latino turnout if there is
strong, grassroots campaigning on the key issues.
Rosalio Munoz is the district organizer of the Communist Party USA in
Southern California. He can be reached at email@example.com.