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Latino Vote Part II

by Rosalio Munoz Tuesday, Jul. 13, 2004 at 4:34 PM

Why Latinos are anti Bush. Its the issues.

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

play

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

voters

are key in large states like California, Texas, Illinois, Florida and

New

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

percent

in June 2003 to 40 percent today. The poll showed John Kerry leading

among

Latino voters in a three-way race for president with 51 percent, Bush

with

35 percent, and Nader 8 percent. In a straight-up race with Bush, Kerry

leads 57-38.

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

it

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

the

National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Latino civil rights

group,

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

law

and order policies, and emphasizing unending war – is far out of step

with

mainstream Latinos.

It reports that 62 percent of Latinos “would pay higher taxes to

support a

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

want

more spent on preschool education and services, and 78 percent want

more

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

(2),

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;

22

percent prioritize stricter punishment.

On immigration, 82 percent favor providing a clear path to citizenship

for

undocumented immigrants who have lived, worked and paid taxes for five

years. Eighty-seven percent support legal status for undocumented

children

who have lived here five years, enabling them to attend college and

work

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

to

work together to build political power. This impetus for unity can

become

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

raids

from coast to coast. Meanwhile Democrat candidate Kerry addressed the

NCLR

and other Latino groups, proposing a raise in the minimum wage, more

funding for education and health care, a moderate immigration program

with

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 rosalio_munoz@sbcglobal.net.





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