News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Friday, January 14, 2011

Politics and Bedfellows

Congratulations to Lance Rios. His Facebook page "Being Latino" has become one of social media's most popular gathering spot for Latinos. And that influence was vividly demonstrated in a recently-announced reciprocal content agreement between Being Latino and FOX News Latino.

Although my personal politics do not fall into the FOX camp, I am pleased by this developement. First of all, I'm happy for Lance, whose hard work and ignenuity deserves recognition. Second, this partnership helps push the influence of social media up another notch. And finally, I think it has the potential for being a postive step for the entire nation.

Anyone who knows my personal politics may be surprised by that statement. But those who long ago said "politics make strange bedfellows" were not fools.

Right now, the majority of Latino voters are presumed to be solidly in the Democratic camp. (The reality is much more complex. But it's perceptions that shape the actions of politicians.) As a result of this widely held belief, Latinos have been taken for granted by the Democrats (who only give us empty promises) and ignored by Republicans (who feel they can demonize us with impunity in districts where Latinos are not a majority).

However, when Latinos can exert influence in BOTH parties, we will not be so easy to ignore -- or impugn.

It still remains to be seen whether a leopard can change its spots. Many Republicans continue to pander to the xenophobes within their ranks by supporting legislation like Arizona's SB 1070 or attempts to gut the 14th Amendment. This is political theatre at its worst. But some in the GOP are waking up and smelling the coffee.

This deal with Being Latino is not an isolated event. FOX is echoing what seems to be a clear GOP strategy of reaching out to Latinos. (You have to give the conservative media machine credit for staying on message. They are always in lock step.)

Jeb Bush (with Karl Rove calling plays from the sidelines) is spearheading the Hispanic Leadership Network to try and woo Latino voters. In fact, Jeb Bush went so far as to say it was “incredibly stupid” for the GOP to ignore Latino voters. And Bush is right. It IS incredibly stupid to ignore the fastest growing voter segment. One problem remains for the GOP, though: Bigots are usually stupid.

I'm no Polyanna. The GOP has made sizeable gains across the nation in November and the party is stronger than its been for years. The leadership of the party may have realized Republicans can afford to burn some political capital and risk alienating "the base" with an outreach to Latinos -- for the moment. However, don't be surprised if the race-baiting returns come election time.

For now, let's be hard-nosed and pragmatic. We all have something to gain -- even if it's short-lived.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez