Commentary: Here's why Latinos will vote for Obama

The Miami HeraldNovember 6, 2012 


Andres Oppenheimer is a columnist for The Miami Herald.

AL DIAZ — MCT/Miami Herald

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the latest polls show that a whopping 70 percent of Latino likely voters support President Barack Obama, while only 25 percent support Gov. Mitt Romney. There are 10 major reasons why it’s very hard for Hispanics to vote for Romney.

Here they go, in no particular order:

• First. On pocket-book issues, Romney has come across as the candidate for the rich, who wants to lower taxes for millionaires and relax banking regulations for Wall Street. Romney’s secretly video-taped comment during a fund-raiser earlier this year that 47 percent of voters depend on government subsidies and that “my job is not to worry about those people” has re-enforced Obama campaign claims that Romney doesn’t really care about the poor.

• Second. On macro-economic issues, Romney’s tirades against Obama for the anemic U.S. economy and the mounting debt came across as hypocritical. Wasn’t Romney’s Republican Party, under President George W. Bush, that left the country in the biggest economic mess since the Great Depression? many Latinos ask.

• Third. On health care, Romney’s virulent attacks against the Obamacare law, which provides healthcare to all Americans and prohibits insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing illnesses, drew alarm bells among most Latinos. The fact that the world’s biggest industrialized country wasn’t providing health care to 45 million people before Obama’s law was seen by many Latinos as scandalous.

• Fourth. On education, Romney has called for a smaller central government role in education, and — until he reversed his stand in recent weeks — supported a budget proposal of his running-mate Paul Ryan that would have cut Pell Grant scholarships for an estimated 10 million college students, many of them Latinos.

• Fifth. On military spending, Romney has called for increasing the military budget by $100 billion by 2016, while at the same time cutting overall government spending. The U.S. military budget is already bigger than that of the 10 countries that follow it combined, and expanding it further would force cuts in social services, many Latinos fear.

• Sixth. On immigration, Romney has come across during the primaries as an anti-immigration zealot. Sure, Romney needed to woo the extreme right of his party, but his angry tone when talking about “illegal aliens,” his passionate support for Arizona’s draconian anti-immigration law, and his vow to veto the Dream Act — which would give many undocumented college students a chance to legalize their status — incensed most Hispanics.

• Seventh. On gun control, most Hispanics — who are among the most impacted by gun violence — want tougher gun control laws to prevent incidents such as the recent mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. While Romney opposes stricter gun control laws, a much larger percentage of Latinos than both whites and African Americans favors strict gun control laws, a recent Pew Research Center study said.

• Eighth. On foreign wars, many Latinos are anxious about Romney’s Republican Party’s platform calls for “peace through strength,” fearing that a Romney administration would lead to new U.S. military adventures. Many Latinos are in the military, and are wary of non-essential wars.

• Ninth, on terrorism and foreign policy, despite Romney’s claims that Obama has been soft on Iran and Islamic fundamentalist regimes, the Obama administration has killed Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, and has imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran. On Latin America, while Obama hasn’t done much, he has been generally prudent.

• Tenth, Romney’s Republican Party has veered so far to the extreme right on virtually all issues, ranging from Wall Street deregulation to global warming and scientific research, that Romney, if elected, would have a hard time shifting back to the center. Based on his political history, doing so would put him at risk of being ridiculed as a serial flip-flopper whose words can’t be taken seriously.

My opinion: Granted, Latinos are not a monolithic bloc (most Cuban-Americans will vote for Romney). But if Romney gets only 25 percent of the overall Hispanic vote, as the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll indicates, it will be a record low for a Republican candidate in two decades.

And it will be largely due to Romney’s embrace of the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party, which includes anti-immigration zealots who support show-me-your-papers laws that could turn all Hispanics into automatic suspects of being illegally in the country.

The big question now is whether the 70 percent of Latinos who support Obama will actually turn out to vote on Tuesday, or remain at home. That may decide the election, and the political power of Latinos in coming years.

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