By Jeffrey Quiñones
Image credit: Panoramas
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines influence as the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways, or the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.
As the November midterm elections draw closer, it becomes expedient for Hispanics to figure out how to exert their “hypothetical” influence, in order to really have any real political power.
At this juncture, it is useless to complain, whine or grieve when, as a political block, eligible Hispanic voters continue to fail to exert their underdeveloped political clout. Although, it evident that voter suppression efforts in different states have been effective in mitigating the effect of Hispanic voter turnout.
Nonetheless, in each electoral cycle political analysts bring out the mantra of how Hispanics, just by the sheer numbers have the capability to tilt or significantly alter the outcomes in any local, state and national election. In reality the expectations have always been enormous, but the performance is below par.
At the national level, March 2016 estimates by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), suggested that about 27.3 million eligible Hispanic voters, only 48% could actually go out and vote; that is about 13.1 million voters. In the 2012 elections 11.2 million Hispanics voted, and in the 2008 election 9.7 million voted.
After the November 2016 election, some numbers by the Pew Research Center indicate that the number of Hispanic eligible voters who did not vote exceeded the number of Hispanic voters in the 2016 election. Those results indicate that about 12.7 million Hispanic voters went to the polls, and about 14 million voters stayed home; 46% of all eligible voters.
What is eerily true is that those NALEO projections turned out to be somewhat precise, and Hispanic turnout in the election fell down 2% below expectations.
Can we expect for this trend to change? Recent history does not help and it is hard to predict. Change requires that someone, some entity or group takes the lead and provokes the intended effect of pouring voters to the polls.
For the November 2018 elections you already have several analysts who recycle the notion of Hispanics revolutionizing the outcome of the elections, while others wonder if the trend can be reversed. Some shrewdly contend that any negative perception from Hispanics towards Trump will not be enough to lean the results for democrats.
What is true is that there is an ever-present concern by Democrats that they are having problems getting Hispanic energized to vote and change either house of Congress. Republicans do appear to have a plan to mobilize Hispanics.
Following the cluefrom other analysts, I argue that the only element that could sway the election in any direction lies on a strong electoral turnout of Puerto Rican voters, particularly those who have moved to the continental US displaced by Hurricane and the island’s continued economic downturn.
Furthermore, Puerto Ricans are presented with the moral urgencyto take a national leadership role to get out the vote of other Hispanics throughout the country. It literally means grabbing neighbors by the hand and taking them to the polls.
That means putting petty differences aside and irrespective of party affiliation,encourage other Hispanic voters to turn out to the polls. Certainly, I don’t mean that we agree on absolutely everything, but in general as an immigrant and “relocated community” (this last applies to Puerto Ricans) we do share certain common values and interests. Our community is social conservative but with a innate sense of social responsibility. In the aggregate, our inherent collectivism, our “extended family construct” and deeply religious fervor is channeled by a sense of strong empathy.
A powerful statement on Puerto Rican electoral power would also require a higher than usual turnout by “Boricua” voters in places like Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and, of course, many enclaves in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut
However, for such leadership role to emerge, Boricuas have to set aside voting on any candidate, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, based on Puerto Rican politics. Support for a candidate based on their support for Puerto Rican statehood, independence or free association should not be the deciding factor.
Puerto Ricans in every state should vote based on the issues that are important to the well being of ALL Hispanics throughout the country and the state.
In general all Hispanics are driven to the US, through immigration or relocation, by the opportunity that our families and children have for good education, by the prospect of social mobility, and the overall liberty of a prosperous democracy.
The mantra that should motivate Puerto Ricans and all Hispanics to the polls in this midterm election is exercising the right to freely choose any candidate on any place of the political spectrum that respects us as an ethnically similar but diverse community. Voting should send a message that our communities cannot be pigeonholed as conservative or liberal using US centric political paradigms.
But above all, Hispanic voters must participate to make a strong statement that Hispanics are as much an essential element of the politics, the fabric and the history of the United States than any other group. Our presence in the continent and our contributions cannot be discounted particularly after the footprint left by figures such as relevant to US history as Juan Ponce De Leon, Bernardo de Galvez, Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, and Cesar Chavez, to name a few.
Hispanics cannot be set aside as an inherently alien element of this society and vilified as culpable of all of the afflictions of the United States. It is time that we use our real power and demand respect.
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