The “Border Beat” (June 16, 2008)

Here’s a sampling of some of the current news and views relating to Latino U.S.A.

  • A small and encouraging school board election is making international news (Washington Post);
  • A small newspaper busts some big myths relating to Latinos and immigration (Contra Costa Times);
  • There’s but a small difference between Obama and McCain with respect to immigration, but that just might make a difference (New American Media);
  • A big report is attacked by small minds incapable of true critical analysis (Arizona Daily Star); and
  • The brewing anti-gay marriage movement of 2008 has more than a small chance for getting some Latino votes (News Tribune-Tacoma).

The last story is one everyone should be following. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog (or its predecessor) will know that one of my running analyses is the inability of the mainstream media to understand the Latino electorate. Proof of that is abundant these days, as poll numbers suggest Latinos are switching from Clinton to Obama (despite four months of most pundits saying they never would) and as Obama shows a commanding lead over McCain among Latino voters. These numbers have given birth to a new “popular certainty” that Latinos will swing Democratic in November 2008.

But watch out. Bush got over 40% of the Latino vote in 2004. Part of Karl Rove’s strategy in getting out the conservative base (evangelicals) was to support ballot initiatives outlawing gay marriage in swing states. Eleven states ran such initiatives in 2004–though in each gay marriage was already illegal. This tactic to garner conservative votes, also spilled over into the Latino electorate, many of whom vote as conservative as anyone on so-called “social issues.”

This fall will see at least three major initiatives aimed at gay marriage. California and Florida are the two biggest states voting on such measures. Both are also home to a sizable percentage of the Latino electorate. Perhaps even more ominous for the Democratic nominee, this time the ballot efforts are more than symbolic. In California, for example, the voters will face an opportunity to amend their State Constitution to ban gay marriage, thereby nullifying the recent State Supreme Court decision.

I don’t want to suggest that Latinos will swing Republican in fall 2008; I don’t think that will happen. But I also don’t think that final tally matters.  I do think that without an organized campaign targeting Latino voters, the pro gay marriage coalitions will have an uphill battle in places like California. And, in the end, presidential electoral politics may be a game of small margins, too. The more than a few Latinos who swing to the right in fall may just be, regrettably, the difference in some places.

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