Obama and LULAC

Here is the video of Barack Obama’s speech on Tuesday, July 8, 2008, delivered at the annual convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Founded in 1929, LULAC is one of the oldest and most durable civil rights focused organizations within the diverse Latin American-descent population. Founded as a Mexican American assimilationist organization at the height of the nativist political sentiment sweeping regional and national politics, LULAC once stood for the “best and purest form of Americanism.”  Today, while they are still moderate in their political approach, they have grown to stand for issues confronting both immigrant and non-immigrant alike.

Obama’s speech is clever, delivering all the right connections for a group of political players looking to have a greater role in mainstream politics.  At the same time, he speaks to activists working on the ground in numerous grassroots campaigns for justice.  As Roberto Lovato so adroitly points out, he failed to make any mention of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which disproportionately affect working-class (and, more than likely) Latino families.

Both McCain and Obama will speak at the convention of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) next week.  As I mentioned earlier, this is a major political even for the future of NCLR as they further solidify their function as the Latino voice in mainstream national politics.

9 thoughts on “Obama and LULAC

  1. Tom, I’ve seen you mention the adverse impact of the war on Latinos many times now. As Elliot might say, show me the data! If you look, you’ll find that latinos or hispanics are actually underrepresented in our VOLUNTEER forces.

    From a RAND study:
    “Race and ethnicity. In fiscal year 2002, African Americans were slightly overrepresented among new enlistees relative to the civilian population: 16 percent compared with 14 percent. However, this is considerably more equitable than was the 1973 level of 28 percent. Latinos are currently underrepresented, making up 16 percent of all civilians but only 11 percent of new enlistees (see Figure 4). ”

    I don’t support the war either, but there are enough legitimate reasons to oppose it that we shouldn’t have to make stuff up.

    Lot’s more of interest here:
    http://www.rand.org/publications/randreview/issues/fall2006/volunteer.html

    As for the working class angle, certainly upper income kids do not go into the military with any regularity. What would be interesting to know is whether individuals from low incomes who enter the military have higher average lifetime earnings than those who don’t.

  2. Alas, RAND only covered “new inductees” citing a single year of post-9/11 numbers. Historically, Latino and African American populations have not only been over-represented, but overtly targeted in recruitment (look up Project 1000 and check out the recruitment stipulations in No Child Left Behind). Worse yet, they have been even more over-represented in infantry units, those seeing actual combat. RAND reports only on the composition of the entire force, most of which do not see combat.

    The historical and present day work is clear. Ralph Guzman showed a death rate in Vietnam of 20% though Latinos were but 11% at the time. The second and third most common surnames on “the wall” are Latino surnames. Jorge Mariscal, of UCSD, continues to write on the disproportionate way Latinos are finding their ways into the military and into combat.

    Of course, all of this comes with the U.S. Armed Forces being selectively tight-lipped about the numbers of racial minorities in their ranks, except when they find PR use for them.

    Oh, my dear Peter, I’ve got the data…

  3. DOD force composition study can be found here:
    http://www.humrro.org/poprep/poprep05/summary/summary.html

    Basically the same results as the limited RAND sample. The military does not appear to be particularly tight lipped on this matter.

    There is a large discrepancy between enlisted and officer ranking for minorities. But as to your claim that minorities are over selected for actual combat duty, I don’t see anything that would support that. Do you have some current data on this point? I’d be interested in seeing it.

    One aspect of the RAND study that I found interesting is that the enlisted population is on average smarter and better educated than the overall US population. These aren’t idiots that are joining the force, but relatively intelligent high school graduates. What does that say about claims that people join the military through trickery or lack of opportunity?

  4. The figures I do not see are the racial/ethnic or class composition for people serving or dying in combat. The so-called “front line” numbers are my concern.

    If Prof. Guzman’s methods were reapplied to todays death rosters I suspect Latinos wouldn’t be any higher than their numbers, since there is an over-reliance on reservists it seems, especially in the early years of these wars.

    But you are right to see my main concern is with recruitment strategies. These, too, must be considered in their parts. I have three friends in the military–two of them are doctors. These two are hardly the enlisted soldier of concern.

  5. These two politicians are a clear case of what I call show and tell, Show you how much they care about the Latino’s problems and tell you what they think you want to hear. The candidates have flipped/flopped so consistently about other important issues’s that it’s a wonder how any one ethnic group can take them seriously. Let’s not fall victims to their smile and speeches, Lets make sure the issues and credibility is foremost on our minds. The LULAC is a respected leader and should not be taken for granted. Latino’s deserve the truth and “we” know our vote could make the difference.

  6. So, Peggy, you want him to do more political “show and tell”? Don’t we have enough of politicians using soldiers for photo ops? Don’t we have enough of political commentary that looks at things as superficial as photo ops instead of the substance of what one said in a speech to 200,000 Germans?

  7. Please re-read my comment both politicians are nothing but show and tell. Who can stand another photo op? Has anyone seen the picture of Obama filling sand bags? Make’s a person think how long did Obama get his hands dirty? A coincidence that there was a camera there, Right? Which candidate is the lesser of the two evils? My vote is very precious to me and I’m not giving it up because of Photo’s, speeches, or how many promises are made. Issue’s, cedibility, political agenda, and political platform. In the end that’s who will get my vote.
    I’m Penny not Peggy.

  8. First off, Penny, these candidates are followed from now until November for every single public appearance. All things they decide and plan to do become photo ops.

    It’s your second comment that struck me as a contrast to your first. What you sent out were links from the neo-con political hacks who were trying to spin some public appearances. You even suggested he should have gone to visit wounded veterans.

    To me, that is nothing but the show and tell politics you discussed. Neither Obama or McCain is playing a distinctly different game in this sense since, largely, it frames a political environment of predictability. Media outlets are also part of it, having a say in how it is played by both candidates. But if we just decide that some of these PR tactics are part of substance and others are not, then we do little to challenge it from our end either.

    Thanks for reading, and sorry about the name.

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