Obama and McCain en Español

The Barack Obama campaign began running a new Spanish-language ad in the Latino-rich battleground states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. It is titled “Dos Caras” (“Two Faces”).

For those who do not speak Spanish, here’s the text:

“They want us to forget the insults we’ve put up with, the intolerance. They made us feel marginalized in a country we love so much. John McCain and his Republican friends have two faces. One that says lies just to get our vote and another, worse yet, that continues the failed policies of George Bush that put powerful interests ahead of working families.”

This commercial comes in the wake of John McCain’s recent Spanish-language ad which began running in the same states and which accuses Obama of derailing immigration reform. The ad is called “Which Side are They On?”

Translated, the ad says:

“Obama and his Congressional allies say they are on the side of immigrants. But they are not. The press reports that their efforts were ‘poison pills’ that made immigration reform fail. The result: No guest worker program. No path to citizenship. No secure borders. Reform did not pass. Is that being on our side? Obama and his Congressional allies: Ready to block immigration reform, but not ready to lead.”

The ads reflect a very different tactic in terms of the point they seek to make and the way they construct it. Just on the surface of things, Obama’s has a Spanish title and McCain’s does not. Obama’s ad begins with the candidate declaring in Spanish “I’m Barack Obama and I approve this ad.” John McCain’s declares the same but in English. Obama’s uses the subject noun “we” while McCain’s is accusatory, using “they.”

While the Obama ad could be understood as a Latino voice talking to Latinos as a Latino, it could also suggest a matter-of-fact demonstration of nonwhite solidarity within an increasingly hostile political system. In the wake of the recent study by Pew Hispanic, this is a voice that will resonate with a growing number of Latinos. Furthermore, as any government action is distrusted and seen as disingenuous with respect to serving the Latino immigrant population, the “failed” legislation referred to in the McCain ad might not seem all that much of a loss to Spanish-speaking Latinos.

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