Election throwback: Corridos, madrinas and how to woo the Latino vote

A day away from the presidential election, early voting returns show an increase in Latino voter turnout in key states across the country, including Texas.

In Texas alone, Latino turnout in 20 of the state’s largest counties had already exceeded Latino early voting turnout in 2012 by 26 percent, and voters with Spanish surnames made up 18.8 percent of the 3.8 million ballots cast through Wednesday in those 20 counties – a 20.1-percent increase over their share of the electorate in 2012.

Latino turnout is also poised to make a significant impact in key states like ArizonaFlorida and Nevada, where the early voting period was extended until 10 p.m. Friday at a grocery store in a heavily Latino area of Las Vegas to allow all people in line to cast their vote.

And although the scope and impact of the increase in Latino turnout for this presidential election will not be fully known until after Tuesday, the noted rise cannot be denied.

“We’re seeing more Hispanics register to vote and, like the numbers say, we’re seeing more Hispanics show up,” Derek Ryan, a political consultant and former research director of the Republican Party of Texas, told the American-Statesman last week.

This presidential election, perhaps because of Donald Trump’s statements about Mexican immigrants and building a border wall, has seen an increase in outreach to Latino voters. Notably, the history of Latino voter outreach in national elections goes as far back as 1960 with the campaign of John F. Kennedy airing Spanish language ads featuring Jackie Kennedy urging Latinos to vote for her husband.

Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, also benefited from Latino support. Historical photos often show voters at campaign stops with “Viva Johnson” posters.

But as the recent PBS documentary “Willie Velasquez: Your Vote is Your Voice” shows, it was a Republican, John Tower, who first used the power of the mass media to woo Latino voters on a large scale during his 1978 re-election bid for the U.S. Senate.

With the help of advertising executive Lionel Sosa (a longtime Republican, who has said he will vote for Hillary Clinton this year), Tower put together a media campaign based around “El Corrido de John Tower,” a song written as a traditional Mexican ballad that espoused Tower’s record of helping the Latino community. Notably, the song only notes one Latino issue, bilingual education, that Tower had worked on.

That did not matter. Tower won 32 percent of the Latino vote, a traditionally Democratic stronghold, which helped him edge out Democrat Bob Krueger by less than a percentage point.

In another show that Republicans can turn out Latino voters, George W. Bush won 40 percent and 44 percent of the Latino vote nationally in his respective presidential races in 2000 and 2004.

More recently, Gov. Greg Abbott aired a television ad during his 2014 election campaign that featured his mother-in-law, who is Latina, espousing his Catholic faith and values. In the ad, she says she is not only Abbott’s mother-in-law but also his madrina, a Spanish word that means godmother but is also loaded with affectionate connotation for Latinos.

During this presidential elections, both campaigns had pretty dismal attempts at wooing Latinos.

Trump, who started his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, further alienated himself through botched attempts to reach out to Latinos. On Cinco de Mayo, (which, for the record, is not Mexican Independence Day) Trump posted a picture on Twitter of himself eating a Taco Bowl at Trump Tower with a message that read “I love Hispanics” and later pivoted to a “What Have You Got to Lose?” appeal to Latinos and other voters of color.

For her part, Hillary Clinton, was criticized when her campaign posted an article titled “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela” that was seen as a failed effort to connect with Latinos that perpetuated stereotypes. The article listed similarities such as “she cares about children” and unnecessarily interspersed Spanish words into its text, in what was largely criticized as a move to “Hispander,” or pander, to Hispanics. She was also criticized for her campaign’s attempt to brand her as “La Hillary.”

Those criticisms may not be enough to affect her popularity with Latino voters, who have traditionally viewed Clinton and her husband, Bill, favorably.

On Tuesday, we’ll have a clear answer to who wooed the Latino vote better. But we can always be proud that the first politician to really channel his efforts into a concerted Latino outreach campaign was a Texan.

 

Latino Vote: As elections near, advocates urge Latinos to make their voices heard

With less than a month to go before the presidential elections, advocacy groups are urging Latino voters to make their voices heard at the polls.

On Thursday, Janet Munguia, the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza – the largest Hispanic advocacy and civil rights group in the country – will speak at East Austin College Prep about the lack of political outreach to Latino voters.

Later in the month, the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) will hold a “Get out the Latino Vote” breakfast at Angie’s Restaurant on 1307 E. Seventh Street. That event, on Oct. 21 at 8:30 a.m., will be attended by Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who will inform prospective voters on what documents they will need to present to vote in November.

Several Austin business owners launched a ‘Guac the Vote’ campaign this month to use the ubiquitous taco trucks in the city as voter registration locations.

The General Consulate of Mexico in Austin has also been hosting citizenship drives this year to engage Mexicans in the United States who qualify for citizenship in the American electoral process.

Carlos González Gutiérrez, the consul general of Mexico in Austin, has said in the past: “We will aggressively ask people to exercise their rights and the possibilities they acquire by becoming U.S. citizens.”

On Monday, Travis County announced it had registered more than 90 percent of its eligible voters. County officials said they would make a big push Tuesday – the last day to sign up to register to vote in the presidential election in November – to make sure people get registered before the deadline.

The county’s main tax office at 5501 Airport Boulevard will be open until midnight and voter registrars will be signing people up to vote at all Thundercloud Sub and Alamo Drafthouse locations in the county.

Column: On the veep debate, basketball on summer nights and ‘that Mexican thing’

FARMVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 04: Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (L) and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence (R) debate during the Vice Presidential Debate at Longwood University on October 4, 2016 in Farmville, Virginia. This is the second of four debates during the presidential election season and the only debate between the vice presidential candidates. (Photo by Andrew Gombert - Pool/Getty Images)
FARMVILLE, VA – OCTOBER 04: Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (L) and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence (R) debate during the Vice Presidential Debate at Longwood University on October 4, 2016 in Farmville, Virginia. This is the second of four debates during the presidential election season and the only debate between the vice presidential candidates. (Photo by Andrew Gombert – Pool/Getty Images)

I didn’t do college right.

I was a first-generation college student and when I came home for summer from my first two years at UCLA, I didn’t head off to an internship like many of my friends. I didn’t know any better. I was just happy to be home.

So what did I do? I read a lot, ran miles upon miles to lose the weight I’d gained in the dining halls and did chores to keep my mother happy. But my favorite part of those summers was playing basketball with my friends almost every day at Philadelphia Park on the south side of Pomona, Calif.

We’d show up at 5 p.m. and not stop until until the dark of the night prevented us from seeing the orange leather sphere anymore. Those hours upon hours spent at the park are some of the best memories of my life.

So why am I telling you this? Well, it was what popped into my mind as I watched the vice presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence.

Now, how did that pop into my head you may ask? Well our pick-up games at the park inevitably attracted a motley crue of characters.

There were little kids who had shown up to the park with their families and gravitated toward the ball courts, old Mexican guys who had unexpected Dirk Nowitzki-like skills to sink 15-foot jump shots, gangsters who had traveled from the next block over and guys who were completely uninterested in doing anything but shooting three-pointers every time they got the ball.

There was also a recurring character. A scrappy guy with average build. Nice enough, but nothing special on the court. If you had him on your team you were guaranteed that he wouldn’t really hurt you as long as he stuck to his script and didn’t try to do anything fancy. But if you were playing against him, he could annoy the heck out of you with his persistent defense.

That guy was Tim Kaine on the vice presidential debate stage Tuesday night. He came in with a plan: remind the American public about Trump’s tax issues and controversial comments. Stay on that point until you wear yourself out.

There was another recurring character on our basketball court at Philadelphia Park. A fundamentally sound guy with a decent jump shot. He didn’t do anything fancy but he was so smart about the shots he took that, while he didn’t sink every shot, his output resulted in an overall plus for his team. And he was tall enough to play solid defense and make some good blocks on the other team.

That was Mike Pence Tuesday night. No matter how much Kaine prodded him to defend Donald Trump’s controversial comments, Pence wouldn’t take the bait. Showing tremendous restraint and a spotty if not selective memory, Pence deflected point after point from Kaine on Trump’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, his suggestion that women who had abortions should be punished and Trump’s remarks against a Mexican-American judge hearing a case against Trump University.

Whatever you want to say about the lack of fact-checking from the moderator in the debate, Pence on Tuesday night was tall enough to play the solid defense the Trump campaign needed from him.

In contrast to Kaine’s strategy of pressing his point until exhaustion (and possibly an undecided voter’s chagrin), Pence took a different approach. The reality of his running partner’s statements notwithstanding, Pence came off for much of the debate as aloof, calm and collected to those who (like much of the American public) do not follow every single turn of the campaign.

He interrupted far less than Kaine and, much like Hillary Clinton in the first debate, he let arguments slide off of him and appeared to take the high road as his opponent stayed on the attack.

But near the end of the debate, I realized that no one had really made any attempt to appeal to Latino voters. The immigration segment of the debate, where most people seem to like to pigeonhole Latino voters, offered no new information on the candidates that would change a person’s mind.

And although either side could have used the issue of refugees (there are plenty of them from Central America) or foreign policy (Colombia just decided against a peace treaty to end a half a century of war with Communist guerrillas, the U.S. has re-opened diplomatic ties with Cuba, and Mexico, our neighbor to the south, offers an ally that is at the same time rich with potential and plagued by drug wars and political corruption), to appeal to Latino voters neither of them even tried.

This again brought me back to the basketball court of my college years. During our hours of revelry on that asphalt, we became so enthralled in the competition, so enraptured by the joy of basketball on summer nights with our friends that we often forgot the world around us.

But right next to our basketball courts there were soccer fields. There, groups of paisanos who came to the park after work ran pick-up soccer games and enjoyed, in their language, the game that they loved. Sometimes, it was our neighbors or tíos and tías who were on the sidelines of that soccer field watching their kids play a middle of the week game.

We didn’t really pay that much attention to them. We were too caught up in our game. But they always noticed when something happened to us, whether it was someone causing trouble, a fight breaking out or somebody getting seriously hurt during a play.

For much of the debate, Pence played brilliant defense. On immigration, he side-stepped and avoided elaborating on Trump’s plan, which could have made his numbers among Latinos even worse.

But near the end of the debate, Pence blurted out: “You whipped out that Mexican thing again” when Kaine brought up Trump’s characterization of Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.

No one had really appealed to Latinos throughout the entire debate, but when Pence said that, you better believe the Latino voters on the soccer field of America started watching the vice presidential basketball court. That’s the line Latinos are going to remember after this debate.

Now Pence and Trump have to walk out of that basketball court and through the soccer fields to get home. On Nov. 8, we’ll see if Latinos let them.

Poll: Latinos oppose Trump, back Clinton, lean Democrat

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Flynn Center of the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A poll released Wednesday indicates that nearly 80 percent of Latinos in battleground states have an unfavorable view of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Latinos in battleground states oppose Donald Trump’s proposals and lean toward ideas espoused by the Democratic party, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll conducted by Latino Decisions on behalf of the Latino Victory Project surveyed 800 registered Latino voters in battleground states during last week’s convention has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted in English and Spanish based on the respondent’s choice and used a mix of online surveys and landline and cell phone interviews. Respondents to the poll came from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin

The Latino Victory Project is a non-partisan group co-founded by Eva Longoria that works to ensure that the voices of Latinos are heard at all levels of government. It has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

Seventy-one percent of Latinos in battleground states said they would likely vote for Clinton if the election was today, compared to 24 percent who said the same about Trump. Sixty-four percent said the Democratic Party was more aligned with their views, compared to 26 percent who said the Republican Party was more reflective of them on issues.

The poll found that 75 percent of Latinos have an overall favorable view of President Barack Obama. Sixty-two percent have an overall favorable view of Hillary Clinton, while only 20 percent have an overall favorable view of Trump. The Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, did only slightly better with 24 percent of respondents saying they had an overall favorable view of him.

And the poll indicated that Trump would have an overall negative effect on other Republicans. Overall, 62 percent of respondents said they are less likely to vote for a Republican who says they disagree with Trump on many things but will still support him in the presidential election. Even if Republican candidates said they would not support Trump, only 33 percent of respondents said that would make them overall more likely to vote for that candidate.

Seventy-five percent of Latinos in battleground states said Trump had encouraged audiences to be angry and hostile toward Latinos, Muslims and immigrants. Similarly, 73 percent said Trump’s campaign events had been violent and dangerous, and 71 percent said Trump had contributed to making the country angrier and more divided on racial issues.

On policy proposals, respondents also rejected Trump and tended toward ideas pushed by the Democratic party.

Ninety-five percent of those surveyed said people should be required to pass a background check to buy a gun and 67 percent supported a ban on assault weapon sales. Eighty percent of Latinos said they supported addressing climate change by making clean energy technology and jobs.

Eighty-two percent said they supported a comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Thirteen percent of respondents said all undocumented immigrants living in the country should be deported.

Sixty-eight percent supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and 86 percent supported giving parents paid leave. Ninety-four percent said that overall they supported strengthening laws to ensure women get paid the same as men for equal work.

In contrast to a perception of Latinos as more conservative leaning on social issues, the poll showed that 68 percent believe that laws should not interfere with women’s reproductive health care, including access to contraception and abortion.

Twenty-six percent of respondents supported Trump’s proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country, but 57 percent said that a religious test that singles out a single group is against American values.

Thirty-five percent of Latinos said the Affordable Health Care Act should be repealed, as Trump has promised to move to do on his first day in office. But 59 percent said it is working well and should remain in place.

In this year’s election, 36 percent of Latinos in battleground states are more motivated to vote than they were in 2012 and 35 percent of those respondents attribute that to wanting to stop Trump and fight back against racism.

Click here for the full results of the survey

 

Texas Democrats suggest a Castro brother take over as DNC chair

The Texas Democratic Party have suggested that either Julian or Joaquin Castro should take over as chairman of the Democratic National Party after Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the current chairwoman, announced her resignation Sunday.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, will visit Austin on Thursday to speak with the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. Photo from November 20, 2014. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, will visit Austin on Thursday to speak with the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. Photo from November 20, 2014.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“In our humble opinion Texas Democrats believe that both Julian and Joaquin Castro have what it takes to pick up the reins and move the party forward,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “It would be remarkable to have the first Hispanic chair of the Democratic National Committee.”

Julian Castro, the current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was considered by many a possible vice presidential candidate before Hillary Clinton announced Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate Friday. Joaquin Castro is a U.S. representative from San Antonio. Both hail from the Alamo city and are popular figures among Texas Democrats.

Wasserman Schultz, who will step down after the completion of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, has faced recent scrutiny after the publication of leaked emails from Democratic National Committee staffers that appear to favor Clinton over her competitor Bernie Sanders during the presidential primaries. She served as chair of the committee since May 2011.

“Texas Democrats thank Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz for her hard work, leadership and commitment to our great party,” Hinojosa said in his statement. “She has fought heart and soul for this party, and we are well-poised to succeed in November because of her efforts.”

Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist and the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, will act as interim chairwoman through the end of the presidential election, according to committee spokesman, Luis Miranda.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, responded to Wasserman Schultz’s resignation on Twitter.

“The highly neurotic Debbie Wasserman Schultz is angry that, after stealing and cheating her way to a Crooked Hillary victory, she’s out!”

New campaign aims to turn Trump’s message on its head

From the beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump made headlines instantly after negative comments about Mexican immigrants. He said Mexicans crossing the border brought drugs, brought crime, were rapists, and some, he assumed, were good people.

In the 10 months since, Trump has doubled down on negative comments about Latinos and also made negative comments about other groups of people, including Muslims and women. And despite vocal opposition from Democrats, Republicans, pundits and civics rights groups, Trump has continued making negative (and often egregious and erroneous) statements about minority groups, seemingly without hurting his standing as the front-runner for the presidential nomination.

Now, an immigrant rights group from Los Angeles has started a new campaign to turn Trump’s message on its head. Through the Turn Ignorance Around campaign, the Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles uses the insinuations Trump made in his campaign announcement speech – that immigrants were criminals – and uses it to make its own point about the contributions the group thinks immigrants, and Latinos in general, make to the United States.

The campaign’s video starts with various Latinos looking into the camera and saying: “I’m a dealer,” “I’m a killer,” “I’m a murderer,” “I’m an attacker,” and then turns the concept around when one man says “I’m a trafficker” then turns around to reveal a shirt that says “A trafficker of stories. I’m a director and I’m Latino.”

The “murderer” says he’s a murderer of boredom: “I’m a comedian.”

One of the “dealers” says she’s a “dealer of care”: a nanny.

The “attacker” says he’s an “attacker of ignorance”: a student.

One by one, each person who introduced themselves as some sort of criminal turns around and reveals the back of their shirt which has their profession (actress, firefighter, attorney, etc.) followed by the words “And I’m Latino.”

“It’s time to turn ignorance around,” they say and the video goes off into a montage of Latino faces. The video ends with the social media campaigns two hashtags #TurnIgnoranceAround and #DumpTrump. The video has been watched more than 885,000 times.

A campaign by the Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles launched a new campaign that flip Donald Trump's comments on immigrants and Latinos on its head.
A campaign by the Coalition for Humane Rights of Immigrants of Los Angeles launched a new campaign that flip Donald Trump’s comments on immigrants and Latinos on its head.

Mexican-American Norteño group writes corrido for Bernie Sanders

For much of the campaign trail, pundits have said that Bernie Sanders has a Latino problem.

The narrative has been that his opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, has stronger roots and ground game among Latino communities and that the voting bloc’s support cannot be wrested away.

But Sanders received a helpful boost in his efforts to prove pundits wrong this week from a somewhat unexpected source: a viral video of a California Norteño band singing a corrido that praises his candidacy.

Grupo La Meta of Modesto, California published their song “El Quemazón” (Translation for “The Burn,” which presumably is a play on “Feeling ‘the Bern'”) to YouTube on Tuesday and the video has been seen more than 30,000 times since. In an interview with Buzzfeed News, Juve Quintana, the 26-year-old singer and songwriter for the group said he was turned on to Sanders by his girlfriend.

“I can relate to him and everything he wants to do for us,” Quintana told Buzzfeed News. “I thought what can I do so the Hispanics, the paisanos, the Mexicans vote for him? Everyone I speak to says ‘I’m going to vote for Hillary’ and I say ‘Have you heard of Bernie Sanders?” And they say ‘No, I don’t even know who that is.’”

A corrido is a traditional poem or song in the Spanish language, which is especially popular in Mexico. In recent years, the song form has been used to lionize drug dealers and cartel leaders, but had been used traditionally to tell romantic stories and epic adventures.

The group’s song follows many of the traditions of corridos like speaking about the protagonist’s life in heroic terms, positioning him as an Everyman fighting against enormous odds and exaggerating some of his characteristics (the song claims Sanders “sees everyone as children of God” even though the candidate has never expressed an overtly religious message during his campaign and characterizes him as a “Robin Hood” figure.)

The song also makes Sanders appealing to working-class Mexican families by touting his record of fighting against the rich, supporting civil rights and fighting against segregation, even calling him “compa,” a word used to designate close friends.

It makes an effort to connect him to the struggle of Mexican working-class families by saying neither the rich nor television want him, emphasizing that Sanders also had immigrant parents and wants everyone – regardless of legal status- to have health insurance and saying that Sanders noticed from a young age that the rich got richer while the poor “no tenian ni para el frijol” – a colloquial way of saying, people were starving.

Here in full are the song’s lyrics in Spanish and English translations:

 

Es un hombre con muchas visiones  (He’s a man with many ideas)

para mejorar a este país, (On how to improve this country)

corriendo para ser presidente, (running to be the next president)

pero los ricos no lo quieren aquí. (but the rich do not want him here.)

Bernie Sanders se llama el compa,  (Bernie Sanders is the ‘compa’s’ name)

su quemazón ahora van a sentir. (And now you will feel his Bern.)  

 

Nueva York estado que lo vio nacer, (The state of New York is where he was born)

En las calles de Brooklyn se crío,  (In the streets of Brooklyn he was raised)

Desde niño empezó a notar, (Since he was a child he started to see)   

Que los ricos se hacían más ricos, (That the rich just kept getting richer)

Y los pobres todo el día chambeando, (And the poor who were working all day)

Y muchos ni tenían para el frijol. (Barely had enough to eat.)

 

 

Hijo de padres inmigrantes, (He’s the son of immigrant parents,)

que vinieron a mejorar sus vidas, (who came to make a better life for themselves,)

Trabajando para salir adelante, (working hard to get ahead,)

como todos lo hacemos hoy en día. (like we all do every day.)

Venimos con el mismo sueño,  (We all come with the same dream,)

sacar adelante a nuestras familias. (make a better life for our families.)

 

¡Y echale compa Bernie! (Let’s go Bernie!)

Hasta llegar a la Casa Blanca. (All the way to the White House.)

 

Los ricos ni la tele lo quieren, (Neither the rich, nor TV like him, )

Tienen miedo que vaya a ganar, (They’re scared he might win,)

Porque quiere que el colegio sea gratis, (Because he wants college to be free,)

Pa’ que nuestros hijos puedan triunfar, (So our kids can succeed.)

Quiere cuidado de salud para todos, (He wants health insurance for all,)

Sea ciudadano o seas illegal. (whether or not you’re a citizen.)

 

En Chicago caio tras las rejas, (In Chicago, he fell behind prison bars,)

Por protestar contra la segregación, (For fighting against segregation,)

No le importa el color de tu piel, (He doesn’t care about the color of your skin,)

Pa’ el todos somos hijos de Dios. (He thinks we’re all children of God.)

Muchos le apodan ‘Robin Hood,’ (Many call him Robin Hood,)

otros le dicen ‘El Quemazón.’ (Others call him The Bern.)

 

Peleando por los derechos humanos, (Fighting for human rights,)

Pero ni la ley lo aplaco, (Not even the law could stop him,)

El sigue luchando hasta ser (He’ll keep fighting until he is)

Presidente de esta nación. (the president of this country.)

Bernie Sanders se llama el compa (Bernie Sanders is the compa’s name,)

Este es su corrido ‘El Quemazón.’ (This is his song, The Bern.)

A Mexican-American Norteño band from Southern California wrote a song praising Bernie Sanders.
A Mexican-American Norteño band from California wrote a song praising Bernie Sanders.

Correction: This story has been updated. The band “Grupo La Meta” is from Modesto, which is not in Southern California.