Monday, October 8, 2012

Hispanicism, Catholicism, and the Presidential Vote of 2012

If and when your children and your grandchildren ask you about what role, as an electorate, Hispanics and Catholics played during the Presidential Election of 2012, what will your response be?  Will you mention the importance of demographics?  Many might wish to describe to their children how it is that Hispanics came into being when, according to Zvi Dor-Ner’s account in his now-famous book:  Columbus, they first landed on the island of Hispaniola.  The crews in Spanish ships he captained:  the Santa Maria, the Nina, and the Pinta prayed giving thanks to the Almighty and sang the Angelus in praise of God for having delivered them from the dreadful sea monsters of the deep and their hellish, dark domain.  Many times during the voyage the men were on the verge of mutiny!  Flash forward:  Our nation is voting to see which candidate will be the best Captain of our mythical flagship, the USS America.  Will America vote for change, Mitt Romney, or will they avoid a mutiny and vote for the current highest officer, President Barack Obama?  

In either case, they will be required to have the support of both Latinos and Catholics.  While “Latinos” is used more to describe the peoples of Mexico, Central America, South America, including Brazil, and the Caribbean, “Hispanics” has a broader connotation to include Spain and Portugal, as well.  (One ought to remember that at one time in the historical past the Iberian peninsula was united under one power.)  For speakers of both Spain and Portugal, it becomes easier to learn each other’s languages than is the case for other neighboring countries.  Historically, both Spain and Portugal have been rivals due to their domination of the sea lanes before the naval ascendency of England.  Today, Brazil is the engine that drives South America!  In an energy-dependent world, Mexico’s petroleum is much sought after. In 1983, less than 30 years ago, Argentina proved they could stand up to Great Britain in a quest to retake the Falkland Islands to restore its original name:  Las Malvinas.  Venezuela with their mighty oil reserves, of course, has also attempted to challenge the other nations of Latin America for leadership of the southern hemisphere!  
Why this mini-discussion of past and recent history vis-a-vis the Americas?  Perhaps, it is well to comprehend the wars between the nations of the Americas as each claimed hegemony of its region.  Certainly, the United States of America’s claim to Manifest Destiny gave the nation a self-proclaimed right to dominate North America.  The early wars with Canada, and later with New Spain, i.e., Mexico, and with Spain, itself, at the close of the 19th Century enabled the US to expand far beyond the Louisiana Purchase from France, to include half of what was previously Mexican territory.  While most of what is related here is “old hat,” the fact that many of the people of Mexico became US citizens overnight is seldom mentioned, especially when there is so much todo about so-called “illegal Immigration!”  Who are these swarthy-complected people that are invading our borders?  Why, they are all of the aforementioned and the peoples--for the most part--of the Caribbean as well, that’s who.  Small wonder, then, that they comprise a population in excess of 55 million people within the US!
In the election of November 2, 2012 hearsay language coming from political pundits state that the US Presidency cannot be won unless one of the candidates is able to amass more than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote (CNN, October 6, 2012)!  No such comment is made about any other political electorate!  Upon closer scrutiny we find that Hispanics are not necessarily a monolith, since the US census has determined that there are Black non-Hispanics and White non-Hispanics.  What does that mean or imply?  Does it mean that some Hispanics are Black and others are White.  Yes, that is the connotation.  If you are a member of that group, you need only declare Hispanic on the census form.  Some, no doubt, check both:  Hispanic and Other, as may be offered on the form.  Are Filipinos Hispanic?  If listed as Asian Pacific, then perhaps it is time they be listed “Asian Pacific Hispanics” or just Hispanics.  Their language consists of three stems:  Chinese, Indo-Malaysian, and Spanish.  Their food and clothing and dances reflect the culture of Spain.  Whether or not they might be listed as Hispanics in future census depends, at present, with the census bureau.  If they were mixed with the potpourri of those who make up Hispanics, then the Hispanic electorate would be substantially augmented.  Take into account that last year Asians and Hispanics had the largest increase in the US census.  Thus, the old adage that where there are numbers there is strength.  That’s why Hispanics make a difference!  Where do they reside?  Most anywhere in the US, in the territories, in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, in the US Military, and on and on!  They live in the Southwest, the Southeast, and the Northeast, by and large.  Pick our largest states and you will find them living in the largest cities:  San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, and you name it!  Winning is all about numbers!
What about the Catholic vote?  Yes, Latinos are their most sought-after group, because of their birthrate and their religious-cultural heritage that began with the conversion of native-Americans to the Faith.  Certainly, the vast majority of Hispanics are Catholic.  Hollywood, in every war film I have seen, goes out of its way to have a terrified Latino soldier make the Sign of the Cross before hitting the beach!  The Evangelicals, of the religious right, have aligned themselves with Catholics to defeat Obama!  Unlike past years, however, moderate Catholic bishops have cautioned against allowing priests to threaten their parishioners with moral consequences, if they vote for the President.  In the past and in the present, attacks on Wade versus Roe have been a no-starter for some Catholics who prefer that they, and not the government, decide whether a pregnancy ought to progress.  Certainly, Catholics do not subscribe to the use of abortion as a means of birth control!  The central issue is one that pertains to a woman’s health and well-being.  (No attempt is being made here to speak for the Church; rather, the attempt is to convey the sentiments of the many with whom the writer has spoken.)  In the future, the Democratic Platform may wish to modify Roe versus Wade to appease the Catholic Democrats within their ranks who view abortion as an abomination, except in cases of a woman’s health, rape, and incest!  Hispanic Catholics are, oftentimes, hard-pressed to vote for the best candidate when religion may become a barrier.  
Separation of Church and State is more of a myth than a reality.  Just look at how often the name of God is invoked in the printing and minting of our currency, in our swearing upon a Bible before presenting testimony to a judge and jury, and when commending a soul to his/her Maker, a fallen soldier.  What makes this election more dramatic is the presence of Hispanic youth who are now eligible to vote.  From where I stand, these new arrivals have greater power than they may realize.  If they vote for the Democratic ticket, they could add to the Hispanic bloc and help the incumbent, President Barack Obama, win a second term.  Nevertheless, the pundits agree, along with the majority of polls that Republican Governor Romney won the first Presidential Debate.  The President will have to overcome his lackluster performance to win the second debate!  The Vice-Presidential Debate could also make an incredible difference.  Both speakers are evenly matched:  while Vice-President Joseph Biden has 40 or more years of political experience, his opponent, Paul Ryan, chairs the powerful House Budget Committee in the US House of Representatives!  The debates, I believe, will have an impactful effect on the election; nevertheless, as of this writing the polls favor the President for a second term.  
See you at the debates and, please, encourage your colleagues and friends and those of La Raza Caucus and La Raza Division to vote!   

Con carino, 

A. Anthony "Tony" Oseguera, PhD, Professor Emeritus

International Broadcasting
Eastern Illinois University

Anderson, SC  29621   
October 7, 2012