|WACO, April 7 - Bill Cosby, in a monologue from the 1960s, observed that every ethnic group in America will eventually get a turn at the front of the line.
At present it seems that it is the *Hispanic community's turn. I will refer to this situation as the “Hispanic Bubble.”
In recent years there have been two bubbles of note, the “Internet Bubble” and the “Housing Bubble.” Social, political, and economic conditions that are unique and sometimes short lived are the main cause of bubbles. For example, the sudden expansion of technology led to the Internet or Information Technology Bubble that burst in early 2000 and the availability of uncontrolled funds from unregulated banks led the Housing Bubble that burst in 2008.
This column will provide insights about this bubble’s phenomenon, some specific action items to consider and what being at the front of the line portends for this ethnic community. If history tells us anything, the Hispanic Bubble will be temporary and what may be needed is resolve to sustain its relevancy and vibrancy when the bubble deflates. In this column I will focus primarily on the *Mexican American population in the five Southwestern states.
At present the Republican Party is in a reactive mode as it attempts to make sense of the inordinate number of Hispanics that voted in recent elections. Its first reaction has been to agonize over its misguided message directed at the further disenfranchisement of women and ethnic communities. Now it is in a pandering mode that is very selective. Finally, it is trying to reinvent itself as a caring and kinder party. The GOP may offer some peace offerings but will not easily compromise its stance on major issues such as additional funding for public schools and colleges and universities. The GOP is certainly not inclined to tax the rich but will work tirelessly to impede the expansion of Medicaid and the approval of additional resources to serve the poor, the elderly, the very young and the disabled.
What the GOP will do is challenge the Voting Rights Act as a means to thwart the participation of ethnic Americans and women in elections while conveying a concurrent message as a kinder and gentler party. Its recent attempt to void the Violence Against Women Act demonstrates its disrespect for the gender that makes possible our very existence. These actions, I contend, resemble a Trojan horse with its cargo being Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz; New Mexico Governor Suzanne Martinez, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott.
It is imperative that the GOP also identify and train a cadre of Hispanic leaders that is informed and responsive to the needs of the emerging ethnic and women dominated constituencies. To simply let its misguided so-called Hispanic leadership demonstrate a capricious and recalcitrant attitude toward women and ethnic Americans may not bode well for the GOP in future elections.
So what are Democrats doing? My observation, from attendance at meetings such as the Texas Leadership Conference in Edinburg, Texas and at other such functions throughout the Southwest, except for Arizona, is that they continue to take Mexican Americans for granted. The Democratic Party needs to become more aggressive and assume a punch and counter punch mentality. It needs to have a strategy to offset the efforts by the GOP to marginalize America’s ethnic communities and women by blocking legislation to expand the quality of life of Americans at the periphery of the social tier.
For one, it needs to constantly be on the heels of elected officials such as Senator Ted Cruz whose agenda is to follow the mandates of his handler, the Tea Party. As a Chicano, I have viewed the mainstream Mexican American Democrats as being rather nice and benign in countering the continuous efforts of Governor Perry and his minions to isolate and insulate Mexican Americans and women from the mainstream of Texas society.
The recent press conference, to counter the efforts of Governor Perry, Senators Cornyn and Cruz to thwart the expansion of Medicaid, by the brothers, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and U.S. Congressman, Joaquin Castro is an excellent strategy. There is a need for someone to stand up for those who have no voice and who will otherwise suffer if enabling legislation, such Medicaid is disallowed. The two political parties need to identify and train young and committed young leaders who will come forth and stand up for La Communidad. There are simply not enough leaders who possess the skill sets of the Castro brothers but some are present in our communities and universities. The Democratic Party, for its part, has to invest in the mining of this untapped political capital.
An analysis of local and regional voting patterns demonstrate the GOP is still very active in counties such as Cameron, and Nueces and for certain, in the large cities such as Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth. In these metropolitan areas Hispanics comprise over 40 percent of the population but are not significant in electoral outcomes. My experience with the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s tells me that the Texas Mexican American is basically conservative and is but one blink away from going full speed to the right of the political spectrum.
When the Democratic Party failed to notice unfolding events in the 2012 GOP primary; you have the rise of Ted Cruz. Was the Democratic Party even aware of this political Frankenstein creation of the Tea Party? Did the Democratic Party see the Cruz campaign as only having implications for Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who lost the GOP primary? The nature of electoral politics tells us that it is very difficult to unseat an incumbent. Senator Cruz may be the bane of Texans for decades to come. This individual has not demonstrated any sensitivity or awareness and certainly no commitment to expanding the quality of life of ethnic communities, women and the economically oppressed. It seems to me that, for all intent and purpose, this senator does not mean to enfranchise but rather disable the Texas Hispanic community.
According to projections from the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics will account for 40 percent of the growth in the eligible electorate in the U.S. between now and to 2030, at which time 40 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote, up from 23.7 million in 2012.Being eligible to vote becomes moot if the number that register [and that] does not vote is significant. Potential without participation has no currency.
It is my projection that the Mexican American community in the Southwestern United States will become more fluid and will not be tied down to a singular political identity. Instead, they will respond to what matters at the moment, regardless of political affiliation. I would caution both major political parties not to take this community’s allegiance or commitment to either side as a sure thing. Politics is becoming a marketplace commodity and the consumer, the voter, will be doing comparison-shopping. I know that I am.
It thus becomes this community’s responsibility to train and develop a politically astute electorate regardless of its political affiliations. We need an electorate that is reasonable; data based, informed and is willing to be engaged in debate and dialogue while disagreeing but never being disagreeable. To me that is a mark of both personal and political maturity.
As I mentioned in a previous Guardian column, the Hispanic community must become more assertive in its social agendas. I propose the following action items to guide what this community must do to maintain its sustainability when its bubble bursts.
• Find a niche and commit to it. In this instance, I propose that it be, “Primero la Familia.” Every element of its agenda must be directed at the sustainability of the family.
• Maintain its electoral impetus. It cannot assume that future electoral turnouts will be consistently similar to those of the immediate past elections.
• Develop a cadre of data based and politically astute leaders, at all levels, who are prepared with skills in policy, analysis, demographics, public speaking, debate, negotiation, working with diverse constituencies, finance, and a common sense approach to accountability. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund [MALDEF] put this type of leadership training into effect in the 1980s and we need a network of this type of training centers. The present community leadership programs are not directed at the development of hard skill sets; rather they can best be described as show and tell events.
• Develop a not-for-profit agency with sites in different regions of the Southwestern United States. The focus of this agency would be to provide ongoing technical assistance targeted to expand access and resources to create safer neighborhoods, responsive schools and sustainable economic and workforce development. It should also have a social policy research capacity that provides data to support responsive action to inform leadership so that there may be quick action to reform erratic policy and practices in governance agencies or by elected officials of any political affiliation.
• Hold leaders responsible and accountable for not only their words but for their actions and discrete use of allocated resources. It is easy for politicians to get carried away with data free pronouncements that are generally left unchallenged. The electorate should be sufficiently informed to ask: When? What? Why? Where? And Who?
• Make corporate American pay. Recent data show that Hispanics make up a nearly $1 trillion market. It has, according to several publications, “purchasing power.” 2007 marked the first year that Hispanics controlled more disposable personal income than any other U.S. ethnic group. Mexican Americans need to take a plan to corporate America to invest some of its profits for the creation of a foundation directed at expanding the quality of life for Hispanics. Some foundations have components that sometime target diverse communities but none are singular and consistent. Just imagine the corpus funds that such a foundation would have if every Fortune 500 Corporation contributed 0.005 percent of its tax deferred funds to support this client base? Our community should not be simply used as the consumer of processed foods that lack nutritional value, cheap clothing made in Asia or the latest technology gadget that is always the next great thing.
To me the electoral success of Mexican Americans, whether Republican or Democrat will depend on how they attend to the participation of Hispanic females. This cohort must be the stimulus for the sustainable development of this community. The following data will hopefully open the eyes of those that wish to continue the old ways of leadership participation that has traditionally been exclusionary and the domain of males; mostly old white men.
• Hispanic females in the U.S will reach 51 million by 2050 (an increase of 194 percent from 2000).
• Hispanic females will make up 25 percent of the total U.S. female population (estimated to be 213.38 million, with only 48 percent growth) by 2050.
• The current attainment of Hispanic women surpasses that of Hispanic men in all educational categories, except for advanced degrees.
• Hispanic women have a lower proportion of those with no high school degree (42 percent versus 44 percent of Hispanic men), and slightly higher proportions of those with high school degrees, some college/ associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees.
• Despite these disparities, Hispanic women have made significant gains in recent years. While the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred to U.S. women increased by 35 percent from 1976 to 2000, the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by Hispanic women soared by 43 percent over the same period.
• Hispanic women have surpassed Hispanic men in graduate enrollment. In 2000, over 60 percent of Latinos enrolled in graduate education were women. Mexican American females comprise the majority of enrollment at every South Texas college and university from Brownsville to El Paso.
• There is an increasing political participation by Hispanic females. Of the 13.1 million Hispanic females, 63 percent (8.2 million) held U.S. citizenship in 2004, of which 60 percent (5 million) registered to vote.
• Fifty five percent of the eligible females voted compared to 45 percent of the registered males. Eighty three percent of the registered Hispanic women voted in the 2004 presidential and other national elections. Data show that in both the 2008 and 2012 national elections that 55 percent of ethnic women voted compared to 47 percent of ethnic males between the ages of 18-29 years.
I would advise both political parties that to ignore the Hispanic female, as a crucial cog in its endeavors to expand opportunities for participation, is a fool’s errand. The issues of family violence, family health, nutrition, family planning, Medicaid, early childhood education, economic equity and the overall welfare and security of the family resonate with females, I believe, more than with males.
When females, of whatever ethnicity or color, see elected officials such as Cruz and Rubio voting against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, they will remember. When Cornyn, Perry, and Cruz unite to gut Medicaid in Texas, they will remember. When the majority GOP legislature provides inadequate funding for early childhood education, they will remember. They will also remember when the Democratic Party fails to responds with assertive action to counter the disenfranchisement initiatives of the Tea Party and the mainstream GOP.
The Hispanic bubble will burst within the next six to twelve months. What must remain is an action plan that is directed at the continuous improvement of this community that is not dependent on temporal events or the unfounded perception that, “demography is destiny.” The key, I believe, is constant political education, leadership development, and the expansion of opportunities for women and for this community to work for generations that are yet to be born. Our children, grandchildren and their children must benefit from the decisions we make today. As the overused cliché states, “failure is not an option.”
We are all challenged be a part of a nation that is always in a state of metamorphosis. To be active and constructive participants in this nation’s future, Mexican Americans must be prepared to offer their best as a people whose roots, labor and toil saturates the landscape of the Southwest and America. Only by being active and consistent participants in the body politic will they continuously affirm their stake in this country’s future.
*The terms Mexican American and Hispanic are used interchangeably and reference is about Americans who lineage and heritage is linked to the pre-1820s coming of whites to Mexico [Tejas].
Baltazar Acevedo y Arispe, Jr., Ph. D., is a Chicano and the founder of the Borderlands Consulting Group. He is a retired tenured professor of research and leadership at UT Pan American. He resides in Waco, Texas and New Mexico.