Introducing “La Hillary.”
Supposedly, this kinder and gentler version of the Democratic front-runner will be more user-friendly for Latinos.
The elements include: proclaiming support for comprehensive immigration reform despite having done little to achieve it while in the Senate; bashing Republicans for slimy attempts to demagogue Latino immigrants as criminals who simultaneously take welfare and take your job; and finally getting around to criticizing her former boss, President Barack Obama, for a deportation policy that went haywire.
And perhaps taking more trips to San Antonio to pose for pictures alongside that city’s former mayor, 41-year-old Mexican American political “rock star” Julian Castro. Some political observers suggest that he has the best chance of any Latino to be vice president since then-San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros was interviewed by Walter Mondale in 1984.
Just as Vice President Joe Biden has decided not to enter the race, speculation is intensifying that Hillary Clinton might ultimately pick the secretary of Housing and Urban Development as her running mate.
While in the Alamo City last week for a Q&A with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Clinton said she would “look really hard at Castro for anything, because that’s how good he is.” In turn, Castro endorsed Clinton, telling folks at a “Latinos for Hillary” rally: “The difference between her and the Republican candidates is that she respects the Latino community.”
I don’t believe that Clinton actually “respects” Latinos or that she would “look really hard” at Castro for the No. 2 spot.
But others certainly do. Castro is already being attacked by Republicans who – having spent the summer using the immigration issue to scare up votes from white people – are now themselves frightened of the possibility of running against a Democratic ticket with a Latino on it.
Memo to Republicans: You obviously have a learning disability when it comes to Latinos. Keep this up, and you won’t see the inside of the White House again until your grandkids have grandkids.
It seems that Castro also has to contend with an absurd whisper campaign by Democrats loyal to Tim Kaine who think Clinton should pick the senator from Virginia as her running mate. Some of them are condescending enough to suggest that Kaine would have greater appeal to Latinos because, unlike Castro, he speaks Spanish.
Memo to Team Kaine: Do more research. You can’t expect people to support you if you don’t understand them. More than 80 percent of Latinos are bilingual or only speak English.
In 1984, without any federal experience, Cisneros was never going to wind up on the ticket. Still, the Mondale campaign probably dangled the possibility to get Latinos excited to vote for the Democratic ticket. After the tease ran its course and Mondale chose Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, 40 percent of Latinos voted to re-elect Republican President Ronald Reagan.
Now Clinton is likely running the same game. It’s not important whether she picks Castro. All that matters is that enough Latino voters think she could pick Castro.
But if Clinton has the Latino vote all wrapped up, as the polls seem to indicate, why is she trying so hard to court that community? Because her Latino support is a mile wide and an inch deep. And that has a lot to do with the fact that Latinos can never be sure which Hillary Clinton is talking to them.
Is it “La Hillary,” who last month penned an op-ed criticizing Republicans for their “hostile, outlandish, vitriolic claims about the immigrant community” and asserting that she “will always stand with the Latino community”? Or is it hard-nosed Hillary who, having worked for the Children’s Defense Fund after graduating from Yale Law School, ignored due process when she declared that Central American child refugees streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border last summer “should be sent back”?
A few months ago, a Gallup poll found that, while 76 percent of Latinos were familiar with Clinton, only 58 percent had a favorable opinion. And in the dark blue state of California, a recent Field Poll of likely Democratic voters found that Clinton has the support of just 52 percent of Latinos.
Castro’s endorsement notwithstanding, the right Democrat could still give Clinton a run for her money with Latinos. Biden might have been that person. He’s likable, honest and trustworthy. Those are areas where Clinton often comes up short.
Latino voters will have to decide for themselves whether they’re OK with that, or whether they want more than she has to offer.
Ruben Navarrette Jr., formerly of Sanger, is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.