FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama’s Latino Problem Getting Worse

Prior to yesterday’s primary in Puerto Rico, which Hillary Clinton won handily by a margin of 36 points, some commentators predicted that Barack Obama would score well amongst the island’s Latino voters.  Puerto Rico, it was argued, was a mulatto society and as such would rush to vote for one of its own on June 1.   Some argued that Puerto Ricans were less prone to vote on the basis of race than Mexican Americans, a voting bloc which consistently turned out for Hillary Clinton in previous primaries.

The CNN exit poll results are now in and it appears that the ugly racial fissures which have so dogged the Democratic Party in recent primary contests are set to continue.  Matching the previous high (in Mississippi), 31 percent of voters said race was a factor in their vote.  Of those, 63 percent voted for Clinton and 37 percent for Obama.

How do we explain the prominence of race in the Puerto Rico primary?  According to scholars, many Puerto Ricans deny their cultural heritage and physical characteristics and buy into an ideology of “whitening” through intermarriage with light skinned groups.  As I pointed out in a recent article on this site (www.counterpunch.org/kozloff05292008.html), 81 per cent  of Puerto Ricans called themselves “white” on the 2000 U.S. census.

All of which is not to say that the Puerto Rico result was a foregone conclusion.  Perhaps, if the island had voted in February and not in June then the outcome would have been different.  What I suspect happened was that the media, by hyping the recent Jeremiah Wright story, turned voters against Obama and brought some latent racism to the surface.  In a sense it’s not so different from what occurred during the West Virginia primary when the media and the Clinton campaign exploited the Wright controversy to win over white voters.

The  Clinton camp now seems intent on exacerbating Latino-Black tensions yet further by arguing that Obama has a Latino problem.  It’s a replay of Clinton’s earlier statements in which the Junior Senator from New York gloated about her success amongst white voters.  “It [Puerto Rico] was a 100 percent Hispanic primary and it shows that he [Obama] has a problem with the Latino community,” Terry McAuliffe, campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton, told reporters.  McAuliffe’s assertion that Obama has a Hispanic “problem” was more direct than any the campaign has made publicly so far.

Clinton may seek to bolster her argument about her own electability against John McCain by pointing to her success amongst Latinos.  Indeed, in a conference call with campaign donors last month, Harold Ickes remarked that “if Obama is against McCain in states where Hispanics are important, I’ll just tell you: he’s not going to be able to cut the mustard on that, and Hillary will. And she’s shown that in Texas and other states.”  Hillary’s strength amongst Latinos will be important, Ickes added, “If we need to bring in some of the Southwestern states or even Florida, where there is a growing population of Puerto Ricans in addition to the Cubans in South Florida as well as older people.”

Puerto Rico is not a state and can’t vote in November.  However, the Latino vote in such close states as Nevada could prove critical and Obama has done poorly amongst this constituency (during the Nevada caucus, Clinton nailed the Latino vote two to one).  In the surveys, Obama still does better amongst Latinos than John McCain.  However, by exploiting race, the Clinton camp and the mainstream media have done John McCain a big favor.  In the long term, both may have made it more difficult for Obama to succeed in the American west, a region he desperately needs to carry in November.

NIKOLAS KOZLOFF is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008)

 

More articles by:

NIKOLAS KOZLOFF is the author of the upcoming No Rain In the Amazon: How South America’s Climate Change Affects The Entire Planet (Palgrave Macmillan, April 2010). Visit his website, senorchichero.

August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail