October 27, 2000
By Jerome DeHerrera
It is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks.
And so it is with the Republican Party, which is posting signs in Latino communities and neighborhoods to intimidate Hispanic voters in order to discourage them from voting on Election Day.
For years, the Republican Party, especially in the South and Southwest, has used these tactics to keep individuals who are easily scared from voting. In Arizona and Texas years ago, state party officials hired guards to dress as officers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to serve as "guards" at the polling booths.
Now it is happening in states where the race for president is close. The most glaring example is in New Mexico, where the state Republican Party has begun to print signs that warn eligible voters from voting illegally.
Who are these signs meant for, but Latino, African American and other minority voters, who can be easily intimidated and who hold the margin for victory for both parties. If they vote, they will likely vote for Gore. If they don't vote, Bush could win by a slim margin.
The signs proclaim that it is a federal crime punishable by fines of up to $20,000 to vote illegally. For individuals whose families might have been the target of official oppression in the past, be it from a local police department or the INS itself, these signs could be very effective.
For individuals who come from places where government is not a friendly institution, these signs could intimidate them into not voting.
This is an explosive situation because it strikes at the very decency of America, where the right to vote is sacred. When a person or group attempts to prevent others from exercising their democratic right to vote, they strike at the very heart of what this country is all about.
The issues that Latinos must consider before they cast their vote for President are numerous and important. Yes, they range from Social Security to Medicare to education to health services to safe streets and safe schools.
It is clear that on these issues, the Democratic Party is the most aggressive in defending the interests of Latinos.
But Latinos, even those who are attracted to George W. Bush, must consider the larger question at hand that is brought up by the New Mexico situation: We cannot continue to progress socially and politically if we allow anyone in our community to be held back by racist practices as those in New Mexico and other states.
How can any Latino possibly tolerate this kind of treatment in any part of our community? When they met in Philadelphia for their convention, the Republican party made a big deal out of showing brown and black faces on television and on stage; and their ads on television feature Bush's Mexican-American sister-in-law and the celebrated nephew, George P. Bush.
On television George Bush and the Republicans put on a show. But on the ground, out in the neighborhoods of New Mexico, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Missouri, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, the old dog is loose.
Los Republicanos quieren nuestra votos, pero no quieren nosotros.
Jerome writes a political column from Washington D.C. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org