September 1, 2000
By Raoul Lowery Contreras
Democrat Al Gore has reinvented himself into an "us versus them" candidate. Surveys show that much of the American public (54%) is invested in the stock market, so will it buy a Marxist-Leninist-Communist like class warfare campaign?
Left-wing Mexican Americans will relish the Gore campaign. They are, however, but a small portion of the over-all Mexican American vote, a vote that could decide November's election. According to the Latino Election Handbook of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), an estimated 1.5 million Mexican Americans will vote in California; 220,000 in Arizona; 146,000 in Colorado; 100,000 in Illinois; 223,000 in New Mexico; and, 1.2 million in Texas. Texas is a Bush state, it is not in play, nor is Colorado (Bush) or Illinois (Gore).
No matter how much the left wing screams, there aren't many of them. Of all Mexican Americans, 10% or so self-classify as left wing. More importantly, 50% of Mexican Americans call themselves conservative and 33% call themselves liberal, according to the national Public Broadcasting Latino Poll 2000 that was conducted by Dallas' Rincon and Associates.
If, then, the campaign is based on conservative values, Democrats lose, for the 50% that call themselves conservatives would naturally vote Republican. On the other hand, if the campaign is based on little people fighting Big Oil, Big Business, Big HMOs and Everyone-is-against -us-because-we're-Mexican, then more than 60%, or so, of Mexican Americans will vote Democratic. That 60% includes the poor (30% of the total) and working poor (low wage workers, about 30% of the total).
Most political pundits haven't a clue about how these millions of potential Mexican American voters will vote or why, for they know little of the Mexican American. To prove the point, watch Al Gore torture Spanish words. George W. Bush trots out his young half-Mexican nephew George P. Bush on the campaign trail and silly left wingers and sycophantic journalists demand to know why it is important for the President of the United States to have a Mexican sister-in-law and nieces and nephews who are Mexican Americans.
While pundits punt and left wing Mexicans snivel (being a minority within a minority), political eyes turn to three particular states: Arizona, New Mexico and California.
Arizona is simple. Its 8-electoral votes went for Clinton-Gore in 1996. A Bush win in Arizona is now a given. New Mexico's political history includes the second Mexican American Republican governor in U.S. History and the first Mexican American publicly elected U.S. Senator, a Republican, no less. California, with its history of having the first Mexican American governor in the United States and the first elected Mexican American congressman and Chairman of a Congressional Standing Committee, is the American political brass ring.
New Mexico and Arizona need to be watched because the Clinton-Gore ticket carried both in 1996. Republican Bob Dole won 159 Electoral College votes in 1996 (270 are needed to win the Presidency), thus, states like Arizona and New Mexico that voted for Clinton-Gore are critical if one assumes that George W. Bush's electoral foundation is made up of the same states Dole carried in 1996.
California is important, not just because it has 54 electoral votes, but because George W. Bush can win the Presidency without carrying the state. Around 8-million Californians will vote this November, thus, the 1.5-million Mexican Americans who might vote are 800-pound political gorillas.
If 50% of those 1.5-million are conservative and thus vote for Bush, that's 750,000 votes that are mostly registered Democratic. Those votes would hand the state to Bush and destroy Al Gore's chances. If, however, only 40% of the 1.5-million vote for Bush, with the other 60% voting as expected, Bush might also take the state with those 600,000 votes added to a higher-than-normal Republican turnout of middle and upper class whites and Asians.
Class warfare by Al Gore can easily backfire in California and deliver the state to Governor Bush. Why? Because 600,000 Mexican American Bush votes will cancel the California Black vote, the only vote Al Gore can actually count on in the Golden State. White men are for Bush; so are white married women, while single white women and Blacks are for Gore.
Canceling the Black vote with middle-class Mexican American votes offers a comic ethnic scenario for pundits. They are not capable of understanding the middle-class Mexican American phenomenon, for all they see is those who are poor.
In this, they are conditioned by what Gregory Rodriguez wrote in the Los Angeles Times. He maintains, and I agree, that the public perception of the Mexican American is conditioned by a small group of "academics" from the "St. Cesar Chavez School of The Poor and They're-Picking-on-Me-Because-I'm-Mexican" and lazy journalists. That perception is wrong. Election Day may offer concrete proof that Rodriguez and I are right.
So, which will it be, a campaign of conservative values or of class warfare a la Gore? Either way, Gore just might lose California and if he can't win California, he can't win the Presidency, period.
Raoul can be heard on San Diego's KCBQ-1170AM Sundays at 11:30 a.m.