News Column

Obama Thanks Hispanics, but They Demand More than Gestures

November 7, 2012

Silvia Ayuso

Hispanic Voters

Barack Obama did not say "gracias" - "thank you" in Spanish - as he had been asked to do, but the re-elected US president did not take too long early Wednesday to deliver a gesture towards the Hispanic voters who had played a key part in his victory.

Obama addressed them immediately, in his victory speech in Chicago, renewing his pledge to reform the immigration system.

"Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together - reducing our deficit, reforming out tax code, fixing our immigration system," Obama said.

That was a step in the direction, even without the "gracias."

However, it is telling that, as soon as Obama's victory had been proclaimed, Twitter created a hashtag to gather support for a request that Obama say thank you in Spanish.

"Mr President, please say 'gracias' in your speech, because you know who made you win these elections," one comment read.

At least 71 per cent of Hispanic voters - the biggest minority in the country - voted for Obama, according to CNN. Other media reports put the figure at 73 per cent.

Obama had pledged immigration reform during his 2008 election campaign, but had made no progress in that area, as his Republican challenger Mitt Romney kept pointing out.

However, Romney's attempts to woo Hispanic voters did not pay off, as he got no more than 27 per cent of the Latino vote. That was because, no matter what Romney said about immigration, his Republican party is generally associated with anti-immigrant policies.

Shortly before the poll, in an interview with the Des Moines Register, Obama himself had stressed the importance of the Latino vote.

"A big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community," the president said.

"The Latino community delivered for President Obama and the Democrats. ... The United We Dream network will not let him forget that as we advocate for additional reforms to benefit our families," said the network, which regroups undocumented young immigrants.

The organization wants them to obtain citizenship through the legislative proposal known as the Dream Act, which the Republicans have blocked in Congress.

Yet, even if Hispanic voters apply the pressure for Obama to demonstrate his continuing concern, that voting bloc presents the Republicans with an even bigger challenge.

"Romney's lurch to the right on immigration destroyed his chances of winning the White House," said Frank Sharry, director of the America's Voice lobby, which pushes for immigration reform.

The Washington Post saw the Republicans as having "a huge Hispanic problem."

"The Republican Party simply cannot lose seven in 10 Hispanic voters in elections and expect to be a viable national party in 2016, 2020 and beyond," the paper noted.

"Growth in the Latino community probably makes Arizona a swing state in the next presidential election, and Texas could even be a swing state by 2020," it added.

"Republicans are going to have to have a real serious conversation with themselves," said Eliseo Medina, an immigration reform advocate and trade unionist.

"They need to repair their relationship with our community. ... They can wave goodbye to us if they don't get right with Latinos," he said in The Huffington Post.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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