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Memo From Mexico | "Nuestra Gente" And The National Question In Texas
Will American someday reach a point where race and ethnicity will be politically irrelevant? When voters simply vote on the issues, regardless of the candidate's background?
Not anytime soon, judging from the recent Texas gubernatorial election,
Democrat Sanchez and Republican Perry were not too far apart on issues. Both talk like conservatives, support low taxes and the death penalty. Both promised to improve health and education in the Lone Star State, while avoiding the topic of immigration, although it is a major contributing factor to most Texas problems. Both Sanchez and Perry have been associated in one way or another with George W. Bush. Sanchez was a campaign contributor to Bush's 1994 campaign and a Bush appointee as regent of the University of Texas. Perry was Bush's lieutenant governor.
What's significant National Question-wise is how the election played out "ethnically." Tony Sanchez might have made a fine governor. But his campaign approached Anglos and Hispanics in significantly different ways.
Bear in mind that we are talking about Texas here - a state which has arguably done a successful job of assimilating generations of Mexican immigrants.
But will that assimilation continue?
Tony Sanchez has deep roots in Texas, unlike most Texas Hispanics, who are descended from 20th-century Mexican immigrants. His ancestors have lived in Laredo since the 1700s, when it was an outpost of the Spanish Empire, before it became part of Mexico, before Mexico even existed as a nation-state. Judging from his physical appearance, and that of his family, Sanchez' ancestors were more Spanish than Indian – again unlike most Texas Hispanics. (Click here and see if you agree.) He is a successful, multimillionaire entrepreneur who built an oil, gas and banking empire from scratch, an admirable American success story. He has characterized himself as a "raging moderate" and is probably more conservative than California's Gray Davis. This is Texas we are talking about, after all. Texas is not California, and Tony Sanchez is definitely not Antonio Villaraigosa.
That makes it even more disappointing – though not surprising, given today's political climate - to see how he played the ethnic card to attract Texas voters.
I invite any of VDARE.COM's bilingual readers to do what I did – listen to the Sanchez Campaign's radio and TV ads, still available on his website, in both English and Spanish.
In English, the Sanchez ads promote "common sense conservative values," "values of rural Texas," cutting government waste, eliminating unnecessary programs, getting tough on crime, support for the death penalty and "holding taxes down." In an ad that could just as easily have been produced by the NRA, Sanchez declared that "we don't need more gun laws."
But the Spanish-language ads never utilized the word "conservative," never talked about being tough on crime or about Sanchez' support for the death penalty. The Spanish ads didn't mention the right to bear arms or cutting government waste or keeping taxes low.
They did, however, contain a number of veiled and not-so-veiled ethnic appeals to Hispanics. I got warmer, folksier, more intimate vibes being expressed through the Spanish ads, which often addressed the listeners as "my dear friends" or something similar. The Spanish-language ads emphasized that Sanchez "no se olvida de sus raíces" [hasn't forgotten his roots] and was "el amigo del pueblo" [the friend of the people]. They often referred to "nuestra gente" or "nuestro pueblo" [our people]. Another lamented the fact that "nos falta tratamiento (sic, should be 'trato') con igualdad" [we lack equal treatment] and "nuestra gente buscan las mismas oportunidades de los demas" [our people seek the same opportunities as the others]. Unlike the English ads, "inmigrantes" and "colonias" were mentioned in the Spanish Ads. One ad said bluntly that "En toda la historia de Tejas nunca hemos tenido un gobernador de nuestro pueblo – méxico-americano" [In the entire history of Texas we have never had a governor of our people – Mexican-American].
When I was in Texas in October, I heard another ad on a Spanish-language radio station which didn't appear on Sanchez' campaign website. This ad was a blatant appeal to Hispanic solidarity to frustrate the Republicans, who according to the ad thought that Hispanics are lazy and won't turn out to vote!
In contrast, one of Sanchez' English-language ads promoted the virtue of "bipartisanship"!
This seems to be an emerging trend. Spanish-language political ads are no longer simply translations of English-language ads. They are now designed differently, to appeal to what are perceived as "Hispanic interests." A recent California news article points out (read it here) that gubernatorial candidates Davis and Simon both "put on a different face in Spanish ads."
"What's the big deal?" some readers might ask. Don't all politicians tailor their message to particular interest groups? Even in a monolingual society, pandering is a politician's specialty.
Maybe. But at least in a monolingual society, an informed voter can more easily monitor what a politician is saying to another audience. America's hapless English-speaking majority, on the other hand, is blissfully ignorant of most of what is being said in the parallel Spanish-language media, whether it's politics, journalism, or entertainment.
Near the end of the Texas campaign, Rick Perry came out with an especially strong attack ad linking Sanchez' Savings and Loan to Mexican drug laundering and the murder of a DEA agent. The Sanchez campaign responded by charging that the Perry campaign's accusation was "racist."
Why couldn't Sanchez have simply refuted the charges without resorting to playing the race card? Why, indeed.
No, Texas is not California. Nevertheless, slowly but surely, ethnic identity politics are crowding out every other political consideration.
Ironically, earlier in the year there was a candidate in the Texas Democratic primary who challenged Sanchez' ethnic identity politics. That candidate was Dan Morales, a grandson of Mexican immigrants, who certainly has a better grasp on the National Question than George W. Bush. Morales was pressured into debating Sanchez in Spanish (the Anglo candidates were excluded) but defied the rules by speaking some English during the Spanish debate - for which he was criticized by Sanchez who charged that Morales was "embarrassed to be Hispanic."
Morales had some interesting things to say on the language question:
"I .... believe the great majority of the voters in the state of Texas, including those who are Hispanic, speak English…I think we need to promote the fact that children should learn to speak English as quickly as they can…Mr. Sanchez's insistence that we basically elevate Spanish, the Spanish language, to an equal status with the English language in this race for governor of Texas is ill-advised."
Morales lost. (He wound up supporting Perry, and not Sanchez, by the way.)
As part of the immigration enthusiast post-election happy talk, the Perry Campaign claims to have received up to 35% of the Hispanic vote. But, as VDARE.COM's Steve Sailer has pointed out, this has been disputed by the William C. Velásquez Institute. Its research indicated that Perry received more like 10% of the Hispanic vote, while Sanchez got close to 88%. (San Antonio Express-News, November 7, 2002).
Another debunker of Perry's claim was Texas Democratic Party Finance Chairman Hilbert Ocañas. (Houston Chronicle Nov. 7th, 2002). Ocañas summation of the election results are rather disturbing if you are hoping for an election process free of ethnic pandering any time soon:
"Most Hispanics voted for Sanchez because they obviously saw someone they recognize. That's no difference from rich white folks voting for President George W. Bush because he looks like them. It's who they're culturally aligned with."
In the midst of the GOP Establishment's fanatical pursuit of the "Hispanic Vote," we need the courage to step back and ask the $64,000 Question: Do Hispanics have the same interests as other Americans?
If the answer is "yes," then politicians should be able to appeal to Hispanic voters as they do to other American voters.
But if the answer is "no," then maybe such differences should be clearly explained to all Americans.
After all, don't we all have a stake in America's future?
American citizen Allan Wall lives in Mexico, but spends a total of about six weeks a year in the state of Texas, where he drills with the Texas Army National Guard. VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here. Readers can contact Allan Wall at email@example.com
November 22, 2002