Latino voting power and the hope of a brown-black political coalition
By Corey Arvin
Special to the NNPA from Black Voice News
Part two of two
(click here to read part one)
As Latino leaders continue to push for change through dialogue and mobilize Latino communities, they are looking at lessons learned from the African American community. California State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) said he hopes to build new bridges with the African American community as the California Latino Legislative Caucus (CLLC)—which serves as a forum for members from the State Senate and Assembly to identify key issues affecting Latinos and develop avenues to empower the Latino community throughout California—moves forward.
“As communities, we have had the opportunity to benefit from the sacrifices and work of leaders like Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King and now it is our turn to continue to build upon this foundation by working together or building partnerships between our caucuses to address legislative and budget priorities,” he said.
“We must not forget that each one of our rights comes with the responsibility to advocate for the advancement of future generations. We must continue to fight for living wages and healthy working environments for all Californians.”
While some may view the rising minority vote as a challenge to Republican leaders and conservative voters, with proactive engagement, the growing minority electorate may not evolve into a divisive partisan issue that pits minorities against Republicans. Some Republicans are taking notice and pushing for change within the party to ensure its survival.
Former State Sen. Jim Brulte, who is now chairman of the California Republican Party (CRP), believes Republicans should place more emphasis on reaching out to all minority voters.
“I think most Republicans and Republican organizations understand that if we are to be a viable second party in California we need to go into traditional non-republican communities and not only discuss our message and principles, but listen to the voices in those communities. We also need to elevate from within those communities messengers who share our vision and principles,” said Brulte.
“Republicans need to recognize that more often than not, the messenger is as important as the message.”
During the 20th Century, African Americans found some common ground with conservatives on social issues and traditional values, but since the turn of the century and the election of President Obama, African Americans have made a mass exodus from the Republican Party.
According to Brulte, there is still room to appeal to African Americans and other minorities. Brulte said no community’s vote is indefinitely lost by a political party. Furthermore, as Republicans improve upon communicating with all communities, “the old assumptions” will fade away.
“Republicans currently represent about 29 percent of the electorate in California. 100 percent of 29 does not get us to 51 percent. If the Growth and Opportunity Party is ever going to make a comeback in this state, GOP elected officials and leaders need to get out of their comfort zones and campaign in every community of the state. Too many GOP leaders and elected officials spend their time ‘preaching to the Choir’, but the choir is already converted. True leaders spend time in communities that have yet to be converted,” he added.
The Democratic Party has gained a clear advantage with minority voters by pushing legislation and advocating issues that resonate with minority communities, said John P. Shoals, former president of the League of California Cities African American Caucus and former mayor of Grover Beach. Shoals was the first African American mayor elected to Grover Beach, which has an African American population of only one percent.
Democrats’ success with minorities is not all credited to governing directly for minorities. Some policies were probably introduced that may appear to target minorities, but were originally intended to reach a broader spectrum of constituents, he said.
According to Shoals, in today’s climate, there may be more of an expectation from minorities to see leadership from other minorities. But, African American voters are an example of a group that can distinguish when a candidates values should transcend racial identification. However if some cannot, then some African Americans should be more educated on what makes policy leaders effective, he said.
While race is more of an obvious issue on the national political stage, there are voters and candidates who can see past it, said Shoals.
“It could have affected me if I fed into the preconceived notion that no one white will vote for me, but I thought if people are more open to my ideas, if you have a good story to tell and people will listen to you, then you can become universal.”
Corey Arvin is a contributing writer for Black Voice News who has worked as a staff writer and online news producer for Los Angeles News Group, as well as a staff writer for the Press-Enterprise Co. He was also a recipient of the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award for Web Reporting. Follow him on Twitter @coreyarvin for upcoming features and the latest information on BlackVoiceNews.com.
This article originally appeared in our May 8, 2013 issue.