If Latinos and African-Americans Deliver the Election, What Will Change?

latino-vote-2New Orleans   Every current indication is that early voting from Latinos is soaring to unprecedented levels in Nevada, North Carolina, and Florida, while African-American early voting is significant, though lower than the record levels of participation achieved in the excitement of electing and retaining Barack Obama as the first African-American president. If the early trend manifests itself on Election Day, there will be political capital banked by both constituencies and debts owed to these blocks of voters. It’s fair to ask, will they be taken for granted, or will they see some payback on their issues and concerns? What’s the point of being a firewall, if there’s not a deep moat of benefits to come?

In 2008 after the Obama election, I can clearly remember the period between election and inauguration day when the sharp elbows of many constituencies and countless lobbyists tried to squeeze their priorities into the small handful of initiatives that would be prioritized in the first one-hundred days. I was giving a hand to the national immigration reform campaign and some of the larger state-based efforts in Maryland and Illinois. Tactically, we wanted to push Obama hard from the first day, including a mass mobilization on Inaugural Day to push immigration reform to the top of the agenda, but the action ended up being more modest with a bit over 1500 on the cold Washington, D.C. streets once the rug was pulled out from under some of the national groups, largely by funders pulling the strings and wanting to give Obama some time to set his pace before pushing. It took time, but Obama finally reversed his own course and delivered some relief though most of it is still contested by Republicans and the right, and tenuous as we face another term with millions hanging on the wire.

No one seems to think there is a honeymoon waiting for either candidate, and if Hillary Clinton wins, as is widely expected, there even seems to be a hard core group burrowing into their caves, Taliban-like, and preparing to resist Clinton on everything from Supreme Court appointments to all other policies, while threatening to convene more hearings and even making crazy talk about impeachment before she is even elected. Not only is this not a honeymoon, but it’s more like one of those never consummated marriages that ends up seeking annulment within weeks. Clinton’s notion that she will be able to wheel-and-deal with former Senate colleagues with some adult beverages after hours sure seems improbable.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is now saying that Trump almost single-handedly is creating a voting block for Democrats in the Latino community. Is that a signal that there may be sufficient traction among Republicans to finally make a deal that has some value on immigration? There are bound to be right strategists and tacticians of the old Bush camps who understand that Republicans could lose Latino votes for a generation, without a positive initiative towards Latinos.

It sure seems unlikely given the way that Trump has drum beaten to build his base on the right based on immigration, but as the commentators keep saying, at least there’s a narrow path towards change. One thing is very clear. Attention must be paid, and there has to be debts settled to these major groups or, mark my words, there are days coming where this base will be as estranged from the Democrats as much of the Republican base is now alienated from their leadership and party.