Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obama hasn't said much to older women, Hispanic voters

The best political experts in the country -- my extended family spread across nine states from coast to coast -- have concluded two things about Sen. Barack Obama and the success he needs with older female and Hispanic voters in November.

He hasn't expressed a whole lot of substance on the issues and passions tied to the votes of older women and Hispanics during the primary campaign. And his speech Tuesday night in St. Paul, MN., didn't help with those virtually ignored constituencies.

First, where is his mention of his mother in all his speeches, particularly in handing out thank yous?

He toasted his grandmother and his wife Tuesday night, but not his mother. Yes, she is departed but surely she had a massive impact on who he has become. Even NFL players point skyward to remember their departed mothers (and their God) after scoring touchdowns. Obama regularly mentions his father who deserted the family and has even written a book to him. Psychologists say that's normal. Sorry, but we as voters do want psychologists explaining our president's actions or inactions.

The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman has expressed these sentiments much more forcefully and eloquently than me. But it is bothersome, this oversight of his mother, about who she was and what values she reinforced in this candidate. Older women -- who know of the incredible obstacles of what it was to be a mother deserted by her husband in raising a child -- want to hear the story from Obama's perspective, at least more regularly. What did he learn from her experiences? What kind of discrimination did she face that he'll now champion to eradicate?

It won't matter how many times Sen. Hillary Clinton tells her supporters to support Obama after Saturday's concession. What her supporters need to hear must come from his mouth.

My mother got me into writing politics. We remain as much friends as mother and son. I cast my first vote with her. The first words she spoke after her stroke several years ago -- upon questioning by the nurse as to whether she knew where she was and what had happened to her -- were about hating President George W. Bush. Yet she adored then-AG Alberto Gonzales and accepted an autographed picture from him. I told Gonzales in a one-on-one interview that she hated his boss. He laughed. I'm sure he hated Bush sometimes, too.

No matter where I have lived in my career, I called her almost daily, and we'd discuss the day's political news in Oklahoma and across the country. My father would get so bored with our discussion that he'd hang up, and then she would really tell me what she thought about politics ... and him. This exercise wasn't about me being a good son. I needed her perspective in my writing and my thinking.

In his future stump speeches, Obama should introduce us to this mother as much as to himself.

As for Hispanic voters, Obama made no mention Tuesday night of the national persecution of people who look like us and our abuelos. ICE raids and 287(g) programs like here in Nashville have stigmatized all Hispanics, citizens or not. The human rights abuses are outrageous. Due process has been sacrificed, because undocumented workers can't read the applications in English waiving their rights to counsel and hearings -- where they could invoke their right to seek asylum from violence and/or political persecution in their homelands. Or to get a guest worker permit.

Read attorney Greg Siskind's blog post at It will shock you and further undercut the credibility of ranters and ravers like Lou Dobbs. Thanks John Lamb, again, for another great tip.

Yet Obama took no time Tuesday night to mention these wrongs, nor promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation in his first year in office. He also didn't promise -- as Clinton would when she would talk about her first day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- that he'd sign executive orders ending the ICE raids and the 287(g) programs.

Obama will have to state that promise emphatically and repeatedly in the days and months to come if he wants my vote and probably those of many other Hispanics. I truly hope he does that. We are weary of the national downbeat about our presence here, with GOP politicians making like Ringo Starr.

But if Obama is more concerned about white blue-collar votes in Ohio and Pennsylvania and doesn't want to make immigration reform a front-burner issue, then John McCain may take enough Hispanic votes to take the presidency. McCain carries some clout with Latinos for bucking his own party's attempt to pass only punitive immigration measures in Congress.

And Obama's historical candidacy will be just that -- history.

1 comment:

c said...

Illegals inside U.S. borders are criminals by definition. They can easy disprove this charge by producing their LEGAL documentation to be inside this country. I sincerely apologize to any American citizen of Hispanic origin, like members of my own family, who have faced any inconveniences but as citizens my family wants our U.S. laws enforced and respected.