[A NewsTaco Post]
Representative democracy sometimes isn’t, well, all that representative.
The U.S. is set to become Latino-ized, in the sense that nearly 1 in 6 people here will be counted as Latinos in the 2010 Census. Yet, there are just 2 Latinos (or Hispanics) who currently sit in the U.S. Senate. One, Democrat Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the other, Republican Marco Rubio of Florida. I’m not a statistician, but I’m pretty sure those ratios don’t even out.
What’s more, both of these senators are Cuban, which is hardly representative of the larger Latino population. The Cuban population is tiny compared to the Mexican-American population, there are even more Puerto Ricans in the U.S. than Cubans, according to figures available from the Census.
Then comes news that Democratic Senator from New Mexico Jeff Bingaman is set to reitre — in a state that swung for Obama by 15 points in the 2008 election. This is news not just because it represents a seat that politicos on both sides of the aisle are smacking their lips for, but even better, it’s an opening for both parties to do the right thing and find candidates who truly represent New Mexico. Candidates who can step up to lead this country as Latinos become an increasingly important segment of the population.
As we begin to examine the political landscape for potential Latino candidates, one might think it’s sparse, but this would be an erroneous assumption. This “lack” of Latino candidate harkens back to an excuse often used in the Southwest to purposefully exclude Latinos who were purposefully denied education, something like, “I would love to hire a Latino, I just can’t find anyone qualified.”
Does that sound familiar?
Weren’t two Latinos just elected the governors of New Mexico and Nevada? Didn’t Ken Salazar leave his post as Colorado Senator to become Secretary of the Interior? Isn’t Hilda Solis the Secretary of Labor? Wasn’t Bill Richardson recently a governor of New Mexico? Aren’t there Latino mayors in Los Angeles and San Antonio, plus two candidates running for mayor of Chicago? Isn’t there an entire caucus in the House consisting of Latino politicians? And the biggest question: How can you possibly say there are no qualified candidates when you finish reading this list?
There are two potential answers: Either you don’t really want to find a Latino candidate, or you aren’t paying attention.
Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD