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Not Your Madre’s Texas Primary

Feb
29
2008

Latino voters have long been characterized as loyal supporters or, in some circles, followers, depending on your view of loyalty and Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is counting on the latter here in Texas in her quest to snatch the Democratic nomination away from rival Sen. Barack Obama next week.

Clinton is hoping – more likely praying – that Texas Latinos follow the lead of our California and New York primos (cousins) and hand her a majority win over her rival. But her campaign is learning the hard lesson that a win in Texas depends, not on yesterday’s loyalties, but a new reality — the “M” factor.

Voters born between 1980 and 2000 are known as the Millennial Generation. In Texas, 31 percent of Hispanic eligible voters are between the ages of 18 to 29-years-old and these young Latinos are close to being the majority demographic overall among Texas Latino voters.

Latinos, 30-44-years-of-age, the current largest group within Latino voters, outnumber the millenials, but only by a measly .2 percent. Couple these numbers with the fact that Latino voters comprise almost 40 percent of eligible Texas Democratic voters. It’s an implication that deserves attention.

Because in this Democratic primary most young Latino voters are dismissing the political loyalties of their parents and following a path that is relevant to how they view the world.

Unfortunately, the Clinton campaign has missed this, insisting on focusing the majority of their Latino outreach on ethnicity, not age. By contrast, Obama has focused his campaigning on college campuses and urban settings, home to most youth. Clinton has stuck to the tried-and-true style of political politicking — walking the streets of Latino neighborhoods during the day and visiting local taquerias, not likely places or hours for young people to hang out.

If Clinton’s people had been savvy about this age group, then they would have known that the millenials, a group whose lives are seamlessly integrated with technology, are a demographic bred on instant gratification, constant change, team work, and for whom diversity is a way of life.

They are increasingly fed up with how the “old guard” Latino leadership insists on looking at today’s politics through yesterday’s lenses — and then professing to speak for all Latinos. It was a fact that recently came to a head in Dallas when an 84-year-old matriarch of Dallas Latino civil rights said that “Obama simply has a problem that he happens to be black.”

Drawing from her experience in the city’s history when racial tensions existed between blacks and browns, the self-confessed Clinton supporter was instantly scolded by Latino millennials who saw her comment as divisive.

“This whole black and brown divide…is one of the most exaggerated arguments in the country today,” opined 19-year-old Manuel Rendon. Rendon had introduced Obama at a rally the previous week attracting 18,000 people of all ages and ethncities.

Yet for all their passion and desire for change, millennials have a lousy track record for sustaining their momentum since they bore easily and really don’t like it when they don’t get their way.

A hint of that ego-centric mentality came into sharp focus courtesy of Obama’s own camp when his campaign commissioned a survey by Hispanic Economics. Latino first-time voters under the age of 30 were asked “If Obama is not nominated, and in November it is Hillary Clinton versus John McCain, are you likely to bother to vote at all?” Eighty percent of these young Obama supporters answered, “No.”

But if there is a “long tail” to this newfound political passion among Latino millenials, it’s the fact that they are not just sharing it with their peers — but with their families, the center of Latino culture. It’s natural that millenials bringing home their passion, enthusiasm and information are educating their parents and extended family members.

In some cases, the millenials are changing the minds of the older adults who are both proud of the budding political involvement of their children and who also have been struggling themselves in choosing who would make the better president.

It would be an understatement to say that Latino Millennials will be a factor in the Texas primary. The likelier scenario is that they will be a force — that will rock the vote.

Share  Posted by Marisa Trevino at 8:46 AM | Permalink

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