Thursday, March 30, 2006

¿Dónde están los demócratas?


My Spanish is not very good, but if I was one of the Democratic candidates, I would be taking a crash course en Español right about now. Why? Because the Latinos are very angry with Pombo for voting for HR 4437, a bill that defines the phrase "draconian measure" when it comes to immigration policy.

Latino groups held a march attended by thousands last Saturday and a candlelight vigil that attracted hundreds Tuesday night. Both of these were in downtown Stockton, the heart of the 11th District. There were chants against Pombo, speeches denoucing him, signs against him, a man dressed in an el Diablo suit with the words "Hitler Republican" written on it, in reference to Pombo. I mean, these people are NOT HAPPY with him.

People there included Steve Gutierrez, 1st District Supervisor for San Joaquin County. As a Dem candidate, he is someone you mostly definitely want on your side. See his bio. Many other Hispanic leaders were there. Also, Margee Ensign, Dean from the University of the Pacific who was considering challenging Pombo back in November. On the Republican side, Pombo challenger Pete McCloskey, his wife, Helen, and volunteers (including Amanda Matthews, daughter of Tracy Press editor Cheri Matthews) showed up at both the march and vigil. McCloskey gave a speech and was busy registering and re-registering as voters Decline to State.

But where were the Dems? Only AJ Carrillo, McNerney's campaign manager showed up, and that was just for the march on Saturday. I give him credit for that, at least.

However, no sign of any Filson or Thomas supporters. I looked on Filson's calendar and he was busy with fund-raisers on Saturday and trying to get the South County Dem Club endorsement (which went to McNerney). But no one from his campaign showed up in any official capacity at either the march or the vigil, and he has several paid staffers, including Robert Kellar, his campaign manager who is from Stockton.

Here was a chance to show solidarity and to make a strong connection with an active political bloc strongly opposed to Pombo. Maybe someone should tell Filson that, while it is important to have money in the bank, voters vote. And there were many voters there at the rallies, who I am sure noticed who was standing with them and who was not. And it goes beyond that, since the march organizers are also influential in their communities and could pull in a lot of support and energy for a campaign the supports them.

McCloskey played it perfectly, attending both events, speaking to the crowd, setting up tables to distribute information. He also garnered press interviews, such as one on ABC last night, and other coverage of his campaign. I have said this before, but my take is that McCloskey does these things not so much for political gain as much he sees it as the right thing to do, to support people against an oppressive and wrong bill. People sense his passion and drive and warm up to what he has to say. He is not there as a cold political calculus, solely trying to gain votes.

Think about this -- a person running for office, at least the way I see it, should want to help people have better lives. There needs to be a compassion and empathy towards your fellow citizens that is conveyed in your speeches and actions. There needs to be an honesty and integrity and sense that you will do what is right and good for the people.

Of course, nowadays, we are all cynical and know that most pols are on the take, and only looking to get more money and enhance their power. The system in DC corrupts even the best of them. (Pombo was on the take right from the start, with the infamous Monsanto bribe in 1994.) But for our new candidates, especially when running as a Democrat, we want to see some passion and idealism and community action on the people's behalf. Yea, maybe if you get elected, after a few years, you will be feeding at the trough with everyone else, but we don't want to elect you that way.

The Dem candidates made a serious misstep by not showing up at either event. I know there are demands of travel and other events, but consider that McCloskey had a debate in San Ramon Tuesday afternoon, but still made it to the vigil in Stockton that night. Also, on Saturday, there was a Defeat Pombo 06 meeting that very afternoon a few miles away in Stockton, which the candidates as well as Dem activists attended. The march was at 9 am, and the meeting at 1 pm, so people already planning on being in Stockton could have made it there a bit earlier to be in the march. I intend that comment more for the candidates and their campaigns, to show up there "officially", like McCloskey did. Like I say, at least McNerney's campaign manager was there at the march, but how much this was noticed or appreciated it is hard to say, since he did not give a speech, and people generally want to see the "real deal" at an important event like this, not a surrogate.

I hope the Dems can overcome this misstep and make a connection with the Hispanic community. Otherwise, they will be seen as another bunch of East Bay gringos, coming hat in hand for their votes, but not standing with them at their time of need.


Anonymous Joy Montgomery said...

I think the mistake the Democrats have made is in not having t-shirts. There's no way to tell how many Democrats were there, or how many Republicans, if they are all "unmarked." It's an assumption to say that Democrats weren't there. Maybe the Democrats who were there need to speak up.

9:52 AM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

Joy, you miss the point -- It is not that Democrats were not there (I am sure there were), it is that the Democrats running for Congress were not there as speakers and leaders, with tables and volunteers and signs, etc. As candidates, they are seeking to be representatives of the people, and for that, they need to be more than just present.

That said, McNerney, Filson and Thomas were not even present at either of these events, let alone "leaders" or speakers or anything, for that matter.

10:26 AM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...


I don't know where to begin with this one.

First, I think it's ridiculous that you think you can speak for "the Latinos" especially since you have no evidence to back up your assertions about how they perceive the Democrats.

It's great that Pete McCloskey is opposed to this horrendous immigration bill. I wish more Republicans were like him in that respect.

But I know for a fact that Jerry McNerney at the least has been going to all sorts of community events for years. That is why, for example, Stella Lopez, the President of the Latina Democratic Club, is a huge supporter of McNerney's. If she has a problem with how he's conducting his campaign with respect to the Latino community, I'd listen to her. But she is a community leader, you are not. You ought not presume to speak for a community unless what you say is supported by some concrete evidence that the community feels the same way.

What you offered is a plausible reaction to the absence of the Democrats. But the fact that someone might plausibly react in one way does not, in the absence of evidence, offer any real reason for thinking that anyone will react in that way.

Second, this whole posts starts from the premise that the only opportunities to support and reach out to the Latinos in the district were these events. And that's patently false.

I have no doubt that it would have been a net gain for the candidates to have appeared at the march and the vigil. I'm sure it gave McCloskey a boost. But it does not follow that just because this event helped McCloskey's standing in the Latino community that a) McNerney's absence will substantively hurt his standing or b) that McNerney does not already have some standing with the Latino community.

I agree that the other two candidate probably have a lot of work to do. But even the simple fact that they are Democrats might give them greater credibility in the Latino community than McCloskey, who almost certainly has to overcome the animus towards Republicans felt by a lot of Latino voters in California. In other words, McCloskey could race ahead for the next three months and still find himself behind the starting point for most Democrats. The legacy of Prop 187 is still alive in California. And the simple fact that McCloskey is a Republican means that he must play catch-up.

Lastly, I want to point out that because McCloskey is running in the GOP primary, and because the GOP establishment seems pretty heavily behind Pombo, there is very little GOP demand on McCloskey's time compared to the Democrats. The various Republican groups, as far as I can tell, aren't even seriously considering McCloskey. And the "debate" between Benigno and McCloskey apparently drew twenty people, over half of whom were either press or campaign staffers. So that gives him more flexibility to do things like this.

10:42 AM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

Matt, I am glad to see that you agree with me when you say "I have no doubt that it would have been a net gain for the candidates to have appeared at the march and the vigil. I'm sure it gave McCloskey a boost."

But I don't think I implied that I speak for Latinos. I would not be so presumptuous. I was speaking about campaign strategy and how beneficial it is to show solidarity. Now, whether the crowd recognizes this, that a candidate is speaking to them and marching with them, I would generally say that that is favorable to the candidate, though you are right, I cannot say for sure without talking to everyone in the march specifically about this. So maybe I made a presumption there, that a candidate showing up and demonstrating leadership on this cause would have at least some positive influence on his campaign.

Now, you mention McNerney's outreach to the Latina Democrats. I know about that and applaud it. I think he is making good efforts in this respect. I have not heard what Filson has been doing, but McNerney has been in the game longer and has certainly connected with Stella's group and others out there. I am glad she is an enthusiastic supporter of McNerney.

As far as McCloskey, he was there quite strongly at both events, re-registering people as DTS and giving speeches, etc. I mentioned the debate in San Ramon not because it was a significant event, but because it showed that McCloskey was at both ends of the district within relatively short times.

I also recognize that there are other events where the Dems can connect with Latino or other specific groups. However, this was an important event that had the community up in arms, with thousands marching in the streets. Of course, it was not the only opportunity to support and reach out, but it sure strikes me as a signficant one.

11:27 AM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger Delta said...

Matt, I think that one evidence of the dissatisfaction of some Latinos with the Demcratic Party is the fact that Nativo Lopez, the President of the Mexican American Political Association (Chapters in San Jose, Bakersfield, Frenso, Madera, Sacramento among others) has left the Democratic Party, re-registered Green and will from June be on the County Council for the Green Party in LA County. He was one of the leaders talking up the immigration rally in Los Angeles and the punative, restrictive immigration measures being taken by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

12:02 PM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...


I was responding strongly to the implications in the following quotes:

a) The Dem candidates made a serious misstep by not showing up at either event.

b) I hope the Dems can overcome this misstep and make a connection with the Hispanic community. Otherwise, they will be seen as another bunch of East Bay gringos, coming hat in hand for their votes, but not standing with them at their time of need.

There is a difference between "It would have been good if X" and "It is bad that not-X."

I could go to the gym today and work out. That would improve my health. But if I don't work out today, I am not suddenly extremely unhealthy.

If I bought flowers for my girlfriend today, it would certainly make her happy. If I don't, I'm not going to be in the dog house.

So too, just because McNerney didn't show up at this event, it does not mean that he's in the dog house with Latino voters.

With Thomas and Filson, I think you can reasonably make the argument that they have done virtually nothing to make connections with the Latino community. And consequently, these events probably has an elevated importance for them. But they still both have ample opportunities to reach out and makes connections with the Latino community.


I think we need to focus on the appropriate scope of the debate at hand. An argument might be made, and apparently you would make it, that Latinos in California as a whole are not completely satisfied with the Democrats as a whole. But that does not imply that the Latinos in the district are unhappy with either the Democrats in the district or the Democrats running for in this race.

12:41 PM, March 30, 2006  
Anonymous vicki said...

All three candidates were in an advisory meeting set up with Barbara Lee.

This may seem insignificant to some people, but when an appointment is made with a Congressperson, it's not easy to cancel at the last minute.

So. As much of a misstep as it might be percieved, I think the candidates should be excused in this instance and we should not be making much out of an issue that we don't have all the facts on.

The truth is, Jerry will be at any of these events that it's possible for him to get to. As his scheduler, I will make certain of that.

1:06 PM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

Vicki, we are talking about 2 events, the March on Saturday at 9 am and the Candlelight Vigil at 7 pm on Tuesday. I realize AJ showed up at the March Saturday (after Delta emphasized how important it was on this blog). Filson could have sent someone from his campaign, since he does have 3 or more paid staff, from what I understand. Filson missed both events, McNerney had his campaign manager at one.

And Barbara Lee is not god, and certainly not going to help much with the conservatives in San Joaquin. I am not saying meeting with her is not important, but such things do have to be worked around actual real events of concern to the community where the candidate is trying to get elected.

Using Matt's manner: I could meet with my trainer at the coffee house today and discuss what exercises I should do. But if I go to the gym today, then I can do the actual exercises and benefit from them.

1:16 PM, March 30, 2006  
Blogger jpr said...

The Democratic Candidates will have two more chances to weigh in with the Hispanic Community. From what I hear there are two more days of marchs planned on April 10 and May 1 all across the country. I would bet you will see them there.

3:24 PM, March 30, 2006  
Anonymous AJ said...

There are 2 R's in my last name, Gringo!

10:54 AM, April 01, 2006  

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