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Opening Arguments

The isms patrol

Racism (or at least its cousin ethnic prejudice) rears its ugly head in the presidential campaign:

President Obama's top political strategist told Univision television that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would be making an "insult" to Hispanics if he picked Sen. Marco Rubio as his running mate in order to try to boost his showing with Hispanics.

In an interview that aired Sunday on "Al Punto," the Spanish-language network's political talk show, Mr. Axelrod said picking Mr. Rubio, a Florida Republican, doesn't make up for Mr. Romney's stances that are important to Hispanic voters.

"I think it would be an insult to the Hispanic community to choose Senator Rubio if the thinks that that is somehow — if Governor Romney thinks that's sort of a get-out-of-jail-free card for all of the things and the positions that he's taken," Mr. Axelrod said.

Certainly he's right that it would be stupid of the Romney campaign to think choosing Rubio would move them over the top with Hispanics. But the imbedded assumption in Axelrod's remarks is equally wrong -- that liberalism is the only authentic Hispanic position, and choosing a conservative Hispanic would somehow be illegitimate. Hipanices may trend a certain way, just as white men tend to trend for Romney and single women tend to trend for Obama, but they are not a monolithic voting bloc. A Cuban exile in Miami has no more in common with a Mexican in Arizona or a Puerto Rican in New York than I have with Al Gore or Pat Buchanan.

And since we're on isms, let's not leave out the gals:


Mitt Romney’s senior campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, on Sunday said that social issues important to women, like contraception coverage and abortion rights, were “shiny objects” that were being used to distract voters.

David Plouffe, one of President Barack Obama’s top aides, last week told New York Magazine that Democrats needed to be clear about what a Romney presidency would mean for women’s rights and other social issues.

“Potentially abortion will be criminalized,” Plouffe said.”Women will be denied contraceptive services. He’s far right on immigration. He supports efforts to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage.”

He's going to catch a lot of grief for the glibly dismissive attitude, but he's right. To pick just one of those issues, women for obvious reasons think about abortion more than men do, but that doesn't make it a "women's" issue -- it's important for all of us and society as a whole. And even if women did claim the issue as theirs, that's not the same as saying they all think the same thing about it.


Mon, 06/04/2012 - 1:30pm

On a somewhat simpler level, it seems to me that if Axelrod really considers Rubio a bad pick for VP, he'd be encouraging it.

And I agree that we Anglos often make the mistake of grouping all Hispanics together. The term here means "Mexican," but in New York it means "Puerto Rican" and in Miami it means "Cuban." Most Hispanics vote Democratic, but Florida's Cuban ex-pats tend to be far-right cold warriors.

The only advice I'd give Romney on the subject would be to avoid candidates with strong personalities. Romney's own vanilla personality is too easily overshadowed as it is. He needs a competent, conservative running mate who isn't loud or flashy. I'm looking at you, Christie.