Who Really Owns the 2012 Hispanic Vote?

Glenn Llopis

By Glenn Llopis

The Immigrant’s Perspective

As the 2012 Presidential campaign begins and questions loom about who the GOP front runner will be and Obama’s second term fate; there is one critical question that remains unasked, let alone unanswered:  Who really owns the Hispanic vote?

It is clear that the Hispanic voice matters.  This is overwhelmingly evident with President Obama’s recent visit to Puerto Rico and the GOP’s efforts in January to begin charting a course of action under the leadership of Jeb Bush – the proclaimed GOP ambassador to Latino voters.   However, it is fair to say that progress is slow and both the Democrats and Republicans are being challenged in their efforts to solidify a trustworthy relationship with the Hispanic community.

And yet according to one recent report, by the 2012 election, the Latino vote is anticipated to increase by 26 percent to 12.2 million voters, or 8.7 percent of the country’s total.  Why are both parties so slow-footed when it comes to courting the Latino vote?  Read More 

Haven’t both parties learned from the recent decline in Obama’s loyalty rating amongst Hispanics?  Hispanics may lag some other immigrant groups in achievement to date, but their immigrant perspective makes them more knowledgeable than many believe.

As the Founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership, I have been personally asked to take an active role in the past 24 months to help bring Hispanics into the political process, in support of specific political candidates.   Whether these requests are coming from PACs or some of the higher ranking candidate advisors themselves – I am appalled by the blatant tactics they use. Therefore, I have declined to help until they get it right.  This is why I am writing this article.  To help our politicians and business leaders understand the real issues.

With over 50 million Hispanics in the US, it’s time that our politicians figure out how to authentically include the voices of Hispanics in real ways.  Failure to do so will mean missing out on relationships, loyalty, markets, customers, employees – and the future of America.    Politicians can learn a lot from America’s corporations that have made progress in recognizing the competitive advantage that cultural intelligence brings to their workforce.   Corporations realize that developing Hispanic leaders gives them an opportunity to innovate in new ways by embracing their cultural roots.  Corporate leaders have learned that in today’s global marketplace, one size doesn’t fit all anymore.

Corporations view their ROI in Hispanic leadership by the impact and influence they can create.  Unfortunately for politicians, their ROI is only measured in votes.

Hispanics must be allowed to own their vote.   And this doesn’t mean that it’s for sale.   The conventional approach to attract voters does not apply to Hispanics.  Remember that Hispanics have trouble trusting others, let alone themselves.  There are many reasons that Hispanics are the fastest growing sector of entrepreneurs in the US.  One reason is that they want to create opportunity for themselves because they do not believe that others are genuinely listening to them.    What too many US politicians fail to recognize is that Hispanics greatly desire to have a voice and make a difference.  This alone is why Hispanics must own their vote.  If they are not allowed to own it, they will continue to believe that their identity represents a liability, rather than an asset, to our country.

Hispanics in the US are experiencing an identity crisis.  The lack of infrastructure limits their advancement. For years politicians have failed to create new policies and programs for Hispanics, because they don’t see the value of investment in this community.   As a result, Hispanics have been forced to assimilate just to be accepted and it many cases, get a job.  Many Hispanics will tell you that assimilation represents their path to advancement.

Unfortunately, Hispanics fail to realize that assimilation accelerates their own identity crisis.  As they begin to lose touch with their culture and values, Hispanics lose the ability to contribute in a unique way to the patchwork quilt of the American story.  They lose their own language.

At a time where the US is reinventing itself, our country would benefit from the experiences gained and lessons learned from the immigrant past of 50 million Hispanics whose history in their mother countries have been fueled by reform and revolution.

The changing demographics in America require that our politicians become more culturally intelligent about Hispanics and begin to empower their voice and encourage them to take action.

The great thing about democracy is that it allows for freedom of expression and the sharing of new ideas and ideals.  Unfortunately, our current political leadership is not taking the opportunity to create a new platform that empowers Hispanics, their cultural roots, unique capabilities and their voice in America (much like what my father did for me).

And if you empowered the Hispanics, the cultural and economic boom that would follow would dwarf the Internet boom of the late 90s.  This is especially important for the advancement of Hispanic youth who need to believe that Hispanics can play prominent roles.

Every week I get calls from school districts asking me to speak to their students. As one superintendent told me, “Mr. Llopis, 80% of our school district is of Hispanic origin and these kids desperately need mentors.  They need to hear success stories from Hispanic leaders like you that never sacrificed their cultural identity in order to be successful.   Our students need to know that they are just as capable of achieving higher level jobs and being leaders in their community and work force as anyone else.”

Why continue to ignore the Hispanic voice when they will represent 30% of America in only the next 20 years?   According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 1 in 5 schoolchildren are Hispanic. 

The time has come to include Hispanics throughout the Presidential campaign process by allowing them to reveal their immigrant perspective, circular vision, entrepreneurial spirit, Latin passion, generous purpose and cultural promise — the natural characteristics that can make them contributors and innovators to business and society in America.  The next 17 months represents a unique opportunity in history to give Hispanics an identity that matters in America.   An identity that allows them to become leaders and that begins to hold them accountable to the same standards of performance as everyone else.   This would generate a tremendous increase in confidence throughout Hispanic communities all across America.   It would create new competition both in the boardroom and the classroom.  Hispanics would become authentic and well respected leaders in America. 

Can you imagine the new types of opportunities that would surface if 50 million people that were not taken seriously before were now empowered to compete on the same level playing field as everyone else?

I have often heard that just because there are over 50 million Hispanics, they deserve more.   This mentality will only hurt America, but will further erode the credibility of Hispanics in the US.  Therefore, the 2012 campaign must find new ways to awaken the sleeping giant by empowering the Hispanics to own their vote so that can become more responsible to the reinvention of America.

http://blogs.forbes.com/glennllopis/2011/06/27/who-really-owns-the-2012-hispanic-vote/

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