AlterNet: Political Ads Aren't English-Only

P. Kerim Friedman kerim.list at
Wed Mar 10 16:26:40 UTC 2004


Political Ads Aren't English-Only

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, AlterNet
March 8, 2004

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry may be gaining lots of
press with his primary victories, but President George W. Bush hopes to
gain lots of voters – specifically, Latino voters. And he's betting
that Spanish-language TV spots will do the trick.

Bush campaign officials have announced they're dumping millions into
commercials for Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo. The
first ads have already hit the airwaves in New Mexico, Florida, Nevada
and Arizona. Kerry and the Democrats are expected to soon follow suit.

The money both sides spend on Spanish-language TV ads in this campaign
will far exceed what they spent in the past. In 1996, President Bill
Clinton spent a paltry $1 million on Spanish TV ads. Four years later,
Bush and the Republicans doubled that figure to the still-unspectacular
sum of $2 million.

This year's bipartisan ad blitz marks a reaction to several changed
political and economic realities in America:

English-only retreat: The Latino population has skyrocketed by 60
percent nationally, and nearly 40 percent in America's top 10 cities
over the past decade. The flood of English-only initiatives and laws in
California, Alabama and elsewhere will not change the surge to enshrine
Spanish as America's second first language.

Ubiquity of Spanish: In Los Angeles, Phoenix, Albuquerque, San Antonio
and dozens of other cities in the South and West, there are legions of
Spanish-language ads on billboards and buses. There are street signs,
media broadcasts and school texts in Spanish. Many employers are
learning Spanish to better communicate with their Latino workers.

Economic clout: The disposable income of Latinos soared to nearly $1
trillion during the 1990s. Credit card, shipping and communications
companies, trade and tourist associations, hotels, airlines and sports
franchises are now feverishly marketing products to snatch a bigger
share of their dollars.

Political power: Latinos make up about 5 percent of the vote
nationally, and their numbers continue to grow. Two of America's
biggest cities, San Antonio and Miami, have Latino mayors. Nationally,
there are now more than 5,000 Latino elected officials.

Bush strategists figure that if they can up their total of Latino votes
by as little as 5 percent, they will hammer the Democrats in Arizona,
Nevada, New Mexico and Florida. In the 2000 presidential election, Gore
and Bush won razor-thin victories in those states.

"The National Survey of Latinos: The Latino Electorate," conducted in
2002 by the Pew Hispanic Center, found that one-fifth of Latinos are
Republicans. Republicans bank that even more Latino voters will
stampede to the GOP in 2004, mostly because of Bush.

As governor, Bush did more than any other Republican politician in
recent years to woo and win Latino voters in Texas. And as president,
his emphasis on warm U.S.-Mexican relations, his plan to loosen
restrictions on undocumented immigrants and his Spanish campaign ads
have washed away much of the bad taste left in the mouths of many
Latino voters by past Republican opposition to affirmative action and
immigrant rights.

Moreover, former Bush administration U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin's
spirited but losing run for the Republican Senate nomination was a good
sign that diversity will increasingly become a watchword among
California Republicans.

The more optimistic within the GOP now even talk about giving the
Democrats a horse race for the Latino vote in California. Though the
majority of Latinos in past California elections voted Democrat, there
are some chinks in the party's armor.

During the recall election, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger corralled
more than one-quarter of the Latino vote. Latinos did not buy the
Democrats' paternalistic and insulting political ploy to give illegal
immigrants driver's licenses. And Republicans will play hard on
Schwarzenegger's popularity among Latinos to help Bush in the state.

The Democrats, meanwhile, won't stand idly by and watch Bush erode
their traditional support among Latinos. They will push their legion of
Latino Democratic politicians to exhort Latino voters to punch the
Democratic ticket. But Bush's Spanish media ads are a warning to the
Democrats that the Latino vote is no longer in their hip pocket.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a political analyst and author of "The Crisis
in Black and Black." He hosts a weekly talk show on KPFK Radio, 90.7
FM. This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News.

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