Latinos and Nevada’s Democratic Process

in Politics by

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is an uncut version of a dispatch which first appeared on Latino Rebels. For reasons of length and propriety, the LR version was over 2,000 words shorter. I do not judge LR for it — it has a business model and its reputation to protect. Plus, a lot of readers will undoubtedly prefer the LR version — even a majority may prefer it.  But I, on the other hand, have my own reputation to protect, as well as my own opinion of myself and my work, and, for better or worse, I don’t have any business model to speak of to which I must adhere. My first and only commitment is to strong writing—writing that is entertaining and, on occasion, informative. That said, enjoy.

 

This week the League of United Latin American Citizens celebrated its 91st birthday. Launched mostly by Latino veterans of the First World War, LULAC has become the nation’s preeminent Latino civil rights organization, essentially what the NAACP is for black Americans, championing the economic and social rights of Latinos. With over 100,000 members in the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC strives for the full inclusion of Latinos in American society, by emphasizing assimilation, educational achievement, job training, and civic engagement.

LULAC attorneys won an early victory against school segregation in 1947, Mendez v. Westminster, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that the “schools for Mexicans” in Orange County, California were unconstitutional, on the same basis that the Supreme Court would claim eight years later in Brown v. Board of Education: that, despite what the Redemption Court had claimed in Plessy v. Ferguson back in 1896, segregated schools are “inherently unequal,” and thus violate the constitutional rights of minority children to equal protection under the law.

In recent years LULAC has focused on growing and exercising the political power of Latinos, through voter registration drives and other events that spur political consciousness and activity. LULAC has an education program, ¡Adelante! America, to help prepare Latino kids for higher education and support them once they’re there. The group has a health program, Latinos Living Healthy, to lower the health disparity between Latinos and Anglo Americans. Through the Hispanic Immigrant Integration Project, LULAC helps provide social and economic services to Latino immigrants. Plus LULAC offers a variety of financial and consumer services, and with its Empower Hispanic America with Technology initiative, LULAC “aims to empower the Latino community by increasing access to and utilization of key telecommunication technologies which have been historically been out of reach for many Hispanic Americans.”

LULAC indeed has a long and proud history of lifting Latino Americans out of poverty and powerlessness.

But when I tell a Latina—one Ms. Palma—that I’m going to a presidential town hall in North Las Vegas hosted by LULAC, she seems confused. “Lula’s?” she asks, wondering why a presidential town hall would be held at some restaurant. “No, LU-LAC,” I say, and explain how they’re the nation’s preeminent Latino civil rights organization, essentially what the NAACP is for

I see her eyes yawn. She could hardly care less.

Ms. Palma is a 32-year-old Mexican-born American citizen, a junior partner at an original equipment manufacturer here in Las Vegas, member of a country club in the swanky MacDonald Highlands, on the verge of owning her own home, with a teenaged daughter who gets A’s and B’s and plays on the varsity tennis team—exactly the caliber of individual a group like LULAC seeks to attract. That Ms. Palma has never heard of the group, and doesn’t want to hear about it now, means LULAC has its work cut out.

 

***

It’s a few hours before the town hall at the College of Southern Nevada’s North Las Vegas campus, and I’m sitting with Sindy Benavides, the CEO of LULAC—the first woman to hold the title—and I ask her what she would tell a young Latina like Ms. Palma about her organization. “LULAC is 91 years young,” she says with a proud but gentle smile. She’s wearing big, dorky-stylish glasses and a long pearl necklace with pearl earrings—whether they’re real or not is above my pay grade—and she has a measured way of speaking:

“We’re 91 years strong. And that, really, LULAC is here to protect… our community. And that, for 91 years, we have been protecting and defending… our community. And for us, in 2020, it’s making sure our community has an increased consciousness… about harnessing their leadership power… harnessing their ability to run for office and represent us at the highest level… making sure that our community understands… that their vote at the ballot box, when we add it up, one by one, can be transformational, in the way that Latinos are viewed in a America. And that, when we are connecting with our youth members, who are high schoolers and under, we are training them… to be leaders. That when we are holding town halls—whether it’s in Milwaukee, or Des Moines, or here in Las Vegas—it’s to increase awareness about the issues that impact Latinos… not only for ourselves… but to make sure that candidates are thinking thoughtfully… about how they’re addressing issues that impact us.

“And I think, more than that, for us it’s also really making sure… that we have the next generation of organizers…. that we understand what advocacy is… that we understand why it’s important to raise our voices, and why it’s important that we show up… and that people understand that a Sindy Benavides, or… a Julio, or… a John Medina, or… whoever—that they understand that there is a name… behind the numbers… and that when you’re talking about specific policies, that impact our community, in higher proportion, that you know us by our name, and you see us by our face.”

Well, fuck. Where do I sign up for some of that?

Truth is, I fully expected to loathe Ms. Benavides, and especially LULAC’s national president, Domingo García. From what I’d read about LULAC back in college, it seemed like one of those centrist minority groups that “advocate” for the members of their communities by telling them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps—and pull their pants up too while they’re at it. And, as with nearly every civic organization, there are plenty of those respectability types among LULAC’s ranks: people who dress for a town hall like they’re going to see Hamilton on Broadway.

But I like Ms. Benavides. And Mr. García.

Ms. Benavides smiles easily, her eyes smile too, with a hint of blushing in her porcelain cheeks, and she speaks softly but with controlled passion, her voice getting firmer and firmer as she talks about her mission to push for and defend the economic and social rights of Latinos, till she’s clinching her jaw and pounding her right hand on the table—the same hand with a finger splint wrapped around her fore and middle fingers (she broke the middle one climbing some stairs). Plus it helps that she hails from Honduras, where my mother was born, and she reminds me of one of my aunts, only way younger—though I can’t tell how much younger, since Ms. Benavides is very staid in her demeanor and conservative in her dress—the word is matronly, but there’s too much youthfulness in Ms. Benavides for that term to properly stick.

Mr. García, for his part, has a list of achievements that makes César Chávez look like a lazy hippie: “from shoeshine boy to the Statehouse of Texas”; born of Mexican immigrant farmers in Texas; degrees in politics, law, and international relations; a thriving law firm with over 500 employees; one of the youngest Latinos elected to the Democratic National Committee (1988); the youngest member of the Dallas City Council, on which he served from ’91 to ’95, and during which time he became the youngest person elected mayor pro tempore of Dallas; he helped create the first Latino Cultural Center in the nation; voted to allow gays in the Dallas PD; he was a Texas state representative from ’96 to 2002, during which he helped pass the Texas DREAM Act, giving in-state tuition to undocumented students; he helped organize the largest civil rights march in Texas history in 2006, when close to half a million people came out to support comprehensive immigration reform…

The list goes on and on.

I ask Mr. García about the chances of seeing a Latino president anytime soon, considering the outbreak of anti-brown sentiment which has gripped half the nation like a plague. Unlike Ms. Benavides, García talks in a hurry, his words coming rapid-fire, and whereas Ms. Benavides speaks with a suppressed Spanish accent, which peeks out from certain words like “consciousness” and “ballot,” Mr. García has a pronounced Texan-Chicano accent.

“The fact of the matter is,” he says, “I think the first Latino or Latina president has already been born, and he or she is walking the streets of San Antonio or Las Vegas, or Los Angeles… And we gotta create that foundation, that legwork—register people to vote, get them out to vote, get candidates to run for office, whether it’s school board or city council, get them elected to statewide office, develop a deep bench so that those candidates can run for the Senate and then eventually run for the White House.”

Sounds like a plan. So which issues or concerns does LULAC want voters to consider this election year?

“The way I’ll put it to you: Today, somewhere in America, José and María woke up, and they had to make a decision whether to pay the rent or get the insulin for their daughter who is sick, and that’s a tough choice. And more Latinos do not have health insurance, to cover an illness or disease, and are strapped and, you know, are just one paycheck away from bankruptcy. So health care—who’ll provide health care for all? For every José and María and their families—who can do that? That’s very important.

“María’ll wake up, and so will Sofía, and they’ll clean hotel rooms here, in Vegas, and they’ll be making close to minimum wage, with little to no benefits—even those who are members of unions. So the question is: Why aren’t they being paid for equal work? Sofía and María should make the same amount that an Anglo man makes for the same kind of work, but they make 53 cents on the dollar. And that needs to change.

“Third, immigration reform. Can you believe that here we are in 2020, and there are children’s prisons, there are concentration camps, full of refugees just seeking a better life? We need to reform our immigration system. Which presidential candidate will tell José and María, ‘We’re gonna take care of your abuelita, your tío, and we’re gonna figure a way to get them reunited and these families reunited, without the fear of ICE raids and the separation of families and children being put into concentration camps’?”

This is all well and good, but it’s a nonstarter with Latino voter turnout as shamefully low as it has been since forever—though Latino turnout shot up to 40 percent in 2018, with a record 11.7 million Latinos voting in the midterm elections. Still, that’s nowhere near the 51.4 percent and 57.5 percent turnout rates among black and white voters, respectively. With the lack of economic and political power Latinos have in this country—Latinos seem to be doing a little better than blacks economically, but lag far behind whites and Asians; and there are 13 more black members of Congress than there are Latino members, but who’s counting?—and with the demographic changes in Latinos’ favor, you’d think Latino voters would head to the polls on Election Day in swarms to secure their piece of the American pie.

And yet…

So what’s up with that, Mr. García?

“You gotta have a candidate that invests in the community to get the vote out. And Harry Reid just spent five million dollars, in Las Vegas, just to get the Latino vote out here to win a statewide Nevada race.” He’s referring to Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who in 2018 became the first Latina elected to the Senate. “If people started investing, you will see that people’ll go out and vote, and we’ve seen it in Iowa where we did have a record turnout of Latinos for the first time. We had bilingual caucuses, satellite caucuses, that turned out. But, you gotta ask them, you gotta talk to them, you gotta talk about kitchen-table issues that we talk about, education and health care… immigration reform, and… income inequality, and those are issues that are important, and if somebody addresses those and gets them out to vote, they can make a difference.”

“The revolving problem,” says Ms. Benavides, “is that nonprofits can’t do it by themselves, and it will take candidates… it will take campaigns… it will take the RNC, it will take the DNC… it will take all the political structures investing, and making sure we have Latino staffers… Latinos making decisions within the campaigns… that there is money being put to political ads, both in English and Spanish, and online… that we are actually investing and expanding the universe, because we have many Latinos who are eligible to register to vote who yet have not registered to vote—and just a big reminder to Democrats, that that was a strategic tactic that was used by the Obama campaign, to expand the universe of voters, and be able to provide that win margin.

“I will tell you that… We are awake. But it will take more than just words… It will take more than just one organization mobilizing… It will take everyone’s effort, including political campaigns, to truly invest to make sure that we turn out to vote. Because we will not just take it by your word—we wanna see actions.”

“You’re firing me up over here,” I tell her.

She laughs. “Can you hear the passion?”

It may surprise you to learn—though maybe not, but it surprised the hell out of me—that LULAC supports Medicare for All, and making public colleges and universities tuition-free; and that, all its prestige and respectability aside, LULAC is essentially a grassroots organization geared toward the working class—that is, lifting working-class Latinos up into the middle and corporate classes. For better or worse, they’re really trying to help Latinos, in both the Booker T. and the Du Bois molds: training the majority of Latinos to be of service to American society, while nurturing a Talented Tenth to share command of it.

I talked with Mr. García and Ms. Benavides for only around 15 minutes each. The whole thing was set up by a young PR agent, Ms. Piña, one of these Latina professionals both bubbly and fierce. While I’m waiting for Ms. Benavides to wrap up her interview with some lady from the Christian Science Monitor, I get to chatting with Ms. Piña. It turns out she’s from Venezuela, having immigrated to Florida sometime after the failed coup in 2002 which removed the late Hugo Chávez from office for two days.

I ask Ms. Piña if any of her family members are Chavistas, and she looks at me sideways for a split-second, the smile in her eyes gone. “No,” she says. “They’re all in the Opposition.”

“Oh, so what do you think of Guaidó?”

She’s beaming again. “I just met him last week! In D.C.! He was here for the State of the Union, I don’t know if you saw.”

I didn’t catch much of the President’s annual rant before Congress, but I’d heard that Juan Guaidó, who claims he’s been president of Venezuela since January 2019, was in the audience as Donald Trump’s special guest.

I ask Ms. Piña what she thinks of the “acting” president of her homeland, and she tells me about how good it feels “to finally have someone” fighting for the Opposition, to have something to hope for. I was going to mention that fascist stooge for capitalism, Leopoldo López, leader of the Popular Will party and the former foremost leader in the Opposition, but Ms. Piña strides off in her flats to take care of some business.

God bless a girl who values utility over fashion.

But why, oh why, are the pretty ones always neoliberals?

 

***

It’s now 4:30 in the afternoon and I still haven’t eaten anything—I’ve been using intermittent fasting to maintain my weight around 165, works like a charm—plus I’m long past due for my fifth cup of coffee. So I head outside and ask these two kids at the Gays for Bernie table if they know where I can cop a decent cup, no vending-machine bullshit. They point me toward the Student Center, on the south end of the campus.

The CSN North Las Vegas campus is beautiful but strange for a guy who went to school in and around Chicago, and downstate in Bumblefuck, Illinois. To the southwest you get a clear view of the Strip, beginning with the Stratosphere in the foreground and the other casinos receding off into the distance. Then, to the east, you have the Frenchman Mountain, with the lower Sunrise Mountain just to the northeast of it. To the north, towering over the campus and all of North Las Vegas, you have the Las Vegas Range, with Gass Peak well over a mile high. There are palm trees all over campus, and the sky is usually blue from one end of the valley to the other.

With all the landscaping, planned neighborhoods and perfect weather in a row, at times living in Vegas can feel like being in The Truman Show.

They have half a Starbucks in the Student Center, and I start chatting with the black kid who’s all alone behind the counter while he warms up my croissant and makes me a grande caramel macchiato with almond milk (they’re out of skim). He says he doesn’t follow politics much, but he likes what he’s heard about Bernie. Then, long story short, we get on the topic of Kanye West.

“People saying he crazy,” dude tells me.

“Shit,” I say, feeling the need to defend a living Chicago legend, “if you got that rich and famous, and started living out in Calabasas with all those crazy-asses… Look what they did to Lamar!”

“Yeah, but how he gon’ go from ‘Je-sus walks!‘ to ‘whoopity-scoop‘?”

“Naw, I liked that though. He was trolling those mumble-rapping motherfuckers.”

He offers me his hand y despedimos. As I leave, I realize I’m being watched by most of the kids in the Student Center. People out here tend to be soft-spoken, so any loud talker is bound to draw attention—especially if he’s a youngish black guy in a grey blazer, fresh t-shirt, black skinny jeans and white Adidas sneakers, with a media badge around his neck.

I scarf down the croissant as I head back over to the Nicholas J. Horn Theatre, where the LULAC town hall is to be held. The brown kid working the Gays for Bernie table is still there, now solo. (It might’ve been a regular Bernie table, but it had a lot of rainbow stuff on it—buttons and whatnot—and stuff touting Bernie’s long record of supporting the LGBT community.) I chat up the kid, Neslor, who identifies himself as a campus organizer, and who, if I had to guess, is either Southeast Asian or a Pacific Islander—but I’m not about to ask a fellow brown person about his race or ethnicity; it’s bad form. He tells me he’s from Vegas, though, born and raised.

At first, seeing the media badge around my neck, he says he can’t talk to me about the Bernie campaign, and that I should call a Bianca, giving me her number and everything. But this kid’s too fired up to keep mum, and he starts talking almost as fast as Mr. García did.

I ask him a lot of questions over the course of the next 20 minutes, and he covers a lot, but here’s the gist, according to my notes:

A “supermajority” of students on campus support Bernie. People like to downplay history, but history is the most important for understanding politics—“that and economics, I’d say.” The youth are getting fed up with the status quo. Too many people are getting used to the “disgusting” level of inequality in this country: “You go to the 7-Eleven”—he points off vaguely in the distance—“and you see a homeless guy begging for change” (no pun intended). Bernie’s politics are about “compassion,” which is “what conservatives don’t get”; they see people down and blame them for their lowly state, telling them they need to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps. But every system has winners and losers, and government should be there to ensure that those who don’t win aren’t merely chucked aside like trash. CSN’s Charleston campus is “more politically active,” but the N. Las Vegas campus is “more politically conscious”: Poor and working-class people know the political and economic realities—they’re living them—but they don’t have the time to get involved the way rich people with more leisure time do. “But they’re not bad people”; they’re just looking out for their own interests. People like to say that Bernie supporters are young, naive and don’t know what they’re talking about, but in fact Bernie supporters know even more about the issues than other voters do, which is why they’re so die-hard. Something about a writer over at Current Affairs. “If someone asked you, ‘How does a toilet work? How does a bicycle work? … You couldn’t explain the details of it” (but most people who defend capitalism don’t know much about it either). My zipper’s been down this whole time! Damn these jeans!—they’re so comfortable though. “No, you’re good, man,” he says, glancing askance at my fly as I zip up. Is having your fly open a thing in the gay community? Was I gay-signaling without even knowing? (Reddit post I look up later: “As a gay man, I fear telling other men their zippers are down because I don’t want them to know I was staring at their junk.” Commenter: “As a straight man, I fear telling other men their zippers are down because I don’t want them to think that I might be gay.”) I can’t even tell if Neslor’s gay or not, besides all the rainbows on the table. But I’m not gay myself, though I’m often assumed to be, and I’d have no qualms with working a Gays for Bernie table—anything for the Revolution.

Things are so complicated these days.

In the theatre’s foyer, the college’s co-ed mariachi band, Mariachi Plata, is in full swing, as a long line of attendees snakes its way into the auditorium. Four collapsible tables are set up along one wall, one for each participant in the town hall: the mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg; the billionaire hedge fund manager, Tom Steyer; the senior senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar; and the junior senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders.

The Steyer table is mostly yellow, displaying buttons and shirts reading TODOS CON TOM, with different shades of cartoon fists in the air. Because I liked what Steyer was saying in the last debate, in New Hampshire, or maybe because the young Latina sitting behind the table shot me a curious eye, I approach that table first to get a closer look.

After I tell her and the older white lady seated next to her who I am and who I’m with, her eyes light up as she extends me a hand, telling me, in Spanish, that she met Julio in Texas during some campaign for a Spanish name I haven’t heard of—at least, I don’t think I have. “Do you have a card or something you can give me?” she asks.

“Naw,” I grin, lifting up a foot to show her my shoes. “I’m wearing sneaks with skinny jeans. I look like a guy who hands out his card to people?”

“Yeah, that’s old school, I guess.”

I tell the two ladies I like what Tom’s been saying, and how I wonder why he isn’t more popular. But they’ve been hearing good things from voters, they say, so they’re optimistic. When I tell them I’m caucusing this year—I’m from Illinois, so I’ve never caucused before—this time the older lady’s eyes light up, and the Latina hands me a bumper sticker.

I move over to the Klobuchar table, mostly green, manned by two millennials, a girl and a guy gay. I ingratiate myself by telling them that my wife has been impressed with Amy, always nodding or giving some approving remark whenever she catches what Amy has to say. I ask them what they’ve been hearing from voters, and how they think Klobuchar can win voters over from the Buttigieg camp, her main rival within the neoliberal wing of the party.

“Well,” the guy begins, but then he catches himself. “You’re not gonna write this, right?” I reassure him with a swipe of my hand. Then he tells me something about how he’s confident Klobuchar can win voters with her “proven record” and “experience” of “pragmatic…”

“But wasn’t that Hillary’s pitch in 2016?” I interject. “And look what happened there.”

This clearly bugs the shit out of him. He huffs, assuring me that Klobuchar has a clear path to victory not only in July, but November too. I wish them luck, take a green Amy button for my wife, and head over to the Bernie table.

The Bernie table is almost identical to the one set up just outside the theatre, only with less rainbows on it. There’s a brown guy standing behind it—I’d bet he was South Asian, and guess he was Indian—but he speaks with a drawl. Turns out he’s Canadian, and we get to talking about how Bernie’s platform isn’t much different than what they already got up there in Canada and over in Europe; and how, despite what the mainstream media’s been saying, Bernie appears to have the broadest coalition of supporters among any of the other candidates—blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, gays, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, cooks, teachers, activists, artists, lawyers, you name it—all in huge numbers. Bernie voters are everywhere. You just have to go around asking different people to know that’s the truth.

I head over to the table on the opposite end from Bernie’s, the Buttigieg table, mostly blue and gold. There’s a sharply dressed young Latino manning the table. When I ask him what he’s been hearing from voters, he goes, “We’ve been hearing a lot of good things, but”—he gestures toward my media badge—“I can’t talk to you.”

“Very professional, Pete,” I say, nodding slowly. “Very professional… Well, good luck anyway.”

I’m not nearly as stupid as I look: I know why campaigns don’t want anyone but their media liaisons talking to the press. God forbid some Klobuchar or Buttigieg volunteer tells me what he or she really wants for the country. And yet, this is the second presidential election I’ve covered and not once has someone with the Bernie campaign not wanted to speak with me at length about their candidate and their vision for America. Bernie and his people apparently have nothing to hide, and that’s pretty encouraging when you’re trying to decide who to elect to the most powerful political office on the sinking face of the earth.

 

***

Signs posted here and there direct me back to the MEDIA SPIN ROOM, a tiny theater where the town hall in the much larger auditorium will be projected up on a hanging screen. On the little stage, below and a bit behind the screen, a row of news cameras are set up on tripods, facing a podium with microphones and a LULAC backdrop behind it, for the candidates to answer questions after each has survived his or her portion of the town hall and has left the auditorium.

It only takes me a minute or two to realize I’m the only brown journalist in the room, which is a tad strange considering the event is hosted by LULAC, alongside Leticia Castro from Telemundo Las Vegas, but oh well. The people in that media room were something else, too, a mash-up of geeks and yuppies (which one am I? both? fuck!)—the black girl from a local news crew seated in front of me spent the first half-hour shopping for sexy, form-fitting business attire on Amazon—but I’m already a few thousand words into this thing, so I’ll leave that story for another day.

But one thing I will mention is that the Telemundo Las Vegas crew were the very last to set up, hurrying into the room all last-minute. I shit you not.

Better late than never, though, I guess.

Before the thing kicks off, a man who looks like a built, bronze, walking version of Professor X comes out and reminds the audience there are to be “no signs, no badges … LULAC is a nonpartisan organization.” The man is David Cruz, LULAC’s communications director, which I might’ve guessed from his news-anchor dialect. “No outbursts from the audience,” he says, and quotes Benito Juárez: “Respect for the rights of others is peace.” Then he introduces “the future face of LULAC,” a dapper white Latino who looks a bit like Gael García Bernal, with slick hair and a bow tie. He comes out speaking Nahuatl, and then makes a point of acknowledging that Las Vegas sits on land stolen from the Southern Paiute Indians. His name’s Joél-Léhi Organista, and he’s the LULAC national vice president of youth.

While he’s speaking, this androgynous badass brown photographer girl comes in the Spin Room, with her hair slick back in a pony tail like Selena’s boyfriend, battered boots, and a flannel shirt. I swear it’s the same girl I mentioned in my dispatch from the Bernie Sanders rally last spring in Henderson (only I described her then as “a stubby brown tomboy with a backpack, hairy forearms and a professional camera slung round her neck stalk[ing] the crowd, looking for stuff to shoot”). I plan on chatting her up someday and seeing what she’s all about—as soon I think of something not completely douchey to say. You have to be careful when approaching girls like that, damn near immaculate in your progressive presentation.

Leticia Castro from Telemundo Las Vegas—and Nuestra Belleza Latina fame—is on stage introducing President García, who comes out and starts with “the story of José and María.” Then he introduces Dr. Federico Zaragoza, the first Latino president of the College of Southern Nevada, who introduces Ms. Benavides, who introduces the first candidate, Tom Steyer—but not before she says, “Our very identity makes us targets … We too are Americans! Somos americanos!”

Tom Steyer bounds across the stage with a “Buenos noches!” and launches into how he’s running for president “to break the corporations’ stranglehold on government.”

Thankfully I see LR has already posted the full video of the town hall, so I don’t have to go into the dull tedium of what was said.

That leaves me enough space to give my impression of each candidate:

TOM STEYER

The more I hear this guy talk, the more I wonder why he isn’t more popular. He’s a billionaire businessman who talks like Bernie Sanders, and even stresses the demand for social, economic and environmental justice for women and people of color more than Bernie does—though, of course, Steyer is about as socialist as Lizzie “Capitalist in My Bones” Warren. He talks about the “corpocracy,” about how “what’s going on in immigration courts is racist,” how he wants to “decriminalize the border,” about “the crimes against humanity at the border,” about “environmental racism”—“I don’t like the word pollution; these companies are poisoning people.”

Why hasn’t the public heard more about this guy?

Did you know Steyer was co-chair of the Latino Victory Fund in 2016? Did you know he and his wife founded a nonprofit community bank in the Bay Area for underserved communities, small businesses and other nonprofits? Did you know he’s the man behind NextGen America, the progressive political action committee which, among other things, registered over 250,000 millennial voters in 2018? Did you know he’s for DACA and DAPA, and that, when it comes to ICE, he talks about the need to “prosecute people who terrorize people”?

Steyer is skeptical about Medicare for All, though: he doesn’t think we should scrap the current system full stop. So, on the face of it, he seems to be somewhere between Bernie and Lizzie—which only begs the question: Why isn’t this dude more popular? Because he looks like a typical old white guy? Has the nation become that color-blinded? Or is it the money? Are the rich automatically suspect? (Is that a stupid question?)

Back in the Spin Room, some young female journalist—Lucifer in heels—asks Steyer, “Is the Democratic Party too liberal?” She’s standing right next to me, and I laugh to myself and shake my head.

The audacity of dopes.

BERNIE SANDERS

Bernie’s up after Steyer, and though he’s a full 15 years older than Tom, he looks and acts younger, more vibrant, a pro with the public. Besides Bloomberg—who couldn’t be bothered appearing at the LULAC town hall, just as he can’t be bothered with much of this year’s nomination process—Bernie’s the most presidential, someone who looks ready for the job on Day One. Remember: Bernie was mayor of Burlington, Vermont before “Mayor Pete” was even an itch in his father’s pants.

What else is there to say about Bernie? He’s the most progressive candidate on offer… in the Democratic Party. He’s pushing for Canadian-style democratic socialism, and he’s been fighting for the same causes for as long as anyone can remember.

I found it curious that he was the only candidate at the town hall asked about Puerto Rico—two questions, in fact—and he was asked about sex workers’ rights by the student government vice president (no pun intended). No one asked Pete or Klobuchar about American colonialism or hookers.

There was also that question, from a middle-aged Latina in white pants, about stopping the “generational abuse” of welfare programs. It’s pretty clear what that was about, too.

PETE BUTTIGIEG

Mayor Pete came out stiff as a board. This guy’s like an old man in a boy’s body. He’s too eager to be president. You can’t trust someone that young who wants that much power—take it from me. But his Spanish isn’t bad, I’ll give him that. Shit, his Spanish might be better than mine, especially considering he has to answer questions about foreign and domestic policy in front of all those people, under all those hot lights, with all those cameras watching. I’d probably choke on my tongue, or say “pinche” too much.

But the fucker’s too practiced. I know guys like this, we all do, and no one likes them, so why would we ever make one our president? Why do we let the conniving sociopaths be in charge of us? Are the voters that masochistic? Does the public suffer from slave mentality, only able to function comfortably in society with a regular sting from the Master’s whip?

Pete and his Wall Street bankers are trying to fuck the American people, and anyone even remotely paying attention can see it from a mile away. That shit-eating grin. Those not-so-secret dinners with rich donors—he doesn’t care if you catch him cozying up to Big Money; fuck you. Then there’s the way he says “Latino”—if you’re Latino, you know what I mean: Pete says “Latino” the way Obama said “Tollybon,” as if it were so utterly foreign to him. There’s something cold and dead in those eyes, his every word dripping with condescension bordering on contempt, as if he’s gracing you with his mere gaze and the sound of his voice. Watch the video from the town hall: He hates having to even take questions from the commonfolk, much less explain himself to them. If he wanted to be mixing in with ordinary people, he wouldn’t have busted his ass to get into Harvard, then Oxford, then The Firm.

Pete looks like a lawyer or money manager for the Russian mob—not just his face, but that mean look in his icy clear eyes. He’s lucky he doesn’t have a Slavic accent, because then nobody would trust him.

The asshole looks like he has explosive diarrhea and doesn’t know when he’s going to blow. And watch when that Hector Garcia kid asks Pete how he’ll close the concentration camps on our border when he doesn’t even condemn the Uighur camps in China: There’s a flash in his eyes of pure wrath; he wants to kick the kid’s ass! How dare that brown little nothing! Someone hold Pete back before he jumps off the stage! That kid better hope Pete never finds out where he lives—Pete knows some people who know some people. Look how assholy he is with some of the questioners: “I’m sorry, are we still talking about?…” He hates most of the people in the room, but he needs their votes.

Poor Pete. If only there were a way for him to become president of the United States without him having to actually deal with the people of the United States—like Bloomberg’s doing.

Maybe Pete just reminds me too much of Mayor Rahm in Chicago. The way he speaks. His mannerisms. That “Go Fuck Yourself” look in his eyes. Maybe he’s just too much like Hillary for me, only young and gay—Hillary’s problem wasn’t that she wasn’t young and gay; it was that she was a shill for Wall Street, which is exactly Pete’s problem.

He can’t even answer a question as simple as “How important is water?” without sounding completely full of shit. Water, for Pete’s sake!

No wonder he decided to skip the Spin Room afterward. “And face the wrath of the national press?” says this affable Asian guy, who seems to be the prince of the Spin Room.

“He’s only running for president,” I add.

AMY KLOBUCHAR

Oh, Amy…

I don’t understand how anyone thinks Amy Klobuchar can and will be president of the United States. I know Trump isn’t the most presidential thing to occupy the White House, but he’s going to eat Amy’s lunch if they ever face off in a debate—and her breakfast and dinner, too. She’s too meek and mild, too nice, too sweet, and way too sedate—“Low energy,” Trump will say. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d think this lady was about to wrap up her political career and head off into a comfortable retirement, not run for arguably the most stressful job in global politics. She’s got no gusto, no verve—even her eyelids can’t seem to stay up.

I don’t believe she even believes she can win the nomination, much less the election, so why is she still running? To extend her measly 15 minutes of fame? Jesus Christ. Our celebrity culture invades and rots everything from the inside out. Now it’s all about being seen and heard for as long as possible to raise your cachet—the kids call it “clout.”

Do me a favor: Close your eyes and imagine Amy Klobuchar flying around the world on Air Force One and meeting with foreign dignitaries as president of these United States. You can’t do it, can you? No one can. Can you see her with Putin? Or Xi Jinping? Or even Kim Jong-un? Or Boris Johnson?

Good God.

Speaking of, doesn’t the Bible say something about lambs lying down with lions during the End Times?

Hope you’re saying your prayers.

Amy would be the first woman president, of course, but even then it would still be a downer. Like a box of chocolate milk—it’s alright, but…

She touts the fact she’s won elections going all the way “back to the fourth grade,” but that’s probably because she’s so bland and boring that people figure she can’t do much damage either way. She drones forever during her answer about criminal justice reform, to the point that Mr. Cruz himself cuts her off! (“I’m so passionate about it,” she says, “I can go on and on.” I have absolutely no doubt about that.)

I think I’m going to start playing audio of Klobuchar explaining her policies every night, just to help me fall asleep.

That said, I’m sure she’s very popular with the goody people of Minnesota—and if so, they should keep her.

 

Featured image: The College of Southern Nevada’s co-ed mariachi band, Mariachi Plata, performs prior to the League of United Latin American Citizens presidential town hall in North Las Vegas, Nevada, February 13, 2020. (David Becker/Reuters)

Hector is the editor and publisher of Enclave. A Chicago writer now floating on the edge of Las Vegas, he is also the former deputy editor for Latino Rebels, as well as the former managing editor for Gozamos, a Latino art-activism site based in his home town. He has contributed to RedEye, a Chicago daily geared toward millennials, and La Respuesta, a New York-based site for the Puerto Rican Diaspora, plus a number of publications, including The Huffington Post. He studied history (for some reason) at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his focus was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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