I watched the Univision debate last evening. It was a rather baffling spectacle. For starters, it wasn’t a debate; it was a round-robin press conference where the candidates addressed the two moderators, Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas, and not each other.
Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson took part in the program. Biden couldn’t make it.
Richardson and Dodd weren’t allowed to reply in Spanish because it would give them an unfair advantage over
Hillary the other candidates. Richardson was twice stopped by Ramos when Richardson tried to reply in Spanish. At one point Richardson protested,
“In other words, Univision is promoting English-only in this debate.”
Even when I find this bilingual pandering absurd, I actually would have preferred to hear Richardson and Dodd reply in Spanish since the speakers weren’t muted and you heard a garbled mess of low-volume English and higher-volume Spanish. There was also a fair amount of overlapping between the answers, the translations, and the next questions. It wasn’t so much a tower of Babel as it was a Tower of Garbled.
The debate was focused exclusively on saying what the Democrats think the audience wanted to hear:
- Open borders; Obama, Clinton and Dodd were asked why wouldn’t they want a barrier on the Canadian border because after all, “none of the September 11 terrorists came in through Mexico.”
Give it time, Jorge, give it time. Continuing,
- Reuniting families (Hillary); the courage of those “doing the jobs Americans don’t want to do” (Edwards)
- Spanish as the official second language of the US (Kucinich)
- And government intervention in everything from education to mortgages to healthcare
Kucinich wants to abolish NAFTA; Edwards will raise your taxes to pay for medical insurance; Hillary wants more and more government regulation and intervention in the banking system because “40% of Hispanic homeowners have second mortgages.”
No surprises there.
Much to their credit, neither Richardson nor Dodd would support Spanish as a second official language.
Gravel wants an “open-arms policy with Latin America” and would embrace Hugo Chavez; he also made a huge gaffe by saying he wants to recognize the Castro regime, asking, “What’s the big deal?” to a South Florida audience. Oooh boy.
NY Times: Democrats Reach Out to Hispanic Voters
Mr. Obama, who is seeking strong support from both black and Hispanic voters, recalled a telegram the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sent to Cesar Chavez when the two men were each involved in protest strikes. The telegram read, “Our separate struggles are one.”
Did Dr. King send the telegram in Spanish?
Several questions focused on immigration, and the seven participants exhibited little difference on the issue, with all supporting changes that would allow illegal immigrants now in the country to stay and eventually receive U.S. citizenship, and all criticizing anti-immigrant sentiments. Nearly all the candidates committed to overhauling immigration laws in their first year in office, days after Republican candidates accused each other in a debate of supporting “amnesty.”
But it is amnesty, and the American public doesn’t want it.
Miami Herald: Democrats try to speak to Hispanics
In a debate at the University of Miami broadcast by Spanish-language television giant Univisión, Democratic presidential candidates hoped to speak voters’ language.
No major gaffes occurred, but the on-air translation of the candidates’ answers into Spanish was spotty at times.
“It detracted tremendously from the quality of the debate,” said Eduardo Gamarra, director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean studies at Florida International University. Gamarra, who led a focus group of 19 young Hispanic Democrats who watched the debate, also criticized the candidates for giving vague responses.
The Herald noticed that the Democrats are throwing Florida off the primary train:
But the new law bumping up the primary to Jan. 29 — upending the calendars set by the national parties — has come at a price. The Republican National Committee plans to take away half of Florida’s delegates to the 2008 convention, while the Democratic National Committee won’t count the state at all at its convention.
Nearly all the Democrats have pledged to skip states that break party rules, throwing the Florida campaign into disarray.
El Herald has anAP video of the debate that actually allows you to listen to the ungarbled replies in English.
Did all this pandering pay off? Apparently not:
And some in the mostly college-age crowd, whether Hispanic or not, said they walked away disappointed that the questions in the debate centered too much on immigration and Latin America and not enough on issues they said would help them narrow down their choice of candidate.
Ziva at Babalu asks,
Did Senator Dodd say anything about freeing Dr. Biscet and Cuba’s political prisoners, or about the lack of Human Rights on the island? Chris Dodd’s Cuba policy does not require any concessions from the regime.
The Washington Post article I linked to above states,
Latinos make up the nation’s largest minority group, about 14 percent of Americans, but they represent only about 9 percent of the electorate because of lower citizenship and participation rates. Still, their votes are coveted, in part because Latinos are regarded as a group still up for grabs between Democrats and Republicans, and because their numbers are particularly strong in several states Democrats regard as must-wins, such as Florida, California and New York.
The Democrats are assuming that there is such a thing as a Latino block of voters that will be swayed by this sort of gimmick. They are wrong. The Mexican voters in California are not the Cuban voters in Miami and neither are the Puerto Rican and Caribbean voters in New York.
Also at Babalu, Henry points out,
At the end of the day, in South Florida, there are almost as many independents as there are Democrats and the Democrats have “achieved” an increase of 2 basis points in the last 16 years (well within the margin of error of the poll).
You see while Cuban-American voters don’t generally do demonstrations, we do elections.
And that’s what matters.
As it turns out, us bloggers at home were better off than the credentialed journalists in the Media Room.
Univision’s so-called debate
Cross-posted at Heading Right