Yes, white male Republican presidential candidates hate Mexicans. That's been clearly established. But what about black people? Do they hate Mexicans, too? The New York Times wants to know:
Mr. Obama confronts a history of often uneasy and competitive relations between blacks and Hispanics, particularly as they have jockeyed for influence in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.
“Many Latinos are not ready for a person of color,” Natasha Carrillo, 20, of East Los Angeles, said. “I don’t think many Latinos will vote for Obama. There’s always been tension in the black and Latino communities. There’s still that strong ethnic division. I helped organize citizenship drives, and those who I’ve talked to support Clinton.”
The story includes obligatory quotes from Ruben Kihuen, the Official Latino of the Nevada Democratic Party, bestowing new meaning on the old caricature of the Democrats as the mommy party:
“The Hispanic community is very family oriented, and we respect our mothers,” said Ruben Kihuen, an influential Democratic assemblyman from Las Vegas who supported Mrs. Clinton. “A lot of middle-aged women see her as a mother, a head of the household, and they can identify with this. Especially when they see her daughter, Chelsea, with her.”
Bill Richardson and Al Sharpton (here making perhaps their inaugural joint appearance in the same sentence) are also quoted. Sharpton seems to be suggesting that it will be difficult for Obama to transcend Latino-African American tensions because Obama has yet to publicly admit to being black. Or something like that. Richardson says the rivalry is overstated and wishes that everyone would just get along, as is his custom.
While Latinos are expected to play a more significant role in the election in 2008 than they have in the past, here is yet another version of the obligatory disclaimer accompanying that perennial hope, laced with a Southern Nevada historical vignette for added value:
Latinos are famous, or infamous, for not showing up to vote in numbers proportionate to their share of the population. Glen Arnodo, who used to have Pilar Weiss' job as the Culinary's political director before moving to organize for UNITE HERE in L.A. a few years back, always contended that if Latinos in the Las Vegas area had shown up to vote in numbers that matched their percentage of the population, Al Gore would have won the presidency in 2000. (And yes, beloved Republican Gleaner readers, Arnodo was talking only about that portion of the Latino population that were U.S. citizens and who could vote but didn't, so relax already).
Nothing is ever simple anyway. Clinton is seriously courting Latinos. The Obama-supporting Culinary union seriously represents Latinos. The fault line in Nevada's caucus may not be between blacks and Latinos as much as it is between Latinos and Latinos. Dang! Why can't people behave in monolithic blocs to fit NYT storylines?
Having said that ...
The Nevada caucus campaigns effectively kicked off last March, when Clinton, Obama and Richardson showed up in a parking lot to address about 5,000 hospitality workers gathered by the Culinary in an impressive early demonstration of the union's ability to get people where they want them to be (maybe doubly impressive in that the event was happening at the same time that UNLV's basketball team was playing in a nationally televised Sweet 16 game).
At that rally, and in the course of remarks during the many ensuing appearances with union members by all the Democratic presidential candidates, Culinary poohbah D. Taylor stressed the diversity of the organization's membership and the importance of standing together against the greed, insensitivity and rapacity of the world's largest gambling/hotel corporations, not despite the membership's ethnic or cultural differences, but because of them.
Taylor reiterated some of that message last week when he announced the union's endorsement of Obama.
"In America in this day and age, whites, African Americans, Latinos and Asians don't really come together a lot. Politicians divide us up all the time," Taylor said. "And what this union is about, and what American needs to be about, is not diving people up, but bringing people together, from all walks of life for the common good."
Yes, brother, kumbayah, etc.
But for all the hooplah and excitement — and pain and bloodletting and embarrassment — of Nevada's moment in the kleig lights, and at the risk of being a big fat buzzkill, it should be remembered that barring unforeseen events of unimaginable magnitude, the Nevada Democratic caucus, at the end of the day, is not going to decide the Democratic presidential nomination. This Saturday afternoon, the presidential campaigns will close their offices and go somewhere else to call each other names and practice their conniving trickery.
Meantime in Nevada, whites, African Americans, Latinos, Asians and everybody else is going to have to keep going to work and yelling at their kids and chasing members of the opposite sex or the same sex or working on their cars or whatever the hell else it is that they do. And though not as well funded or practiced in the dark arts as, oh, say, the Clinton campaign, there will still be politicians of the local variety trying to divide us up.
All the other political kids and even other unions can hate the Culinary if they want, s'pose, as described in a perhaps overstated narrative in Tuesday's Sun (they still won't hate the Culinary as much as bitchy little area megalomaniac and bazillionaire warmonger Sheldon Adelson does, just btw).
But whatever the intensity of racial tensions and distrust that might be running through Southern Nevada at any given time, it'd be dialed up a few notches higher if not for the Culinary.