I had breakfast with Howard Dean and a group of DFTers back in November or December, prior to his winning the chairmanship.. I am not a Deanic, but I do like the guy. He stayed with us for over an hour and talked about a 50-state strategy to “take our country back.” It wasn’t this discussion that gave me the most hope, but actually one of the first questions he asked - what is the relationship amongst minority communities here (yeah, I was the only minority in the room at the time). I knew immediately that the Doctor was on to something that had been overlooked - for a long time.
This weekend, Dean will come to Texas again. He will address the DNC Hispanic Leadership Summit and without a doubt (in my mind) inspire a lot of Dems to fight harder and longer no matter how lonely it may feel here in the Lone Star State.
The Express-News’ Rebeca Rodriguez published an intro story about the Summit this weekend. You can check it out here (or after the jump, as PD likes to say).
Here’s a quote (emphasis mine):
Frank Guerra, a local Republican consultant who has worked on several state and national campaigns including Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, said the appeal of the Republican Party lies not just in the issues it supports, but in its overall philosophy. (Which here in Texas is to not fund our schools, hand out corporate welfare, use smoke and mirrors in lieu of real solutions, and rip foster kids from their gay parents… )
“Democrats are the champions of the people and in the past, the Democratic Party did a fantastic job of fighting those battles,” Guerra said. “But the Republican Party is the guardian of the American dream. It speaks about opportunity (Unless you’re gay… or worse a gay minority!).
Express-News Political Writer
As the Republican Party continues to make steady inroads among Hispanic voters, aptly illustrated by President Bush’s relatively strong support among Latinos in 2004, Democrats are struggling to recapture a constituency they believe is rightfully theirs.
“The Democratic Party has long been the party of minority empowerment in the political process,” said Luis Miranda, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “But you can’t expect people to vote for you if you’re not there to ask for their vote. We want to change that.”
This weekend, the Democratic National Committee, or DNC — the national face of the Democratic Party — is hosting its third annual Hispanic Leadership Summit in San Antonio.
Organizers hope the event, expected to attract about 400 participants, will be a steppingstone toward growing a party some would argue is hobbled by electoral defeat and a lack of vision.
“Republicans think long-term. Democrats tend to think about the next election. Unless Democrats get in the game in a more profound way, the result will be a gradual erosion of the Latino vote,” said Andy Hernandez, director of the 21st Century Leadership Center at St. Mary’s University and a former DNC official.
The summit, which begins this evening and ends Sunday, will feature panel sessions on a variety of topics, including health care, economic growth and voting rights.
DNC Chairman and former presidential candidate Howard Dean will address the summit Saturday morning. Others expected to attend include Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO; California Congresswoman Grace Napolitano; Congressmen Henry Cuellar and Charlie Gonzalez and several members of the local Bexar County delegation in the Texas Legislature.
Former San Antonio Mayor and U.S. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros was invited and may attend, but isn’t part of the official program.
The program is not open to the public.
The event is part of the party’s overall strategy to reconstitute itself as a body with its own message and not just an alternative to the GOP.
The challenge is real, and bitterly partisan. Republicans control both houses of Congress, and Texas Republicans hold all statewide offices and are the majority party in the Legislature.
The rancorous divide was evident during the last two presidential elections, and in attempting to peel away support, both parties sought to woo different constituencies, including Hispanics.
Although the percentage of the Hispanic vote Bush received in the 2004 presidential election wavers between an estimated 31 percent and 44 percent, it’s more than Democrats expected.
“It was still an increase, and an increase we’re not happy about,” Miranda said.
In Bush’s home state of Texas, he fared particularly well, garnering 49 percent of the Latino vote compared to 50 percent for Democratic candidate John Kerry, according to a CNN exit poll conducted on Election Day.
Miranda said because of the way that presidential races are run — with most of the effort taking place in so-called “battleground states” — many states with large Hispanic populations like Texas get passed over.
But that is changing under Dean, who apparently intends to campaign for Democratic causes and candidates vigorously in all 50 states, “not two or three weeks out before an election, but throughout the year,” Miranda said.
Democrats have to put money into races and build a cadre of young leaders for not only upcoming elections but in anticipation of elections down the road, Hernandez said.
“Forty-five (million) to 60 million (dollars) will be spent this year by the DNC,” he said. “How much of that will be used for the creation and delivery of a message (to Hispanics) and how much will be used to create a new generation of leadership?”
Attrition of Hispanic support has as much to do with what Republicans have done right as what Democrats have done wrong, said Gilberto Ocañas, a local Democrat and a former DNC deputy director.
“When something is important, you put a lot of time and money into it,” he said. “The Republicans made the Hispanic vote a priority. And until you do that, you’re going to slowly erode the vote.”
Ocañas said the Democratic Party needs to do a better job of articulating its vision, but the Hispanic community can no longer look to the Democratic Party for answers to its problems.
“It’s a universal image of Hispanic Americans, especially Mexican Americans that we’re basically too passive,” he said. “We’re not going to address any of our issues unless we become more assertive and pro-active about giving back.”
Frank Guerra, a local Republican consultant who has worked on several state and national campaigns including Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, said the appeal of the Republican Party lies not just in the issues it supports, but in its overall philosophy.
“Democrats are the champions of the people and in the past, the Democratic Party did a fantastic job of fighting those battles,” Guerra said. “But the Republican Party is the guardian of the American dream. It speaks about opportunity. These days, Hispanics are mainstream and we need less championing and more opportunities.”
Guerra said a parochial view of Hispanics has led Democrats to take the diverse constituency for granted.
“Democrats say ‘They’re part of the grain of the party,’ but I think that’s just being in denial. They are conceding that ground.”