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Sen. Rubio: One of Us Supporting None of Us

Sen. Rubio: One of Us Supporting None of Us

Photo: Sen. Marco Rubio Opposes DREAM Act

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Today’s contributor is Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. Hector is a freelance writer and community activist of Honduran-Puerto Rican descent living in Chicago. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where his departmental concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. In 2007 he co-founded an online blog, YoungObservers, and has remained its main contributor. Since 2010 he’s been the Opinions editor for the Chicago Flame, and he also contributes periodically for Examiner.com as its Chicago City Buzz Examiner. He is currently working on his first book.

On Monday Politico reported on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) and his surprising stance against the DREAM Act. In a nationally televised interview with the Spanish-language television network Telemundo, the Cuban-American senator announced that he would vote against the DREAM Act recently reintroduced by members of Congress.

Despite being similar to a bill he co-sponsored in the Florida House of Representatives in 2003 and 2004, Rubio has come out in favor of a tougher immigration policy since winning his state’s open Senate seat in 2010. Rubio’s political realignment towards his party’s line has some criticizing him for abandoning the members of his own community for the chance at winning favor within the Republican Party. For their part, the Republican leadership hopes a potential presidential ticket with Rubio’s name attached to it might help garner support from the increasingly influential bloc of Latino voters – who, while sharing similar moral views, have remained largely elusive to the Republican Party.

The Republican Party’s strategy of catering to identity politics is a bit antiquated and utterly misguided. It assumes that Latinos will vote for any politician with a Latino last name or immigrant relatives. But Latinos don’t vote for Latino candidates; they vote for pro-Latino candidates. It’s an important distinction to make, because it explains why most Latinos don’t vote Republican.

Latinos, as with Blacks, are disproportionately less wealthy than other racial-ethnic groups. This causes them to be more fiscally liberal than most, since they feel that government must play an active role in untying the knot of wealth disparity in the United States. Popular methods for combating wealth disparity are implementing a progressive tax code and providing social programs for the poor – two policies the Republican Party stridently opposes.

To be fair, the Democratic Party doesn’t fully support the two policies either. The Democrats seem to have adopted the centrist approach of restrained progressivism (in the best case scenario) or moderate conservatism (in the worst), which essentially amounts to shooting one foot while tap dancing with the other. Mainstream liberals have deluded themselves into believing that they can support socially what they aren’t willing to support financially, like a penny-pincher saying he would be charitable if he weren’t so miserly.

While Democrats and Republicans both cozy up to Wall Street, Latinos view the Democratic Party as its most powerful patron in the fight for social reforms. Not a single Republican in Congress can scarcely be considered socially progressive, apart from Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois; all are fiscally conservative. Senator Rubio might look Latino and have a Latino-sounding name, but his recent political alignment further to the right shows that he is not pro-Latino. And whereas the push for fair and comprehensive immigration reform was once a bipartisan issue, Democrats have remained the chief advocates of such legislation.

Latinos who are in favor of fairer immigration laws and want to see their community flourish need to stick with the Democratic Party. If not for their own sake, they should do it for the nation’s future: at the moment, the country is teetering off the far right, with both major political parties sitting right of center. Latinos, as part of the Democratic base, need to help pull the party back across the center and to the left, if only a little.

We cannot allow fatalismo to hold us back as a people any longer; the same fatalismo that keeps us from scheduling doctor visits is the same one that keeps us from exercising our political influence. We are politically unconscious. The Latino community must awaken from its political slumber and tow the Democratic Party ashore. America will only prosper – and the Latino community along with it – if the two-party system possesses a party that it is truly conservative and a party that is truly liberal.

For these reasons, while Sen. Rubio may be one of us, like the rest of his party, he doesn’t represent us.

Photo Credits: Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.