Editor's Note: Juan Tornoe is a marketing consultant and trend watcher. See his blog at juantornoe.blogs.com.
What concerns are Latino VOTERS facing? To understand, let's divide the voting-age Latino community broadly into US Citizens, US Residents, Documented aliens (i.e. those working and living in America with a work visa) and undocumented aliens. The last three do have concerns about the future of this country and can vocal about them, but, bottom line, they DON'T VOTE (as much as they would love to be able to do so). This immediately changes the playing field, and reshuffles the weight some concerns have among those who will fill in the ballots to choose our next President.
So what worries Latino Voters?
The main issues that are keeping Hispanics awake at night are pretty much the same that hover over the heads of any red-blooded American (aren't we all red-blooded?): The Economy, access to Health Care, Cost of Living, Job Security, education, National Security, Future Energy resources, Getting Lou Dobbs off the airwaves (just kidding), being able to provide for their families and provide for themselves after retirement... Yes, among Latinos the "notorious" immigration issue most certainly scores higher within their overall list in comparison to other groups, but surprisingly to some, not everyone of them marches to the beat of the same drum on this regard. Do you recall that there are Latinos among the Minuteman? Independently of where they stand on this issue, it certainly does not score as high in importance as the other issues listed above.
We need to recall that not all Hispanics are Republican OR Democrat or libertarian or independent. There are as many different political viewpoints as there is diversity within this community. Among my circle of Latino friends alone I can clearly see individuals positioned on both ends of the political spectrum and everywhere in between, as well as Latinos living on every corner of the US, working on industries as diverse as there can be, with PhD's or not even finishing Elementary school, with quite different religious beliefs, on both sides of the abortion issue, pro and against stem cell research… Get the picture? Some are recent immigrants yet to become citizens, some have children born in the United States (which interestingly changes their perspective on certain things), I know of at least one that is a 5th generation Texan who's family never crossed the border but the border crossed them; some are Mexican-Americans, some are Puerto Ricans, others have Central American or South American Heritage. Some have very successful businesses some are unemployed right now. Many are bilingual, while others only speak or prefer to use either English or Spanish.
If one of the candidates, or anyone for that matter, pretends that all Latinos are alike, have the same points of view, and should be addressed in the same manner, they are very, very mistaken. The one thing that both Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama can be certain of it that Hispanic Voters, as well as all other U.S. Citizens, are fed up with political rhetoric, the never ending focus on non-issues, and the lack of straight talk when it comes to what we can expect them to do in the issues that do matter. It is truly an art to be able to flick through all the political talk out there and find what each one of them will truly implement to address/take care of those issues. It is much more than where they stand on moral or religious beliefs, whether they are pro or against guns control, if they were a POW or a community organizer, how many houses they own or how much their home costs, or if their use of a somewhat obscure refrain was maliciously chosen to bring down one of their opponents… All these "issues" are simply diverting our attention from the things that really matter (yes, they do provide juicy material for political commentators and comedians alike, but that is not what we really need right now). Both sides offer change, but up until now we haven't been able to get a clear definition from either on how that change really looks like, do they have a detailed action plan on how to address each one of the really important issues. Why not focus your messages on this rather than on bashing your opponent?
People are closely listening in search for substance; they want to learn where each candidate really stands on the issues and what will they do to implement their view; what is their objective vision of America and what steps they will take to lead us there. This country is facing many challenges and it is in a crucial point in time, we need our potential next leaders to step up to the plate and give us detailed information on what they will do and what sacrifices we'll need to make together, to make it through this trial period and attain a better future for us, our children, and our community.
Now that I have made my point that Latinos not only care about immigration, I can address this issue. If you are a Hispanic VOTER, either you or your forefathers have already gone through the whole immigration and naturalization issue, so it has been taken care of, at least at a very individual level. Yes, you might have friends and family members that are being faced with this issue, trying to come to the U.S. or trying to become a permanent resident or a citizen. If you are amongst those, you certainly want to learn exactly where each one of the candidates stand on immigration. This information will definitely weigh (a bit more than for non-Hispanics) on who you vote for to become our next president, but it won't be the only thing influencing your vote.
Hispanics, as it is well known by all, constitute only the most recent wave of immigrants, not the only. They are more closely connected, than other groups/communities, to the undeniable fact that this country is made up of immigrants, was erected into its current world leader status by immigrants and their offspring, that each new wave of immigrants brings their own set of hopes and dreams, and willingness to work hard to achieve them, and that this is what keeps this country vibrant and makes it the best country on the face of the earth. Unfortunately, history has shown that it only takes a couple generations, sometimes even less, for Americans to completely forget that immigrants were, are and will be this country's cornerstone. I hope that whomever is elected never forgets this fact and acts accordingly.