POLITICS

Opinion: "Don't Vote" Ad Was a Throwback to Jim Crow 

Politics can be creepy; but one of the efforts to suppress Latino voter turnout in key battleground states, principally Nevada, was a throwback to Jim Crow. Claiming financial support from unnamed “Latino businessmen”, Robert dePosada, a former Republican operative, created an odious print and TV ad campaign carrying the tagline, “Don’t Vote.” The angle dePosada used to justify a message so negative and anti-social was that since neither party did much to further the cause of immigration reform, Latinos should refrain from voting altogether. By withholding their vote, the premise went; Latinos would be sending a message that they will not be taken for granted.

Aside from the obvious fact that boycotting elections only strengthens the party most opposed to your point of view, dePosada and his anonymous backers likely had a more insidious agenda. Recognizing the enormous potential impact of the Latino vote on close races in California and Nevada and elsewhere, he tried to create a disincentive, a principled excuse for Hispanics to stay home. And it might have worked had not Univisión, the powerful Spanish language network, blocked access to any of their affiliates and stations. In rejecting the ad, the media giant said it “prides itself on promoting civic engagement.” 

Similarly, rival Spanish-language network Telemundo launched its own “Tu Voto, Tu Futuro” (Your Vote, Your Future) campaign to encourage voter turnout.

Once dePosada and his “Don’t Vote” ad were stymied by the big two TV networks, other outlets and journalists picked up on his scurrilous attempt to undermine decades of struggle by minorities to win voting rights. The image of an elderly Latino, who gained citizenship in the United States after a lifetime of struggle a sacrifice, being confronted by a slickly produced, bilingual ad urging the old-timer to stay home on Election Day is an obscenity; grossly antithetical to the ideals of giants like Cesar Chávez and Martin Luther King Jr. and the legion of others who gave everything to win the right for every American, and those who fought and died to preserve it.

And I told dePosada what I thought of him in no uncertain terms when he appeared on “At Large” on the Saturday night before elections. Essentially I called him a traitor and dismissed his feeble attempts at rationalization. Several viewers wrote to chastise me for rudeness, but the motive behind his campaign was so blatant, clumsy and heavy-handed that I could not restrain myself. DePosada’s campaign was so bad it even made Tea Party darling Sharron Angle’s anti-immigration ad benign in comparison . All she did was produce a spot where ominous, shadowy, dark-faced figures populated her apocalyptic vision of a world over-run by illegal aliens.
It backfired.

And while I will write at greater length about the demonstrated importance of the Latino vote in these mid-terms elections just concluded, let me give you an idea of what dePosada, Angle and their fellow travelers justly feared.

First, in Nevada, the Senate majority leader Harry Reid owes his political life to the overwhelming turnout he received from Latino Nevadans. They represented a whopping 12% of the total statewide vote, and Reid received an unprecedented 90% of it, according to estimates by LatinoDecisions a multi-agency effort using scientific method to accurately track this still emerging constituency. The group further concluded that “fully 69% of Latino voters in Nevada said the immigration issue was one of the most important factors in their decision to vote and who to vote for.”

Harry Reid is still the majority leader because the chronically under-polled Latinos who make up 25% of the population of Nevada voted for him.

In the race for California governor, billionaire Meg Whitman spent millions trying to lure Hispanics voters, while still trying to portray herself as tough on illegal immigrants. That effort went up in smoke when news broke that she had employed an undocumented housekeeper for almost a decade. When, after exposure, she fired the employee, Nicandra Diaz Santillan, Whitman appeared insensitive. When, four days before the election, she told us the housekeeper should be deported because Nicandra falsified documents to get the job with Withman, the deal was sealed. 86% of the Latino vote went to Whitman’s rival Governor-Elect Jerry Brown.

Tracking every election since 2004, it is clear that anti-immigration politics don’t work. Neither do efforts to suppress Latino voter turnout. The dePosada’s of the world are Sin verguenza (shameless) and ineffective.

Geraldo Rivera is a columnist for Fox News Latino.