Right after Michelle Obama spoke, a Latina friend of mine in Massachusetts sent me a text message. She had been watching the convention live on CNN. My friend was an ardent supporter of Hillary during the primaries. At that time we had many passionate discussions about why she thought Hillary was the best choice for our community while I argued the case for Obama. After the primary it has still been quite challenging to get her and many other of my friends not only to vote for Obama, which I think they will ultimately do, but also to actively work to ensure that he gets elected.
This is why when people ask me “Will Latinos vote for Obama?” I say: “Yes, they will”. I don’t think Latinos voting/not voting for Obama is the problem as it relates to Latino support of his campaign. Several studies already have him leading among Latinos. Besides, common sense will tell you that all you have to do is look at the economy, the price of gas, the crisis in our schools which are at an all time high in drop out rates, the rise in crime, and the lack of significant improvement to our health care system -- add to this the number of Latinos dying in Iraq and you will find that Latino families, just like most American families, are hurting badly. These issues will surely have a strong impact on Election Day because Latinos will seek change to alleviate the crisis. There is very little that the Republican government has done in terms of policy during the last 4 years that could make a case for Latinos to vote for them in big numbers as they did in 2000.
Having said that, I do not believe that a number of Latinos (at least in MA) are yet at the point of actively engaging in the Obama campaign, which is different from just voting. This is not to say that they will vote for McCain in big numbers because I am not sure if he even has a "convincible" message for Latinos, period. However, Obama has a potential missed opportunity here. Although Massachusetts Latinos are not a priority in terms of numbers and swing states, we are potential bilingual volunteers in other swing states where the Latino community could be the deciding factor. Obama's message should be permeating the hearts and minds of Latinos springing them to action.
Last night it started to happen, at least with my Latina friend from Massachusetts. In her text message after listening to Michelle Obama, she wrote: “Where do I sign up?” Another text from her immediately followed: “I want to go to a Denver or Ohio to help in the last two weeks leading up to election day. Let’s do it!” She heard Obama’s message. It was clear and effective and it brought her to the point of wanting to be a part of this movement. To the Obama campaign I say bring your story and your message to our communities more effectively – it will be worth the effort not only for your campaign but for the country. To my good friend who has come around I say “¡Bienvenida!”