By David Cruz
“Si se puede. Si se puede.”
When he was picked to be the Democratic vice presidential nominee, a lot was made of Tim Kaine’s ability to speak fluent Spanish. It was seen by some as a nod to the burgeoning Latino community, with its wealth of new voters, but some party activists thought that, especially in the soon to be post-Obama era, that the Democrats, who waved the progressive flag all week long, missed an opportunity to elevate a person of color to the number two slot.
“That’s true and that has been the biggest criticism from the base and from the liberal base and from the left, and quite honestly, as a person of color, I feel we should have had some person of color or some diversity on the ticket, but you know it is what it is and unfortunately we have someone who is actually qualified, can actually balance the ticket well compared to the ticket Donald Trump has put together. Because the fact of the matter is that it’s Hillary versus Trump,” said New Jersey Democratic State Committee Vice Chair Lizette Delgado-Polanco.
“I think it’s important that the Latino agenda and the African-American agenda is addressed immediately because, again, we can’t be forgotten. It’s good to go and vote, but at the end of the day we need some people that are going to be at the table when the bread is being cut,” said Newark Councilman Luis Quintana.
“It is a concern to me but the experience and the issues that the candidates bring to this table as vice president is just as important,” said New Jersey State Democratic Committee Chair John Currie.
But party officials are counting on large majorities among black and brown voters and acknowledge that the choice of Kaine — a Virginia senator who comes from the more moderate wing of the party — was calculated to appeal to white males and southern voters, where Clinton’s support is weaker. But they’re quick to point out that Kaine, a former civil rights lawyer and Jesuit missionary in Honduras, has plenty of minority bonafides.
“Committed to equality, committed to fairness and inclusive and we’re seeing as we’re getting more information about the VP candidate in Kaine that he has a true connection to the Latino community, whether it’s been his work in South America, his ability to express himself in the language. Now we’ll have to see how the platform unrolls to be sure that it’s dealing with schools and education and equality and rights and immigration reform, which are key fundamental points to the Latino community,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz.
And frankly, say others, its incumbent on communities of color to expand their influence in the processes by which political decisions are made, so that they can call shots from positions of more power and influence.
“The reality, though, is that we need to organize ourselves. We need to turn out our vote and we need to raise our own candidates — city council, county, mayoral and gubernatorial candidates of color so that we can diversify the party and the nation,” said New Jersey Working Families State Director Analilia Mejia.
In the end, say these Democrats, diversity is as diversity does and while the top of the ticket may lack a certain color, the proof of this party is in the platform and in that regard, they say the Clinton/Kaine ticket is speaking their language.