by John Hawkins | September 10, 2007 6:35 am
The Democrats just participated in a Spanish language debate,
Democrats condemned divisive immigration rhetoric and promoted issues important to Hispanics during a televised debate last night on a leading Spanish-language network.
The debate, in which the presidential candidates’ remarks were translated live from English, was billed as a historic first and provided the candidates an opportunity to address America’s estimated 17 million Hispanics of voting age in what for many is their native language.
Seven of the eight Democratic candidates participated in the Univision debate at the University of Miami, eager to court a Hispanic constituency that many believe could play a pivotal role in battleground states such as Florida. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, who recently returned from an Iraq trip, was the only Democrat not to take part.
By comparison, only one Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has accepted Univision’s invitation to a GOP debate that was scheduled for next week, forcing the network to postpone it.
A few months back, I would have been glad to see that most Republicans weren’t participating in a Spanish language debate and I think a lot of conservatives feel the same way. After all, we do speak English in this country.
However, since then, my thinking has changed.
The challenge with illegal immigration is to insist on security first and oppose amnesty while simultaneously assuring Hispanic Americans that it’s about the illegals, not about Hispanics.
To me, doing a Spanish language debate is a great way to do that.
No, the candidates shouldn’t go in there and pander. Yes, they should talk tough on immigration; yes, they should support English as a national language; yes, they should oppose amnesty — but, just by showing up, they show that their positions are about illegal immigration, not about dislike of Hispanics.
That’s really what the Spanish language part of the debate is for since there are very few people who can’t speak English who can vote.
So yeah, be tough on illegal immigration, but also do a debate in Spanish, run Spanish language commercials, don’t be afraid to get in there and really reach out to Hispanic Americans. 30% of Hispanic Americans voted for the GOP in 2006 and there’s no reason why that percentage can’t go up significantly in 2008 if they show that the Democrats are full of it when they say that Republicans are hostile to Hispanics.
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