Politicians hit taco shops and Cuban cafecitos, butcher Spanish and urge their kids onstage to utter “hola” to adoring crowds to prove how much they care about Hispanics, who total about 27 million eligible voters.
“Hispandering” has existed for a decade, and both Democrats and Republicans are Hispanderers.
Some have even donned green, white and red sombreros on Cinco de Mayo without even knowing what the day is about. It commemorates the Battle of Puebla, in which Mexico won against France, not Mexican Independence, as many believe. Rather than appearing empathetic, politicians often look ridiculous.
Hispandering is defined by Duke University’s American Speech Journal as “pandering by elected officials or candidates seeking to win over Hispanic voters.” It originated in the early 2000s when politicians tried to win Hispanic support by feigning interest in their issues like paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Unfortunately for Hispanderers, a Pew Research Center poll shows Latinos’ main concerns are education, jobs, the economy and healthcare. Immigration reform is at the very bottom of the list.
Our current crop of presidential hopefuls has taken Hispandering to outrageous heights.
On the Democratic side, both candidates are Hispandering for votes.
In Hillary Clinton’s case, by making a point of flinging in phrases in Spanish wherever possible during her speeches as well as publishing a list proclaiming the seven ways that she is just like a Latino grandmother or abuela. She mentioned things that Latinos relate to, like the value they place on respect to elders, which is true, but she resorted to silly gifs and Spanish phrases to illustrate her points in way that seemed slightly sad and mocking rather than funny.
Bernie Sanders has not been so overt as Clinton, but still created an emotional campaign ad for Univision’s Spanish-speaking audience where he highlighted his concerns about economic inequality by showing the case of an immigrant woman agricultural worker’s struggles.
Republican Donald Trump, a man who identifies Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, whose main objective as president would be to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, depends greatly on inexpensive labor provided by immigrants to run his companies. Even he has started to see how crucial the Latino vote is so he managed to find a Latina willing to scream at people about how much she supported him. On Cinco de Mayo, in an obvious Hispandering attempt, Trump tweeted a picture of himself eating a not-very-Latino burrito bowl on twitter, with the caption, “I love Hispanics!”
Even some conservatives seem to agree, Hispandering leads nowhere.
In CQ (Congressional Quarterly) Researcher, an international affairs database, Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration, a conservative group that advocates for immigration reduction, said he did not expect any change with regards to immigration reform in the upcoming elections because “both Republicans and Democrats will continue their Hispandering.”
In a perfect world Hispandering would be considered positive if it somehow compelled politicians and those in power to actually do something about the issues Latinos care about. Unfortunately, it has been a never-ending cycle of failed promises by both parties that take advantage of Latino traditions and values to better format their lies so they can succeed in misleading the public, taking into account the 55 million Hispanics in the United States who, as the nation’s largest ethnic minority, have definite power to sway elections with their votes and wallets.
It is easy to place the blame for all this Hispandering on opportunistic politicians, but Latinos themselves are partly to blame as well because many believe the fabulous and fatuous promises politicians make.
Latinos need to become better informed. Only then will they be able to sort out the realidad from the mentira.