As soon as the poll results began trickling in on November 6th, it became increasingly apparent that President Obama was winning a significantly larger percentage of Latino voters than in the 2008 presidential election. By the following day, it was crystal clear; President Obama had won 71% of the Latino vote and approximately two-thirds of Latinos in swing states had voted for him. Of course it didn’t hurt that the Republican Party had supported laws and policies that were arguably the most aggressive anti-immigrant measures in recent years and had displayed remarkable cultural incompetence. Examples include the infamous Arizona immigration law SB-1070, as well as the Republican Party’s rejection of the DREAM Act.
While there are numerous explanations for why most Latinos chose to vote for President Obama in this election, it is clear Obama owes his re-election in large part to their support. It is incumbent on Obama and his team to ensure they listen to and begin to respond to the needs of Latino communities. One of the most important ways for Obama and the Democratic Party to do this is to ensure Latinos are represented at the highest levels of government and are included as part of his cabinet. With the departure of Hilda Solis as the Secretary of Labor, the first Latina in a top cabinet post, Obama’s cabinet has only one Latino (Ken Salazar, the Interior Secretary).
In many ways, the next two weeks will reveal the level of support President Obama will give to Latino communities in his next term. Including Latinos as part of his cabinet is one of the clearest and most symbolic gestures Obama could make to let our communities know that he’s listening. If Obama seeks Latinos for his cabinet, it will be clear that he understands the power of U.S. Latinos and that our government must include individuals who are representative of these communities. It will mean that Obama is willing to go to bat for Latino communities.
If Obama fails to nominate Latinos for high-level cabinet positions, it will most likely be due to a strategic preference for “easy” candidates that will not ruffle too many Republican feathers. It becomes much less clear in this scenario how far Obama will go to bat for Latino communities in this new term.
Obviously, Obama can support Latinos in a myriad of ways; however, putting a Latino in a top cabinet position would be a fantastic and very public show of support. During Obama’s re-election campaign, many Latinos, including me, publicly affirmed their support of Obama by putting up posters on their yards, cars and online profiles that stated, “I’ve got his back.” After our resounding support of his re-election, it would be great to know that he has our backs as well.
 See Manny Diaz, “The Latino Vote in 2012,” available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/manny-diaz/latino-voters-2012_b_2190842.html
Being Latino Contributor, Alexandra Aquino-Fike