Like everyone else, I was startled last week, to read news reports that former-President Bill Clinton had been orchestrating the demise of Tea Party favorite and Florida Republican Senate Candidate Marco Rubio by getting Democratic Senate Candidate, Congressman Kendrick Meeks, D-Fl, to withdraw from the Florida U.S. Senate race and endorse the perceived lesser of two evils: GOP turned Independent Senate Candidate, Governor Charlie Chris.
Clinton’s proposed Hari Kari strategy for the Democrat and sole African American Senate Candidate in the nation left many African Americans in total disbelief. President Clinton had finally put behind his imprudent 2008 primary campaign remarks that drew African American ire over his dismissive suggestion that then-Presidential Candidate Obama’s South Carolina primary win over then-Democratic Presidential Contender and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton was akin to former African American Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson’s two previous wins in that state; suggesting a race allegiance win (read: political fluke). Now, Clinton was asking Meeks to fall on his sword for the good of the Democratic Party.
Bill Clinton, recognizably one of the most brilliant political strategists of all times, has wedged himself between what’s good for the Democratic Party (and by default African American voters nation-wide) versus the looming threat Marco Rubio poses to the future projected dominant Democratic base: Hispanics.
The Clinton/Meeks debacle has put race and ethnicity squarely at odds, yet few non-Hispanic talking heads understood the contratempt. While the media focused on the impact on the Clinton/Meeks compact and its potential fall out by African American voters; the media was silent on why Marco Rubio would be a damn good Latino image for the GOP. Unlike, the GOP’s counter programming via Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele as a visual and political alternative to President Obama, Marco Rubio is no buffoon.
Marco Rubio, the experienced former Florida House Speaker, who is also young, telegenic and an affable Cuban American may be the first post-ethnic Latino with cross-over appeal to the more socially conservative Mexican American voter in the Southwest. Mexican-Americans comprise two-thirds (31 million) of more than 47 million U.S. Latinos in the United States. The Democratic Party establishment does not fear Sarah Palin, half as much as it does Marco Rubio’s political ascendance and his future ability to pied piper Latinos to the GOP. Rubio’s fresh and appealing image could stem Hispanic hemorrhaging from the Republican Party and create an “entre familia,” wedge issue between have and have not Latinos; and between multi-generational and recent arrival Latinos. The GOP could well build a geographical and sustainable Latino base of middle-class, educated, well-heeled Southwestern Mexican-Americans and Florida Cuban Americans who are upset with the blanket implications leveled against all Latinos by Errorzona Gov. Jan Brewer (or colloquially Brewja); California Candidates Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, Nevada Senate Candidate Sharon Angle and Delaware Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell.
Last week, the Pew Hispanic Center reported a sharp decline from a 2007 poll that showed 50 percent of Latinos viewed illegal immigrants as having a positive impact. In 2010, only 37 percent of Latinos held the same position. Another recent Pew Hispanic Center poll found that immigration reform was not the number one issue for Latinos but number five, after: education, employment, healthcare, and foreclosures.
Once Karl Rove gets into the kitchen after today’s elections and whips up a new political guacamole recipe for Hispanics, he’ll have a post-ethnic Latino politician, who will be as ripe as smooth avocados; Rubio will get cleansed with fresh lime juice to remove any Tea Party stench. Rove will add to the base special ingredients cilantro and Serrano chiles to create an authentic dish that will entice U.S. Latinos away from immigration reform as a top Latino priority and toward a more aspirational menu. The Republican Party will apologize and man up, assuming that Tea Party and Palinite femme fatales: Whitman, Fiorina, Angle, Brewja, er Brewer and O’Donnell will most likely have been slain and/or deeply injured by the electorate. Latinos will be effectively lured to communion with the GOP and may well choose to dip their salty chips into the guac.
Dems will lick their wounds, count their blessings, vow to focus on immigration reform, live to fight another day and point a nub or finger at former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel for losing a golden Latino opportunity; but by then Rahm will be safely ensconced in the Land of Lincoln and will be well on the road to his mayoralty and new fiefdom. Bill Clinton, the consummate strategist and futurist, will have tried to prevent this scenario, because the former President knows that if it comes to fruition, it could well derail a Democratic Presidential win in 2012, since Rubio will undoubtedly be the GOP Vice Presidential candidate in 2012. Rubio will take a page out of the Obama playbook to catapult himself from the Senate to the Executive Branch after less than a full Senate term. Why do Dems fear Rubio? Because Rubio’s election will be a generational and political game changer.
By guest contributor, Felix Sanchez, co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.