The cover of TIME magazine’s March 5 issue strikingly proclaims the arrival of the Latino vote with two, simple Spanish words: “Yo Decido.” In the cover article, brazenly titled “Why Latinos will decide the next President,” White House correspondent for TIME Michael Scherer argues that an explosion of Latino populations across the country will endow the Latino community with a power it has never wielded before: the ability to decide a presidential election.
While reaching a place in the American cultural pantheon that is the cover of TIME magazine may be cause for Latinos to walk around with an extra bounce in our step – chins higher, chests farther out – there a few heavy realities that should keep us from prematurely floating off into the stratosphere.
Truthfully, Latinos probably won’t decide the next president, and if we do, it will be through our absence from the voting booths come November.
You see it, hear it, feel it wherever you go. Latinos are continually feeling dismayed and disillusioned by an administration that promised to usher in a new era in American government. The dream of the Obama presidency has been washed away and replaced by a bitter cold awakening. And as the weeks and years pass, we can hardly remember the dream. Now we look in the mirror and laugh at ourselves, wondering how we could’ve allowed ourselves to hope so audaciously. We’ve lost our faith in our president. So instead of securing his second term, we’d rather shutter ourselves indoors on Election Day and wallow in the memory of our late longing.
Never mind that Obama is one of the most gifted presidents the United States has ever produced, an assertion which hardly awaits hindsight for its validation. We have our proof now: the Dow has closed above 13,000 for the first time since before the Great Recession struck. Obama oversaw the end of war in Iraq and will hopefully oversee the end of war in Afghanistan next year. He not only kept the auto industry afloat, but drove its resurrection. He has tiptoed the thin line between tough immigration enforcement and fair reform. He devised a successful twilight operation to insert a bullet through bin Laden’s cheek – without anesthetics. He muscled health care reform through Congress, a goal of every president since FDR. He appointed two brilliant women (one Latina) to the Supreme Court, and he championed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. All in his first term.
Yet, even if we do find reasons to vote, studies show that Latino voters simply are “less motivated than other voters to go to the polls.” Latinos voted in the 2008 presidential elections in record numbers, but even then we were only 7.4 percent of overall turnout. Figures show that of the 19.5 million Latino citizens of voting age in 2008, 11.6 million (59 percent) were registered voters, and of the 11.6 million, only 9.8 million (84 percent) actually lined up to cast their votes.
Apparently Latinos don’t think it important enough to invest in their political future. But Latinos will have a decision to make this year, and if history teaches us anything, it’s that Latinos will likely decide not to decide.