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What the Devil won't tell you

Allow me to retort: Latinos, money & local Dems

Social media responses to 'Kovacs' column deserve an answer

I’m going to engage.

Social media responses to my last column (As goes Billy Kovacs, so go Pima Democrats) hit on three points that deserve a response.

Let me just get the Kovacs angle out of the way real quick. My lede was: "Billy Kovacs is the future of the Democratic party. Billy Kovacs is going to lose."

If I’m saying he’s the future, I’m not attacking him. If I’m saying he’s going to lose, I’m not endorsing him. I used the case of Kovacs to illustrate how Democrats locally, statewide and nationally must do a better job of recognizing progressive talent, keeping it around and grooming it. 

Kovacs was referenced in an ABC News story searching for the next Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez. He’s not. Sorry, Billy, but no one is an Ocasio-Cortez. She’s the glowiest star — with just enough authentic scuff — to enter national politics in years, and at 28 she’s further along than any Clinton, Bush or Obama at the same age. I know the Right scoffs at her jagged gaffes and fact-check problems, because they would never elevate anyone like that on their side.

Anyway, the column wasn't so much about Kovacs as about an entire generation or two of potential elected Democrats. I used him as "a proxy for all up-and-comers out in our corner of the desert who seem to terrify party leaders in D.C." It was about how shallow the local Dem bench is.

The progressive base can’t wait for super-duper stars, and the powers that be in the party can’t shun progressives just because the opposition might accuse them of being "liberal" or "socialist." In fact, liberal, socialist programs like Medicare tend to be more popular than not. Conservatives run against gun restrictions, and thus against public opinion, because they think those restrictions are wrong.

More to the point, there was the Latino thing.

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I listed a bunch of names of active young politicos and noticed those names weren’t Latino. And then a whole stream of consciousness started falling through my temporal lobe and I just decided to try to give the column focus. So I typed the line: "Don’t get me started on Latinos."

I knew I was inviting blowback from Latinos and other progressives questioning my intentions in leaving them out. I might be called “racist” and that was sort of the overtone of some comments. That’s fine. I’m white. The system favors whites and throws obstacles in the way of minorities (see Ingraham, Laura). Questioning my biases is fair game. Saying “I’m not a racist” is an answer right up there with “I don’t see skin color.” (Yes you do. You just said it’s a color because you saw it.)

So now I have to get started on Latinos. And how those candidates aren't being served by the party apparatus.

So let me get to what I left out about Hispanics and respond to a couple points raised that require some elaborate RUFKME’s.

Latinos can’t cross over and other lies

When Raul Grijalva was putting together his first congressional campaign, he took a trip to Washington to size up political consultants. They told him the same thing over and over again: when it comes to Latino voters, they just look at the name on the ballot.

There are two things fantastically striking about that. One, is the assumption Latinos will only vote for Latinos because all they care about are names containing “z’s” or “ue’s.” That’s just … wow. Second, it suggests Latinos can’t tell Latinos apart from each other.

Yeah, that’s not Senior White House Advisor and undead Eastern European nobleman Stephen Miller talking. That’s the progressive party.

If you have a tough time telling a Bert Lopez from a Grijalva, it’s only because you don’t know either of them and it has nothing to do with their skin color.

Grijalva got that sage advice prior to the rise of Barack Hussein Obama. The idea that a Latino can’t have crossover appeal is about to be tested and destroyed in a great big way.

The idea in the previous column still stands, though: budding talent gets dismissed in favor or resumes.

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The Beltway Bigs don’t think an elected Latino official can run and win, because they think Latinos represent the base. The Voting Rights Act made that happen. The 1965 law all but requires minority representation, so to ensure that, political districts get drawn to limit their population to certain minority groups. Latinos get to send other Latinos to Congress, which is great for the elected leader but isolates the community.

The nationals out of Washington therefor reject these leaders from consideration in moving up. They only care about Latino issues, the theory goes, which is ridiculous because poll after poll will tell you what Latinos will tell you themselves. Immigration is way down the list. Education, the economy and health care all rout immigration as concerns for Latino voters.

Attack the Latino community and the Latinos will respond as a community but, Christ, so do Canadians. That’s why Trump attacks minority groups, to get them to respond as a community and terrify whites. But that’s not a Latino issue. That’s a white issue. The attack is “identity politics.” The defense is not.

There's some jag on the Left about eliminating Immigration and Customs Enforcement but it's not crazy to take a fresh look at all that post-9/11 legislation from the Patriot Act, the Authorization of Use of Military Force, the establishment of Homeland Security and ICE and why local police need bayonets.

Candidates who can

So, in talking about the same issues the whole electorate cares about, Latinos can cross over. Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias could. His colleague Ramon Valadez has a shot, too. 

A guy like state Rep. Daniel Hernandez delivered a bravura speech at the Jan. 8 memorial service back in 2011, became a star and has the proper ambition. Sure he’s openly gay. But I don’t wanna hear the term “unelectable” from a country that just installed a game-show host president. 

Ruben Gallego up in Phoenix could probably win statewide as Arizona starts to float into the outer currents of the purple tide. I don't know Andrés Cano, but people I respect, respect him a lot, so he's a name to watch.

David Garcia has attracted support from plenty of white progressives in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Enough to win? We'll see.

Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez doesn't fit the "up-and-comer" model but if she could have run her way, she'd have been a force.

Like all candidates, Latino politicians just gotta connect with the people — and on that, they've got it or they don’t. Their challenge isn’t their complexion, it’s presenting liberalism in a way that comes across strong but unthreatening to the political middle. That’s the same challenge facing the whole Democratic Party. It’s the same challenge Republicans long ago conquered from the other direction.

Say you want a revolution

Now, let’s move on to what Kovacs, Hernandez and Gallego all need to compete: cold, hard cash.

And that’s the other point I made that caused some "True Progressives" to lose their shit.

Here’s why I think the money issue is vastly overstated.

Ask yourself if Clean Elections law has made Arizona government less devoted to big business. Has the state moderated since the 1990s? Getting free money means candidates don’t have to pass any sort of threshold of know-how. The city of Tucson’s system at least requires candidates go prove their worth and then get matched on the back end with spending limits in place.

But there’s an easy fix to all that corporate money, if progressives really think they have the dedicated numbers.

Find the most rabidly progressive 20 million voters – The Bernie-Only Army everyone seems to think exists – and have them contribute $5 per month to an organization. That organization would create its own political climate. It would shift the axis of the Earth. Medicare for All? No problem. A $15 an hour minimum wage? As you wish. Free tuition? Their feet will be wings. In a month, that group will reel in $100 million. Over a two-year election cycle, they’ll bring in $2.4 billion to invest in candidates who will toe their line.

That’s a big number, so let me explain what swamping the system looks like:

  •  $100 million to dominate 100 district and county attorney races across the country (so much for mass incarceration).
  •  $200 million to bury 20 governor’s races (they’ll veto what you tell them to veto and they’ll like it).
  •  $500 million to swamp 1,000 legislative races nationwide with $500,000 going into each (where tangible governing really happens).
  •  $300 million to buy 20 Senate races at $15 million, out of the 33 or 34 campaigns (watch Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel retract back into his shell).
  •  $500 million to soak 50 congressional swing districts with $10 million per race (pick Ways and Means Committee assignments, while you are at it). 
  •  $100 million for 20 state ballot initiatives every two years funded at $5 million apiece. (Never mind legalized pot. Try “free weed.”)
  •  After an inconceivable $90 million for overhead, there’s $600 million left over. Here's what you do. The top-priced lobbying firms in Washington cost $50,000 per month, or $6 million year. Hire 50 of them (firms, not lobbyists) to go to every subcommittee meeting and raise holy hell, reminding them their client (you) controls $1.7 billion in campaign contributions. The National Rifle Association would move to Greenland.

Red states, you say, would rebel against liberal money, huh? They never have to know. It's called "Dark Money" for a reason. Industry lobbyists could dig deep and double their investment in politics. Fine. Forego two lattes a month and accept their unconditional surrender.

If it’s not worth a latte a month, then stop asking why “they” rule the world and STFU about “revolution.”

If the True Left doesn’t have that many people ready to devote themselves to such a cause, then how big is their army really? Rush Limbaugh, alone, has 13 million listeners, devoting hours each week to taking orders. Today in politics polls are less important than the size of the army that can be called up on a moment’s notice.

The Right could absolutely follow suit and drop $60 to $120 a year to make sure their taxes don’t go up much. At least it’s the people pushing their agenda.

Money isn’t the problem. Latinos aren’t a problem. Mastering the game is the challenge.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is a former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

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