September 4, 2007
Via: Editorial from The San Antonio Express-News
This month, the Democratic presidential candidates will partake in a nationally televised bilingual debate as a way of reaching out to the country's rapidly growing Latino population.
The 90-minute forum at the University of Miami will present questions in English to the candidates, whose answers will be translated into Spanish and broadcast online and on Univision television and radio stations throughout the country.
According to one of the organizers, the debate is "the first ever designed specifically for Hispanic Americans, addressing the issues that matter the most to the Hispanic community."
(A planned debate for the Republican candidates was canceled due to lack of participation.)
The influence of Hispanics on the battle for the presidency is clear.
Latinos represented nearly half the total population growth between 2002 and 2006, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Their voter participation is not as high as other groups because they make up a young, less educated population, with many members ineligible to vote. But that will change, and Hispanic numbers already make a compelling case for candidates to sit up and take notice.
To that end, candidates in both parties are investing much time and money in courting Hispanics. Efforts include hiring bilingual campaign workers, collecting endorsements from influential Hispanics and focusing on areas with heavy Hispanic populations.
That's positive, because it acknowledges that Latinos have a voice that needs to be heard.
But while it's tempting to talk about "Hispanic issues," in the final analysis, many of those issues are ones that any other voter cares about: education, small business opportunities, accessible health care and, yes, immigration.
In the end, a bilingual debate should be seen as a way to reach people, in their language, about the issues that are important to this nation, not as a separate debate for a separate people.