Friday, March 21, 2008

Bill Richardson endorses Barack Obama

An excerpt from the endorsement statement sent out overnight (h/t: Bilerico):
As a Hispanic, I was particularly touched by his words. I have been troubled by the demonization of immigrants--specifically Hispanics-- by too many in this country. Hate crimes against Hispanics are rising as a direct result and now, in tough economic times, people look for scapegoats and I fear that people will continue to exploit our racial differences--and place blame on others not like them . We all know the real culprit -- the disastrous economic policies of the Bush Administration!
From the New York Times this morning:
As the nation’s only Hispanic governor, Mr. Richardson could become a champion for Mr. Obama among Hispanic voters, who have been a key voting bloc for Mrs. Clinton in the primaries thus far. And his endorsement is also notable because he is a friend and admirer of Mrs. Clinton, and was widely viewed as a possible running mate for both her and for Mr. Obama.
That speech earlier in the week which to many of us felt to be courageous, historic and moving - but failed to move many a television, press or online political pundit - seems to have been a catalyst in the New Mexico Governor's endorsement. I assume there might have discussions as to a possible Vice Presidential nod as well even if I don't necessarily see an Obama - Richardson ticket down the line.

A note: In his endorsement the Governor calls himself "a Hispanic." Sure, I have people describe themselves as Hispanic or of Hispanic background but I have never heard someone call himself "a" Hispanic. Perhaps it's a regional thing?

Reminds me of a national gathering of Latino LGBT leaders in which levels of tension rose on whether we should describe the community as being Latino or Hispanic with left people evenly divided between Northerner Latinos and Southerner Hispanics (we avoided a civil war by ultimately using both terms).

The New York Times might be right. Richardson's endorsements might bring in additional support for Obama from Lati.. - ehem - Hispanic voters in the primaries and caucuses ahead. And that's my hope. But I have a feeling that the impact of the Richardson endorsement will be regional rather than national when it comes to the Latino/Hispanic community, much like his appeal as a presidential candidate to specific Latino communities throughout the United States.

In any case, thank you, Bill Richardson.

1 comment:

GIacomo said...

Hi Andres:

I actually think the act of Richardson's endorsement speaks volumes more than Obama's speech did on the state of race in this country, and I was SO thrilled to see it this morning. I feel like this act says more about where we are and the hopefulness of where we'd like to go in the future, than what I felt was mostly Obama's rationalization of the anger and fear of racism.

While Obama was absolutely right in his speech, those segments of rationalization in his speech seemingly didn't do as much to forward the spirit of the end of racism as it did to mire many people further in that anger. I wished that his speech had focused more on the tenor of his final story about Ashley, about being hopeful about where we are going, because that is when Obama is at his best. In general, I think people are always more responsive when we can see the good of where we are going, rather than rationalizing about the anger of where we are or where we have been.

When I woke up the morning after Obama's speech and saw how most news pundits had started punching holes in it and accusations of racism started flying, and when I saw the effect on the poll numbers, I felt like the net effect on the discourse of race (at least in the short term) was to turn us back 15 years. It felt to me like that old 1993 SNL skit that parodied the Real World, where everyone was running around calling each other racists at the slightest provocation. That feeling was absolutely frustrating, because it ignores the gains we've made since then. And that's why, even putting all this nonsense about Rev Wright aside, I wish that Obama had focused more on his message of optimism, even in the face of all the shrill, irrational negativity he was facing, instead of spending so much effort explaining the history and present rationalizations of fear and anger.

But this morning, I felt like seeing Bill Richardson step up after all this nonsense and being willing to step beyond politics and help stem some of this silliness was so meaningful. Yes, it might only be regional in its polling effects, but to those of us watching closely, it was incredibly meaningful in helping define not only a post-racial world, but showed, in action, the power of reasonable and rational thinking and feeling, and a willingness to toss aside the frivolity and simple-mindedness of most of the discourse on race in this country, instead underscoring the message of a hopeful future. And not simply, as the NY Times has noted, that Richardson might help bring Obama additional support from the Latino/Hispanic community, but because his actions should signal a move BEYOND adding up numbers from separate racial groups. At least, that's what I hope it should mean.

Bill Richardson has said in the past that he thought his endorsement didn't matter, that really, people should ultimately decide for themselves what they think is important (and they should). And while that statement seemed to me to be more about political posturing and not wanting to choose between two friends and allies, I actually think his endorsement today symbolically mattered a great deal. I think in the grand scheme of things, it probably matters even more than most of us realize right now.

Just my 2 cents. (And I hope nobody calls me a 'racist' for it.) ;) I'm sure there'll be disagreement on my characterization of Obama's speech, but I hope ultimately that we can refocus Richardson's endorsement not simply in terms of racial lines, but more as a post-racial symbol for the future.