This Saturday, a group of Chican@ activists are getting together in Austin to remember the good ol’ days at the La Raza Unida Party Reunion. An article in the Austin Statesman has it dubbed as “El Ultimo Adios,” but I’m of the opinion that one just doesn’t bid “bye-bye” to history.
Still, there will be much discussion and reminiscing of where Chicanos, and Latinos overall, have been and are in today’s politics. One particular note of remembrance is that it is the 40th anniversary of the LRUP candidacy of Ramsey Muniz for Governor–a candidacy which taught the Texas Democratic Party a lesson that almost brought down Dolph Briscoe. Other LRUP candidates and activists of the past will speak–most are still involved today in progressive politics.
After Raza Unida’s demise, many, if not most, of its members returned to the Democratic fold. But by then the third party had forced Democrats to move to the left and to embrace a more progressive platform that endures today, Cotera said. The children of some Raza Unida members are now among the Democratic Party’s most progressive leaders in Texas, she said, such as San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and State Rep. Joaquin Castro, brothers whose mother, Rosie, was a founding member of Raza Unida.
A recent Gallup poll rates Latinos as being independents (51%), with Democrats getting a nice chunk (32%) and Republicans hanging at 11%. This is no surprise. And this caused some buzz, but one has to get passed the first part of the article.
The poll, however, took into account each respondent’s partisan leanings. The majority of the self-identified independents – 52% – leaned Democratic, compared to 23% who leaned Republican and 20% who truly had no party leaning.
Among registered Hispanic voters, the level of independents fell. In all, 36% of registered Hispanics said they were independents, and among that group, 60% leaned Democratic. Only 10% of the registered Hispanic voters who identified as independents had no party leanings whatsoever.
And 67% of Latinos still back President Barack Obama.
What I’m saying is that, even during the LRUP days, Chicanos had an independent streak that was very progressive. The independence of those days was due in part to how the more progressive-leaning political party treated Latinos. Few were candidates, and fewer were among the Party’s leadership. Well, if neither was going to love us, we were going to love ourselves and send a message. And a message was sent and received.
My family was among those who “left” the Democratic Party to support and work for La Raza Unida Party. The first stump speeches I recall were one by a young firebrand by the name of Jose Angel Gutierrez and another by my uncle Jose Serna at our town’s Placita in the Mexico Chico neighborhood, and not speeches of Democratic candidates. I was about 5 hanging out with my Dad who took me to listen to the speeches. I guess the subject stuck with me all the years, and I’m proud of that.
Of course, nowadays, I’m a Democrat, and I will say that Democratic leaders musn’t fear what polls call some streak of independence. But Democrats should worry about making promises and then breaking them; or running right-wing Democrats who get all the money and attention, while ignoring the Latino community, or worse, allowing those right-wing candidates to use us as piñatas for their own political gain.
As far as Latinos are concerned, it is time to once again make history and 40 years after Ramsey Muniz’s candidacy, I would say that 2012 is just the beginning.