Nothing Wise About Black-Brown Conventional Wisdom, Turns Out

Brian Harkin
Ah, well, Rudy -- we'll always have Wild About Harry's.

John Edwards is out, as of moments ago. Rudy Giuliani is out, as of last night's Florida juicing, which should give Tom Hicks a little more free time to further ruin his various sports franchises. And Hillary Clinton's Latino "expert" Sergio Bendixen's post-New Hampshire quote about "the Hispanic voter" having "not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates" is picking up steam as California and Texas get closer on the calendar.

Only, not so fast, writes Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America author Gregory Rodriguez in a Time column not yet online. Bendixen is wrong, insists Rodriguez in his column "The Black-Brown Divide," and for proof one need look no further than big cities in which African-American mayoral candidates received "large-scale Latino support over the past several decades." Anyone come to mind?

Writes Rodriguez:

In 1983, Harold Washington pulled 80% of the Latino vote in Chicago. David Dinkins won 73% in New York City's mayoral race in 1989. And Denver's Wellington Webb garnered more than 70% in 1991, as did Ron Kirk in Dallas in 1995 and again in 1997 and '99. If he had gone back further, Barreto could have added longtime Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, who won a majority of Latino votes in all four of his re-election campaigns between 1977 and 1989.

Are these political scientists arguing that race is irrelevant to Latino voters? Not at all. Hispanics, coming from many countries, are hardly monolithic; but all things being equal, Latino voters would probably prefer to support a Latino candidate over a non-Latino candidate, and a white candidate over a black candidate. That's largely because they are less familiar with black politicians, as there are fewer big-name black candidates than white ones, and because, stereotypes not withstanding, many Latinos don't live anywhere near African Americans. California, for example, which has the largest Latino population in the country, is only 6% black. Furthermore, in politics, things are never equal.

Course, it also comes down to something far more simple: Who's running? Turns out, far fewer folks this morning than last night. --Robert Wilonsky

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