The frenzy of electoral politics seems to sweep everyone into its fold every four years. But what if you’re a Latino leftist residing in California during the U.S. presidential race of 2016, the state that will arguably determine the Democratic party’s nomination during its primaries Tuesday?
teleSUR spoke to four such people, whose focus outside the realm of electoral politics has them rightly criticizing the Democratic Party establishment, what with recent news of the corporate-funded party’s nomination process being anti-democratic and inherently corrupt, while still maintaining sympathy for the popularity of Bernie Sanders.
“I think it’s a really good time for Latinos to not feed into the Democratic machine,” Gaby Hernandez, a social worker and the mother of the teens involved in fighting for their right to wear “Dump Trump” shirts at a California high school, told teleSUR. “We need to get away from the mentality of having a political hero. That’s what got us here.”
Gaby Hernandez addresses the Santa Barbara City Council | Photo: PODER
Erick Carbajal, of Union del Barrio, a grassroots Mexican-Chicano revolutionary socialist organization, echoed her sentiments.
“[The Democratic Party] doesn’t represent the interests of the Latino community.”
Erick Carbajal speaks at a rally. | Photo: Gonzalo Rios Castro
Citing Hillary Clinton’s track record of orchestrating anti-Latino initiatives such as her involvement in the coup in Honduras, and her policies on deportations that disportionately affect Latino communities, all of the activists interviewed unanimously expressed a strong distrust of the Democratic candidate.
They were also in agreement that if Clinton was elected, it would be an extension of current U.S. President Barack Obama’s legacy.
“[Hillary Clinton] is the extension of recent Democratic president Barack Obama, an extension of war, and an extension of Wall Street,” said leftist poet Matt Sedillo. “I see the same neoliberal presidency in Clinton in that of Obama, Bush and even Reagan.”
Matt Sedillo performing his poetry. | Photo: Matt Sedillo
Opinions on the other U.S. Democrat Presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders, were more of a mixed bag. While some suggested Sanders is more sensitive and open to working on the Latino community’s issues, others are not swayed by his proposals.
“Both are problematic,” said Xela, a community organizer, hip-hop artist and founding member of the feminist bike collective, Ovarian Psyco-Cycles said. “If people are voting for Sanders, I get that, at the same time, it’s still a lesser evil.”
Xela founds empowerment in the community work she does, working particularly on anti-poverty and anti-gentrification issues.
“It’s the capacity of communities that counts,” she said, explaining that the organizations she works with do not accept federal grants.
Xela says neither of the Democratic candidates have her full support. | Photo: Xela
Hernandez said Sanders’ policy on Israel, although now changing, is not very progressive.
“He’s very pro-Israel,” she said. “He is also not very supportive of workers.”
Like many Latino communities in the U.S., working class issues are very important to her and her surrounding community.
Sedillo on the other hand said Sanders’ support among young people is indicative of his more progressive policies.
“Young people’s politics tend to be more material,” he said, referencing that Sanders’ push to abolish tuition is appealing as many are saddled with student loan debt.
Ultimately, however, these organizers, artists and activists look to focus their efforts beyond the two-party system. For them, fundamental change in the United States will not occur through a colonial electoral system that systematically disadvantages racialized peoples and aims solely to defend the capitalist system.
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“We’re done asking for permission,” Xela said. “This government was not established for us. It continues to occupy native territory and we have now taken a defiant stance.”
For Carbajal, Hernandez, Sedillo and Xela, ending migrant raids, implementing humane policies on immigration, increasing social services, and redistributing wealth and political power to the forcibly dispossessed are the top concerns for their communities. Two of the interviewees also spoke about the importance of implementing a living wage.
“We want comprehensive immigration reform, not empty promises,” Hernandez said.
“Access to quality jobs and living wages — these are huge issues,” Carbajal added.
Sedillo also expressed concerns about the precarious lives of undocumented Latinos.
“It’s a terrifying prospect, so immigration reform is very important,” he said.
While they recognize the important role Sanders has occupied in the election in opening up a space where these issues and a more progressive agenda can be pushed, they look to collective, community-based work to realize revolutionary justice.
“I believe in creating change from below,” Carbajal said. “Still [Sanders is creating a] push for more people to be radical. It’s still an opportunity to engage with folks.”
California Latinos have already held two anti-Clinton rallies that saw hundreds in attendance, however, 56 percent of Latinos in the country overall view her positively, according to a Fox news poll conducted in mid-May.
As the sunshine state sets to vote in the Democratic primaries Tuesday, Clinton is projected to win, but many speculate the Latino-majority population could change this.
No matter the outcome of November’s election, Carbajal said, their objective is the same: to progress towards justice.