SAN DIEGO — Have you heard that Texas, a red state, is turning purple? According to CNN – where I’ve been a contributor for almost 10 years – a Latina Democrat is forcing the change.
Are we sure about this? As a Latino who lived in Dallas for five years and who has written about Texas politics for twice as long, I don’t know how this one slipped by me.
In a fluffy feature at CNN.com titled “Meet the woman who could turn Texas purple,” we’re introduced to Leticia Van de Putte, a state senator from San Antonio, sixth-generation Texan and Democratic nominee for Texas lieutenant governor. We’re told that Van de Putte is “the perfect demographic: a Hispanic woman.”
CNN has decided that this is the new magic combination that opens doors in America. You don’t say? This will come as news to a lot of the Hispanic women I know.
We’re also told that Texas could go Democratic manana if more Latinos voted. But why haven’t Texas Democrats given Latinos something to vote for? The bunch I covered wouldn’t stick their necks out on immigration for fear of angering nativists. Now that the state is 38 percent Latino, Texas Democrats think their ticket back to power is Van de Putte.
As if Latinos weren’t working hard enough, now they have to save the Texas Democratic Party?
It could be a good thing if Texas did turn purple. The electorate is shortchanged when even stellar Democrats can’t win, and even mediocre Republicans can’t lose. Yet, hoping something happens doesn’t mean it will happen. Texas going purple is probably not going to happen for a couple of decades, so entrenched has become the GOP.
There was another article that mentioned Van de Putte, this one in The New York Times. It was on the Latino Victory Project, a new political action committee co-founded by Henry Munoz, finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and actress Eva Longoria that aims to fund Latino candidates.
The PAC has endorsed Van de Putte, as has Democracy for America, Howard Dean’s organization.
If Van de Putte is lucky, state Sen. Dan Patrick – who is in a Republican runoff with incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst – will be her opponent in the general election. Patrick has pitched himself to nativists as someone who will fight an “invasion” by illegal immigrants (read: Latinos) who are taking over Texas. The Houston radio host’s rants are easier to swallow if you don’t chew on them. Texas is nobody’s victim. It takes plenty from illegal immigrants who pay taxes and do jobs that many Texans won’t do.
Patrick is a dream for Democrats. People vote “for” something or “against” something else. In Texas, if Patrick is on the November ballot, Latinos, liberals and moderate Republicans will likely vote against this dime-store demagogue.
“This is an important moment in the history of Texas,” Munoz told CNN. “The demographics of the state are changing. We need leaders who look like us and understand who we are.”
Is this Van de Putte? Not so fast.
It’s a pet peeve of Latinos that others – i.e., East Coast media, money raisers, Hollywood celebrities – insist on picking their leaders. At the most ridiculous extreme, the kingmakers introduce the masses to those who were supposed to be representing them all along.
Consider what Van de Putte – who took her husband’s Belgian surname – told The Washington Post in yet another article on the Latino Victory Fund, which she says will help her reach out to Latino voters across Texas.
“This helps me make contact with Latinos who don’t know that Leticia Van de Putte is actually Leticia San Miguel Van de Putte,” she said. “I’m going to need that core support from Latinos and to up that participation rate.”
This is a career politician who has been in the Texas Legislature since 1990. Yet she still needs help from Eva Longoria to inform Latinos that she’s one of them? Among other things, she has sided with teachers unions who oppose education reform over Latino parents who support it. Who has she been working for all this time? Not Latinos. Or they’d know who she is.
Who is Leticia Van de Putte? Vouched for by Eva Longoria and Howard Dean. Funded by a Latino PAC. Profiled by CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Unveiled, with great fanfare, to people she is already supposed to represent.
I’ll play along. Hola, Leticia. Nice to meet you.
Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for U-T San Diego. Reach him at [email protected]