by Michael Lund
When was the last time a sitting president greeted Denver on the airwaves of a Spanish language radio station?
This was the first question that popped into my head when I saw KBNO Fernando Sergio’s Facebook post that he’d be interviewing President Obama Tuesday morning at 10 am.
Obama spoke to Colorado Hispanics … in English. And what did he say?
Campaigns, political consultants, wonks and analysts use a single word for a community that factors heavily in determining their fates in this upcoming presidential election. Whether it’s “Hispanics”, or “Latinos”, one word is used to identify an extremely diverse community, represented by entire spectrums of social, geographical, professional, cultural, socioeconomic, and generational identities. Hispanics, contrary to what our oversimplified nomenclature might suggest, are not monolithic as a cultural group. So, as an interviewer, which questions do you ask? And as a candidate, how do you connect?
Obama chose the right venue – a locally respected and established radio station, chatting with a familiar and well-known host.
Fernando Sergio’s interview followed the expected talking points, and Barak Obama responded articulately and personably, off-script and on.
Here’s a quick summary of the highlights:
Conservatives will not be disappointed with President Obama starting his response by blaming the previous administration for the mess he inherited, with some prompting by Mr. Sergio. But Fernando pressed Obama for specific examples of policies which improved the economy in his first term. Obama cited saving the auto industry, “doubling down on clean energy”, and creating and saving American jobs by passing the Recovery Act. He gave statistics which demonstrated successes, while reminding the audience of the hard work remaining, and warning of the lingering effects of depressed housing markets, continuing foreclosures and the looming European economic crises.
The President boldly promoted the Affordable Healthcare Act as a needed relief to families, which often lack health insurance despite holding multiple jobs. He highlighted the extended coverage for children (extended to 4 million more immigrant minors, and coverage up to age 26 on parents’ plans). He also cited improvement for seniors, particularly in coverage for prescription medications, and prohibiting insurance companies from excluding coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Jobs, Education, and Wall Street reform
Obama warned against returning to policies in the financial industry “where Wall Street Banks get to do whatever they please”. On jobs, Obama noted the need to get construction jobs back on line, “rebuilding our homes, rebuilding our schools”. He noted that in Colorado, we have “some great schools” in substandard buildings, because the growth of the population hasn’t been matched with new school construction. He spoke about his goal for educational opportunity and affordable college for all children.
Immigration reform and drug trade
Fernando Sergio suggested that executive order by the President could resolve the current political stalemate on immigration policy. Obama pointed to his administration’s increasing success in securing the borders and directives to ICE in targeting criminals for arrest and deportation instead of students and hard working families. But he also pointed to the lack of cooperation from Republicans to formulate comprehensive, compassionate, and permanent solutions to U.S. immigration policy, and he criticized Mitt Romney for praising Arizona’s immigration laws as a model for the country. In a lighter moment of the interview, the President commiserated with Fernando Sergio about their personal liabilities should profiling become a keystone of federal immigration reform.
Obama also called for maintaining cooperative efforts with neighboring countries to curtail organized illegal drug trade and violence while respecting their sovereignty, and curtailing the demand for drugs in the U.S. and the transportation of arms over our border.
Support for Small Businesses
President Obama noted that small business growth among Hispanics is three times faster than in the general population, and he recognized the entrepreneurial spirit of the Hispanic community. His policies would bolster financing and training programs for small business owners, increase opportunities for small businesses to bid on government contracts and focusing on minority owned businesses. He said his tax policy has allowed for 17 tax cuts which were favorable to small businesses in his first term.
Connection with the Hispanic Community
Obama distinguished himself from Romney as a candidate who cares about and believes in Latinos. He cited his appointments of Hispanics to cabinet positions in the Labor and Interior Departments, as well has his appointment of a Latino women to the Supreme Court of the United States. He summarized his stances, while reiterating his awareness of the issues which affect Hispanics most.
And of course, to make the connection with Colorado Hispanics all the more personal and real, President Obama predicted that barring injury, Peyton Manning would complement the Broncos’ lineup and bode well for a winning season.