MSNBC’s UP: The Digital Ground Game in Politics

By DrVMDS on February 1, 2016

What’s the Matter with Iowa? Mucho!

By DrVMDS on January 28, 2016

This piece first appeared on NBCnews.com

First things first: I have nothing against Iowans. The couple of Iowans I have met have all been lovely. It’s the role of Iowa in national politics that infuriates me. By holding the first electoral contest, Iowa distorts our democratic system and squashes the voice of minority electorates.

The first thing that is the matter with Iowa is its lack of racial and ethnic representation that reflects the nation. Saying that Iowa is no microcosm of the United States is an overstatement.

Iowa is one of the whitest states in the nation at 92 percent compared to the national white non-Hispanic population of 77 percent. Overall the U.S. Latino population accounts for 17 percent but in Iowa they make up less than a third, at 5 percent. African Americans and Asian Americans who nationally make up 13 percent and 5 percent of the population are only 3 percent and 2 percent of the state’s residents.

Add to these demographic distortions the overrepresentation of rural areas. Slightly over eighty percent of the U.S. population resides in urban areas; in Iowa, over one-third of the population is rural. This matters because the concrete policy concerns of urban and rural populations are different.

If there were some profound theoretical rationale for why Iowa should go first then maybe I could be persuaded to overlook the state’s complete lack of demographic representation. But there is no reason other than historical accident. Continue Reading

The Texas Standard: 9 Days & Counting to Iowa

By DrVMDS on January 22, 2016

Democratic Debate Tackles Big Latino Issue: Health Care

By DrVMDS on January 19, 2016

This piece originally appeared on NBCnews.com

Immigration was all but absent in the last Democratic Presidential debate. Yet this debate, where Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders went mano a mano on healthcare, was by far the most relevant to Latinos.

Latinos have seen the biggest gains in coverage following the Affordable Care Act, but they remain the racial and ethnic group with the highest rate of uninsured- one third of nonelderly Latinos have neither private insurance nor Medicaid. Not surprisingly healthcare ranks as one of the most important issues for Latinos – consistently above immigration. In the 2014 Midterm election 86 percent of Latino registered voters said that healthcare was either very or extremely important to them personally while 73 percent of Latinos indicated that immigration was very or extremely important to them.

Two hours before the NBC – YouTube debate the Sanders Presidential campaign released its healthcare plan. Under a Sander’s administration the United States would have Medicare-for-All system. This single payer system would rely on increased taxes especially for the wealthiest Americans. Continue Reading

Which GOP Gave The State of The Union Response?

By DrVMDS on January 13, 2016

This piece originally appeared on NBCnews.com

Which Republican party gave the State of the Union response?

Four of the last Republican responses to the State of the Union address have been given by minorities. Nimrata Randhawa Haley, otherwise known as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, gave the most recent one Tuesday night. She is the first female to serve as South Carolina’s governor, the second Indian-American state governor, and in her own words, “the proud daughter of Indian immigrants.”

The young and politically nimble governor has become a Republican superstar, heavily rumored to be on vice presidential shortlists for Republican presidential contenders. And there is no mistaking Haley with a Democrat – she’s fiscally and socially conservative. Just ask Sarah Palin who endorsed her early on. Haley also has no problem bashing Democrats and President Barack Obama, but at the same time she believes her party needs “to recognize contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership.”

But amid her conservative-ness, Haley engages in moderate rhetoric. Perhaps no where was this more apparent than in her discussion of immigration last night. Continue Reading

Deportation Raids in 2016 And The Democratic Fallout

By DrVMDS on December 30, 2015

This piece originally appeared on NBCnews.com

Ringing in the new year with mass deportation raids - what the heck are some of the folks in the Obama administration thinking? That is the question Democrats must be pondering as we go into 2016.

In early January Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is set to carry out a nationwide round up of individuals who have been given deportation orders. But these are not gang-banger thugs; the specific targets of these raids are those who entered the United States in the summer of 2014, primarily Central American minors and their mothers.

The 2016 election at the presidential, congressional, and local levels will be hard fought. Democrats need Latinos but they will have to deal with the fallout of the Department of Homeland Security’s planned raids to take place in early January. The news has already drawn swift criticism from immigrant and Latino groups.

How the administration and the Democrat party thinks it will deal with the fallout is a puzzler. But like most things, there is a method to the madness and below the surface you can see the strategic logic to these raids, at least from the administration’s viewpoint. There are five reasons the Obama White House – and by default the Democrats – may be betting that they can have their cake and eat it too. Continue Reading

Two Texan Latinas Cross Political Aisles, Create Consulting Firm

By DrVMDS on December 28, 2015

This piece originally appeared on NBCnews.com

SAN ANTONIO, TX — Working across the aisle has become increasingly rare – especially in the deep red state of Texas. Perhaps even rarer is a 100 percent Latina owned political consulting firm. But in joining forces, two Lone Star Latinas are bucking convention.

Former Democratic State Senator Leticia Van de Putte and former Republican Secretary of State Hope Andrade have founded Andrade-Van de Putte, a consulting firm that will help bridge the private sector with the public sector.

Leticia Van de Putte, a pharmacist and small business owner, served in the Texas House of Representatives for over a decade before serving in the Senate for the past 15 years. Most recently she ran for Texas Lt. Governor. While she was not successful in this bid she gained national notoriety for the first bid of a Battleground Texas ticket. Together with Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial run, Van de Putte thrust women and Latinos into the political spotlight.

Hope Andrade, sitting on the other side of the aisle from Van de Putte, served as Secretary of State under Governor Republican Rick Perry from 2008-12. She is one of the few Latinos/Latinas to hold a state level position in the history of Texas. And most recently Andrade served as a Texas Workforce Commissioner. Beyond her experience in state government Andrade is also a lifelong businesswoman who has worked in the healthcare sector among others.

In their new consulting role, Andrade and Van de Putte bring over 30 years of experience in public office and over 50 years of business experience. Both women say they are driven by a passion for entrepreneurship, the public sector, and Texas. However the strongest bond Andrade and Van de Putte share, according to them, is “Abuela (grandmother) Power.”

As she searches through a stack of bubble-wrapped frames in their new office space, Van de Putte explains that the bond to their family – especially their grandchildren – is what motivated the women to stay in San Antonio. Van de Putte underscores her point by unwrapping and holding up a framed print of a kind but strong abuela. She points to this print as the simple justification of why her and Andrade decided to forgo D.C. or a partnership with a larger multi-national consulting group and instead set up their own shop. Continue Reading

Trump Doesn’t Let Facts Get In The Way of a Good Story

By DrVMDS on November 24, 2015

This piece originally appeared on NBCnews.com

The world according to Donald Trump looks a lot like the 1986 movie, “The Three Amigos.” Trump is Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Chevy Chase – The Amigos – all balled up into one. And Trump much like the Amigos is on a mission to defend the village of Santo Poco (the United States) from the criminality, raping, and pillaging of El Guapo (Mexican immigrants).

This melodramatic and light-hearted comedy makes for a good two hours of mindless entertainment. But we now seem to be living in a bizarro world where Americans are taking the Three Amigos storyline as truth.

The facts according to Donald Trump are that the United States is being overrun with Mexican rapists and criminals. In the meantime, the Mexican government keeps pumping over hoards of immigrants across the border. This “truth” helped vault Trump into first place in the GOP presidential contest and has transformed him from a sideshow to center stage.

However, the world according to Trump is very different than the real world, a world that is based on facts. Donald Trump’s claims come at a time when migration from Mexico isn’t just at a decades-long low, but when there are more Mexicans leaving the United States than entering it. Continue Reading

Trump Praised It Without Naming It: What Was ‘Operation Wetback?’

By DrVMDS on November 12, 2015

This piece originally appeared on NBCnews.com

On Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate Donald Trump spoke of President Eisenhower moving more than one million “illegal immigrants out of this country, moved them way south.” Donald Trump did not mention it by name, but he was describing the 1950s program Operation Wetback.

To begin, some definitional groundwork — what is a “wetback”? The term, considered a slur, was first used in reference to Mexican migrants who would swim across the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas. Immigrants who did not cross through the ports of entry would many times opt to instead swim across the river, hence the reference to “wet” or mojado in Spanish. Even though the act of swimming across a river is only relevant to the Texas region of the border, the term became popular in the mid-20th Century.

Now, for a little historical context. By the early 1950s there was a growing number of immigrants who lacked legal status, referred to as “wetbacks” in the American Southwest. Large number of Mexicans started coming in the early 1940s as part of the Bracero Program. The Bracero program started in 1942 as a result of wartime labor shortages — men were fighting in WWII and women were in the factories so the United States developed an agreement with Mexico to fill labor shortages in the fields.

Once the war ended the increased demand for agricultural products from the Southwest did not stop but only increased. Southwestern agricultural interests relied on Mexican farm labor. Agribusiness was perfectly content with the large inflows of Mexican migration — legal or not. Continue Reading

Is the GOP Really Ready for Rubio?

By DrVMDS on

This piece originally appeared on NBCnews.com

AUSTIN, TX — Up until the last Republican debate the idea of Marco Rubio as the Republican presidential nominee was a theoretical and distant possibility.

In the pre-Trump era smart money was on Jeb Bush and perhaps even swing state Governor John Kasich. Recently, it’s been the outsiders who have seemed the best poised to capture the nomination. Since the CNBC Republican debate Senator Marco Rubio’s stock has been rising.

The Florida Senator’s commanding performance is giving way to speculation that he may be the GOP’s best answer to the GOP nomination. On the one hand he is not the stodgy establishment type that has been around for decades. On the other hand, he’s not a wholly unknown commodity and wild card like Trump or Carson.

1. Rubio got elected in Florida. The rest of the country is not Florida, especially not the three first primary states. The Latino population in Iowa is about five percent, three in New Hampshire and almost six percent in South Carolina.

Florida has the third largest Latino population in the country. More broadly, Florida is not a stranger to Latino politicians. Currently 13 percent of the Florida legislature is Latino. Compare that to about seven percent in Congress. And Florida has a history of electing Latinos to statewide and national level offices. In 2010 Marco Rubio won with 55 percent of the Latino vote and 55 percent of the white vote. Continue Reading

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