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tv   20th Century Spanish- Speaking Vote  CSPAN  April 6, 2019 9:30pm-9:46pm EDT

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universitycarolina professor benjamin francis fallon talks about the spanish speaking vote in the 20th century. he describes a group with distinct interests and voting patterns and outlines how the national democratic and republican parties have courted various hispanic constituencies. this 15 minute interview was recorded at the annual american historical association meeting. >> professor benjamin francis fallon studies and teaches this. let's talk about the hispanic vote. is it a monolithic group? >> no, definitely not. the history of the hispanic vote is one of steadily trying to add different people, people that saw themselves quite the family -- differently in national origin terms, for example, mexican-americans, puerto ricans, cubans, the whole project if you will is one of
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trying to bring very different peoples together into some kind of coalition or consensus about what they all stood for and it has been a project that has revealed over the years to be very diverse internally. but that has always been one of the ambitions of the people that are fundamentally alike, they ought to act as one. it has been a distance between the ambition of architects of latino politics and the reality of people with very different origins and experiences. >> let's talk about the history in a moment. generally speaking, if you look at cuban americans, especially in florida, they tended to vote republican. if you look at mexican-americans generally tend to vote democratic. why is that? socialization of these
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groups in the u.s., political socialization has been different. are imagined as the outlier in the latino constituency. their arrival happened at a very different time and under distinctly different circumstances as puerto ricans who both came from the caribbean. if you go back, cuban-americans have a different trajectory and in many ways stay away from the other large latino groups, mexican-americans and puerto ricans. their primary focus was on returning to cuba and doing away with castro. whereas mexican-americans and puerto ricans had more. relating to being minority populations in the united states of america. concerns about urban poverty, concerns about access to jobs and quality education.
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these were things, they sought the help of democrats for. the americans to through different programs. they were kept on very different tracks for a long time. democrats did alright with cubans initially, though cubans were not big voters yet, they were expecting to return, but by the 70's with the republican party particularly, the advance it, cubanstism with found a real home in that position in the 1970's. >> where do you go to research the topic of the hispanic vote and what are the major benchmarks you are looking at? >> because we are talking about communities from across the country, communities of east los angeles, rural counties in
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northern new mexico, the west side of san antonio, the south bronx in new york, different communities that have their own sort of local histories and orientations throughout most of the 20th century's. s to that, south florida and miami, cubans who arrived in the late 50's through to the present day, going to all of those places is the key to understanding how local latino political communities identified themselves. what they thought of the political parties and their areas. also a look at the presidential archives because the presidential archives is where the hispanic vote, if it exists, is manifest, because this is an effort, the presidential campaign since 1960 have revolved around in listing the kind of national latino electorate. at the national level, at the level of u.s. presidents, we see elites attempting to organize
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these various distinct latino constituencies into something kind of manageable and usable for themselves. down.'s break it first for the republicans and then the democrats. how have the parties attempted to court and woo the hispanic voter? >> republicans, so republicans, tracing this back to the 1960's, democrats were in office in the presidency. the democrats primary minority concern was how to satisfy and the demands of a mobilized african american civil rights movement. republicans began to identify in mexican-americans specifically a group that was disenchanted with their status within the democratic party, which seemed to be to some mexican-americans primarily concerned with black interests. so a number of prominent republicans from the southwest
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in the 1960's, barry goldwater, the arizona conservative, john tower, a republican senator from texas, and ronald reagan, made strong it feels to mexican-americans on the basis of his sense of racial victimization. they had been taking a backseat. they had legitimate concerns around discrimination and inclusion in the democratic party and they offered, republicans did, a chance to hold out the prospect of a better deal from republicans. more attention. to some degree putting , african-americans in their place. by the time of richard nixon, republicans were in office when nixon was sworn in and nixon had to figure out what am i going to do for these people that we spent the 1960's saying we would do much better for you. republicans maintained a certain element of racial polarization,
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that is they pitted mexican-americans, especially, and african-americans in context with one another. they also added more positive programs for the initiation of affirmative-action programs in the federal civil service to provide new levels of access to white-collar employment. primarily for mexican-americans. they also articulated and elaborated on nuclear programs for small business aid. trying to aid latino entrepreneurs. mexican-americans and cuban-americans especially tried to be cultivated in the middle class of those communities around the idea that discrimination was sure a thing but individuals who worked hard could find support from the federal government for their own upward mobility. >> what about the democrats? >> democrats had a different set of constituents. throughout the 1960's the challenge for democrats was how to balance the insurgent black movement and how to balance the demands of black civil rights
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with what mexican-americans were feeling were their own civil rights concerns. so, finding ways of including mexican-americans and, to a degree, puerto rican civil rights, the war on poverty, these were the challenges for democrats and they didn't particularly do a fantastic job of managing those things. in part, because, they found a certain benefit in having mexican-americans and african-americans not uniting against them. there was a certain benefit ship in playing those constituencies against each other. >> you had cesar chavez and his push for equality for migrant workers. did that in any way play into the politics of the time? >> it certainly did. for democrats the challenge was how to sort of respect the
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cultural -- the urge for cultural respect and determination with the autonomy coursing through the black community but also mexican-american communities and puerto ricans. two respect the civil rights and the cultural particularities of those communities, while hanging onto some of the core principles of the new deal that goes around economic justice, broad programs of uplift built around everyone being an american. the farmworker insurgency plays a role particularly in the state of california. at the national level the farmworker program was influential in the 72 democratic party platform, the mcgovern candidacy, a very left liberal candidacy, and what it showed is that there was this moment for democrats were not particularly successful at capitalizing on it of electoral terms, but they were fumbling towards a way of synthesizing the urge towards
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cultural respect and autonomy, self determination and inclusion from the latino community but also finding a way to square that with the need to develop an economic program that would appeal to working-class people more broadly. that gets lost a bit through the 1970's but there are moments of the democratic party worked where the culture and class agendas together, though not spectacularly, at the ballot box. >> i wonder if you can address this issue. if you go to an atm or express checkout, it's english or spanish, we have become a bilingual society. is that a good thing or a bad thing in terms of where we have our today and where we are today? >> i haven't studied it particularly, but i think it's an element of realism. whether it is good or bad, people speak spanish in this society and to accommodate them is to, it's probably good business for most of these companies that do that. it's a basic level of respect
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that communities have for a long time fought for. not just in the business realm, but certainly in politics. we know in the great voting 1965, rights act that was seen by most people in the united states as a victory for african-americans, it contained a little-known provision that honored puerto rican access to the ballot by making their ability to be literate in the english-language not disqualifying. new york state had a literacy test. that's just one example of the many ways in which english language or access to inclusion in the society around language issues was always a political issue. >> what is your message to fellow historians here in chicago at the american historical association? >> something that pertains particularly to my scholarship? >> in your research.
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>> read my book. i don't know, we are doing what -- they should continue to do the work they are doing to show the complexity of latino communities. this society does not always get the chance to do. there is this portrayal of the latino monolith. historians are doing a good job in discovering the nuances but also examining the ways in which there are efforts to bring together people from this very diverse community. >> how did you research your book and what intrigued you the most? >> i went about the united states of america to the places where the first latino congressman came from. i went to east los angeles, san antonio, i went to new mexico, which had a tradition of the u.s. senator's actually of mexican heritage throughout the 20th century. before there was ever an italian-american senator there
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was a spanish-american senator. i went to those communities. i studied and researched the archives in new york and in d.c. looking for the points of connection among communities that had historically seen themselves as different but were evermore being brought into contact with one another. >> when you are in the classroom teaching to students, what are the most common questions? what are they asking you? i teach other things as well, but when i do teach this i think students are generally surprised because like most of the population, at least our students, haven't seen this kind of texture and nuance within the latino communities. the label has been effective or homogenizing or standardizing extraordinary diversity. so -- >> which clearly is not the case. >> so when you ask people, they say oh, my grandmother is cuban and she doesn't like -- turns
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out she doesn't like puerto ricans. we were trying to figure out why. you realize there is a tremendous amount of distinction people feel among themselves. and that is ok. it is part of my job as a teacher to introduce students to some of those distinctions but also the ways in which, for better or worse, american politics is brought these communities together and has cut a channel for their participation. and to some degree, many of these communities are kind of stuck with one another in finding out ways to build up meaningful coalitions. to defend their ways as a collective. >> on this topic, do we have another project in the works. another book or essay? >> i am always interested in .mmigration
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appreciating the various ways that liberals and conservatives have fought over the question of immigration and shaped each other's strategies and brought us to the present day. that is what i would like to do next. >> we look forward to that research. benjamin francis fallon, thank at western carolina university. >> thank you so much. ask watch the american history -- american story unfold. 10thng back at nato's anniversary. rocket girls, the women of the jet ocean laboratory. c-span three. darnell storesn this -- shares the story of -- who played an integral role


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