COMMENTARY | The Dallas Morning News published an editorial recently asking why the Latino community in Dallas doesn’t vote more. It is a valid question, but the answer is often far too complicated, and the Morning News will likely not want to print an obvious reason, because it is politically incorrect. Having grown up in a predominately Hispanic south Dallas neighborhood, I have seen the problem first-hand. Having worked on election day as a clerk and election judge for Dallas County, the sad truth is painfully clear.
The real reason they do not vote is because, for the most part, they do not care. That is not to say that Latinos in general are apathetic; it is true of everyone, regardless of race. Total turnout for the Democratic primary in Dallas County was just over 5 percent; the Republican primary averaged almost 7 percent.
A study by The American Political Science Association states, “Those who enjoy high levels of income, occupational status, and, especially, education are much more likely to take part politically than are those who are less well-endowed with socio-economic resources.” When Latinos in Dallas as a group begin to embrace education, their economic status improves, as does their civic involvement.
The social and economic environments for Latinos have improved in recent years, but there is still progress to be made. Latino culture must reject the stereotypes that have defined us too often: a distrust of government and authority, refusal to embrace the English language, and the low-rider/gang culture.
We also need decent Latino leaders in Dallas. The west Dallas precinct mentioned in the Morning News article, 4085, could only muster 83 votes total, and only 27 of those went to the most notable candidate, Domingo Garcia. The fact that Garcia, who has represented the area for years and spent millions on his campaign, could not capture half of the votes in what should be a home district speaks volumes about how he is viewed among his own constituents.
Obviously, Dallas Latinos need new, young political leadership. They need someone who understands their situation and yet provides the right opportunities for their advancement, not the same tired political promises that do nothing but cater to one’s fears yet never deliver.
It is said that you get the government you deserve. The lack of participation by Latinos in the political process is a direct result of a lack of civic cultivation, and has resulted in a slew of corrupt, career politicians whose only ambition is their own advancement.
You and I, and the Dallas Morning News, should not lament the lack of Latino participation at the voting booth. Until we understand what a sacred duty it is, and learn to appreciate it and take it seriously, it is probably best that most of us not vote at all. An uninformed vote, regardless of who you are, is a dangerous thing.
Victor Medina has covered local issues as a Community Voices columnist for the Dallas Morning News, and his other writing credits include SportsIllustrated.com and Rivals.com. He has served as a member of the board of directors of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.