Now that both the Democratic and Republican conventions have come to a close, it seems like an appropriate moment to take a deep breath and reflect.
We have the first woman as a presidential nominee for a major political party and a former reality TV star and billionaire political outsider who shocked the world by becoming the counterpart nominee of the other.
But remember, we said the same thing in 2008.
Eight years ago, America elected its first black president and the Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate.
For Latinos like myself, that was a groundbreaking moment for our community as well. On election night, “Si se puede” (Yes we can), quite literally, rang out from rooftops and on street corners.
Whether or not one voted for Barack Obama, we could feel a tectonic shift in what was possible for minorities in American politics and more importantly, in American life.
If ever there was a political mandate for real change, 2008 was it.
And yet, despite all the work this week by Democrats to cozy up to Hispanics, the fact is that in their two years of uncontested legislative majorities and a sitting Democratic president in the White House, the party leadership failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Their failure to not prioritize immigration reform resulted in a broken promise. Now, they make the same promise again, and Latinos don’t know if they can trust either party.
In a recent television interview, I explained that the Hispanic vote is not monolithic. We support aspects of the platform of both parties. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can pander to us or use us as political pawns and get away with it.
We are the fastest growing voting block in America and we are already large enough to tip the scales for either party in any election.
In 2004, George W. Bush received 44 percent of our vote, and in 2012 Mitt Romney received 27 percent, running on a conspicuously anti-immigration platform.
Today, even with Donald Trump’s deplorable rhetoric on Hispanics and his enthusiasm for building a wall, he’s only polling 3-4 points behind Romney’s 2012 totals.
These poll numbers say less about Trump’s rhetoric and more about our community’s aversion to certain aspects of the Democratic platform.
By-and-large, Hispanics are a deeply spiritual people. We have strong family values, support religious freedoms and the sanctity of life. Spiritually, I like to say that the Latino community is a mix between Pope Francis, Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Just as rhetorical demagoguery targeting Mexicans and the lack of affirmation for the Hispanic American community builds a defacto wall between Latinos and the party of the elephant, so do the policies and platform espoused by the party of the donkey.
By supporting Planned Parenthood, objecting to charter schools and higher standards and advancing the narrative of discrimination against Christians in education via such laws as CA Senate Bill 1146 in my home state, the Democratic Party does not speak the language of Christian Latinos. Since almost all Latinos are people of faith, the fact remains, the Democrats missed their best chance to pass immigration reform.
Given all that Trump has said this election cycle, it would be easy to assume he would have close to zero support from Hispanics. What’s perhaps most amazing is that he has as much support as he does. Regardless of Trump’s behavior and rhetoric, which I’ve publicly criticized time and again, his party’s policies are more in line with our values.
This should be a wake up call to Democrats everywhere. You cannot stand opposed to our faith and you cannot fill us with empty promises.
If you want our vote, you too must earn it. If only….
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.