Esther Cepeda | Latinos Mulling New Tune in Politics

Wednesday, 08 December 2010 17:22 By Esther J Cepeda, Op-Ed | name.

Chicago - It's 1985 and Pee-wee Herman walks into a bar to use the phone, arousing the anger and suspicion of a murderous biker gang called "Satan's Helpers." A long list of painful deaths is detailed and a last request is made.

The rosy-cheeked Pee-wee loads the jukebox, asks the short, Hispanic barkeep for his white patent leather shoes and through a disjointed set of dance moves earns the respect of the angry biker mob. The tune? "Tequila."

Fast forward to 2010. We're two years into the startlingly disappointing presidency of a man who courted the Latino community with the campaign promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Hispanics again turned out for November's midterm elections and they're widely credited for both saving the Senate for Democrats and injecting fresh life into the Republican Party by helping elect three high-profile Latinos, two governors and a U.S. senator.

But the Hispanics who went to the polls with immigration at the top of their voting agenda are feeling abandoned by incumbent Democrats who aren't taking a strong role in pushing the Dream Act, which would allow a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants if they attend college or serve in the military. They're also feeling reviled by the hardline Republicans who are vowing to block any action on immigration reform until further notice. The response: form a third party -- The Tequila Party.

Sounds like a joke, but then again -- maybe it isn't?

"I don't know if it's going to happen, but there's talk," said Fernando Romero, president of Nevada's Hispanics in Politics. He told the Las Vegas Sun last week that despite helping elect President Obama and saving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's seat, Nevada's Latinos are not being satiated on the issue of immigration. If Congress again puts off reforms, they think Hispanics might be best served by taking a page out of the tea party's playbook in preparation for 2012's presidential elections. "There's discussion about empowerment of the Latino vote," Romero said.

Sure, it's just talk at this point, but the talk is getting around. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a Dream Act champion, recently told The Daily Beast he's pretty sure that another defeat on this piece of legislation would cause a Latino revolt of sorts, one mirroring the civil rights movement.

Hispanic leaders around the country are paying attention to these grumblings and if a serious Latino national movement can successfully mold agendas and elections like the tea party did this year, why not?

But that name has got to go. Alcoholism and alcohol-related fatalities ravage Latino families. And the last thing this country needs is for a diverse Hispanic population to be defined by Mexico's national drink. Surely there's a more inclusive, if less festive, name.

Who knows if a hearty band of independently spirited Latinos can break out the moves and earn the electoral respect of apathetic or angry partisan "biker gangs" like Pee-wee did. But giving it a good try could turn out to be a big -- and fun -- adventure.

Esther Cepeda's e-mail address is estherjcepeda(at)washpost.com.

(c) 2010, Washington Post Writers Group 

Last modified on Wednesday, 08 December 2010 17:22