A Path with Heart: Why Whitman Lost (the Latino Vote)

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I have heard many theories on why Meg Whitman did not win California’s gubernatorial election: she failed to communicate with independent voters; she didn’t properly handle the controversy over her undocumented housekeeper; she saturated TV with ads; she told lies in her ads; she did not convince voters with her message and so on.

Some experts say that her opponents’ campaign was smarter. They point to a TV ad showing clips of Whitman and Schwarzenegger saying the exact same campaign slogans and even using the same words “Jobs, jobs, jobs!” The ad says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results.”

Meg Whitman once told me in an interview for La Opinion that she could not win without the Latino vote. In the last election, Latinos represented 21% of the entire electorate. Despite the fact that she invested historic amounts of money – more than $142 millions from her own pocket – trying to get the Latino vote, sixty percent of Latinos voted for democrat Jerry Brown.

Why?

Whitman always insisted that her offers to Latinos were jobs and education.

In contrast, Brown said he was in favor of immigration reform and the Dream Act.

Until September 29th, I felt a certain kind of admiration for Whitman because of her accomplishments in the business world. It’s not easy for women to be successful in the corporate world.

Then, on September 29th, I saw a televised interview with Whitman’s former housekeeper and nanny, Nicky Díaz Santillan, whom Whitman fired in 2009 after learning that she was undocumented.

Santillan had worked Whitman for nine years before confessing to Whitman that she was undocumented and asking for help to become legalized. In response, Whitman fired Santillan and said, “From now on, you don’t know me, I do not know you.”

Santillan said, “I felt like she was throwing me away like a piece of garbage.”

When listening to that interview, I felt very disappointed by the Republican candidate.

What bothered me most about the situation was discovering that on a human level, Whitman was a cold and lacked compassion. In a press conference, Whitman said that Nicky was like a member of the family and that letting her go was a hard decision.

In Latino culture when somebody is a part of your family, you do the impossible for them. Whitman could have fired Nicky with more dignity and more compassion. She could have at least helped her find an immigration lawyer.

Whitman’s treatment of Nicky revealed that she and her expensive advisors don’t understand the Latino community. Whitman refused to accept that immigration was as important to Latinos as the economy. When it came to immigration, her only focus was border enforcement and security. What made Whitman lose the Latino vote wasn’t Nicky (though that didn’t help either), but Whitman’s strong opposition to the legalization of undocumented immigrants and to the Dream Act.

Future gubernatorial candidates, take note: for Latinos, immigration is as important as the economy and a candidate’s personality is also very important.

As a friend of mine said of Brown and Whitman, “It is clear that one candidate is there for the community and another is there for the businesses.”

Editor: Maria Ginsbourg, Journalism graduate
from San Francisco State University.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this post. It precisely echoes my sentiments. It is the exact argument I posed to a fellow co-worker of conservative leaning. Whitman could have handled that situation in a more humane manner. One that would have saved faced for both parties. The maid would not have sought advice if Meg had helped her, I am certain of this.

    I liked Meg, up to that point. At that point she was nothing but a self promoting pompous individual who will say anything to get votes. For Hispanics, it seems, if you say family, you better mean it. Take notice future politicians, or else, face the consequences of the Hispanic vote.

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