Op-Ed: Obama And Romney, Quit 'Hispandering'

Columnist Esther Cepeda says it is "a sign of respect" when candidates reach out to Hispanics by speaking Spanish, but there ought to be substance behind the effort. i i

hide captionColumnist Esther Cepeda says it is "a sign of respect" when candidates reach out to Hispanics by speaking Spanish, but there ought to be substance behind the effort.

Rob Boudon/Flickr
Columnist Esther Cepeda says it is "a sign of respect" when candidates reach out to Hispanics by speaking Spanish, but there ought to be substance behind the effort.

Columnist Esther Cepeda says it is "a sign of respect" when candidates reach out to Hispanics by speaking Spanish, but there ought to be substance behind the effort.

Rob Boudon/Flickr

Esther Cepeda recently learned a new word: "Hispandering." And, she writes in an op-ed for The Washington Post writers group, "it perfectly captures the spirit of the moment" in presidential politics.

Cepeda defines "Hispandering" as "never mind policy, trot out some Hispanic stars, drop a few words en espanol ... and do everything but don a golden-threaded mariachi sombrero while promising el mundo." And she sees President Obama and, to a lesser degree, Mitt Romney, clearly pandering to Hispanic voters in the run-up to the 2012 election.

The most egregious example of Hispandering, to Cepeda, is how candidates talk about immigration. "If you look at the polls over and over and over again, you see that Hispanics say that the economy, jobs, education and health care is their No. 1 issue," she tells NPR's Neal Conan. So, she asks, "why are the candidates strictly going on immigration to target this particular community? Why is that the only conversation?"

Cepeda says there are right ways and wrong ways for candidates to reach out to Latino voters. For example, "it's natural for a campaign to reach out to people who are beloved figures in a particular community," says Cepeda. But it's important to consider how that will play with members of the group who are dealing with serious issues, such as "the Secure Communities program, for instance, or the DREAM Act students who feel like there's going to be nothing for them in the next four years regardless of who becomes president."

Tell us: Whichever group you belong to, how can you tell when a politician is pandering for your vote?

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