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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is a senior member of the editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go to Liebau index]


Playing With A Full Deck
Rosario Marin & The Need to Transcend the Race Card

[Carol Platt Liebau] 12/8/03   

Barbara Boxer is the kind of politician who undermines the very concept of civility in the practice of politics. This is not only because she herself is the Barbra Streisand of the Senate – combining knee-jerk liberalism with strident self-righteousness. It’s also because those very qualities, coupled with a tendency toward whining, seem actually to invite invective on the part of those who disagree with her.

A consistent embarrassment to the State of California, Barbra Boxer reminds every Golden State Republican why it is imperative that she be defeated next year. And needless to say, finding the right candidate to take her on is central to that task.

When it was first announced that former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin was intending to run against Boxer, the match-up seemed perfect. Marin was born in Mexico City, Mexico and grew up in very modest circumstances. Before being named U.S. Treasurer, she served as mayor and councilwoman of Huntington Park, even as she worked for AT&T as Public Relations Manager for the Hispanic Market in the Southern California Region. She also worked in the administration of Governor Pete Wilson, concentrating her efforts in the area of physical disabilities. A wife and mother of three, Marin’s oldest son, Eric, was born with Down’s syndrome.

Rosario Marin is obviously a woman of talent and enterprise, and her achievements are admirable. Given her background, it’s no wonder that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is already sliming her – as it did with an October 10 press release claiming that an appointment as U.S. Treasurer has little actual importance. As a woman, a Latino and a more liberal Republican, it would seem that she is the perfect candidate to toss out Barbara Boxer.

So far, however, Marin has disappointed. The two speeches that this writer has heard her deliver have been long on biography (including references to her son, Eric, that very nearly seem to smack of exploitation), but short on almost everything else. Perhaps because she has been addressing female Republican audiences on both occasions, her offerings have been long on “feelings” and notably short on policy. We have heard how upset she was on September 11, and what she said to her husband on September 11, but nothing about what she believes it will take, for example, to prevent another September 11. One is left, at the conclusion of a Marin speech, with an uncomfortable choice: Judging from the candidate’s performance, she is either fairly uninformed (and thus doesn’t dare to talk policy) or else extremely condescending (deciding that her audience won’t understand policy).

True, it is yet early in the campaign. But even so, Marin has been notoriously lax about following up with many of the connections she needs to make in order for a statewide run to be credible. She failed to follow through with people very much in a position to help her, who were approached initially to sit on her campaign’s steering committee; this modus operandi appears to be part of a pattern that suggests either disorganization or a lack of diligence on the part of the candidate herself.

Most disturbing, however, is the fact that Rosario Marin seems to believe that she can get away with asking Californians to support her only because she is Latino – not because of anything she believes, or anything she wants to accomplish. Her very slogan, “Adios Boxer!” indicates a propensity to playing the ethnic card, and heavily.

There’s nothing wrong with appealing to the state’s Latino population – all Republican candidates should be seeking to reach out to all the people of California. But by defining the appeal of Marin’s candidacy solely in terms of her ethnicity, both she and her handlers are apparently forgetting that Latinos are not a monolith. And any campaign failing to realize that is doomed from the beginning.

If there were any doubts on this score, the recall election should have put them to rest. Cruz Bustamante run an entire campaign based on little more than brazen appeals to ethnic solidarity. And, of course, Gray Davis signed a bill offering drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants – without any security safeguards. But the ethnic appeals didn’t come close to carrying the day. A full 40% of Latinos opposed awarding licenses to illegal immigrants, and Bustamante won a higher percentage of the African-American vote (63%) than he did the Latino vote (55%).

Latino support for the recall and Republicans generally increased with income. The more affluent the voter, the more likely he or she was to support the recall and a Republican replacement for Davis – in fact, in Latino households with earnings above $100,000, fully 60% voted for one of the Republican candidates, and 57% supported the recall.

Given the differences in Latino voting patterns based on income, it’s clear that Latinos didn’t base their votes on ethnic identity alone. And this fact confirms what Republicans have always believed – naked ethnic appeals are not just wrong, they are also bad politics. Cruz Bustamante’s dismal showing demonstrated that, for political parties to win – Republican or Democrat – they must put forth candidates of substance.

In the end, a truly worthy candidate must have a reason to run – a rationale grounded in principle, which transcends the simple desire to hold a particular public office. Republicans, above all, must remember that, properly understood, all issues are “Latino” issues. Any appeal to Spanish-speaking Californians can, indeed must, move beyond so-called “Latino” issues like immigration, to stress economic concerns like job creation and entrepreneurship – issues important to every resident of the Golden State.

It’s not only the right thing to do – it’s also good politics. And it’s the best way for Rosario Marin to send Barbara Boxer home to Marin County.


CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA.


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