Column: Rick Caruso’s Latino appeal isn’t bought — it’s real. But is it enough to win?
Rick Caruso is a white guy from Boston who went to college in Mexico. For years, as the son of a Mexican immigrant, he watched his race rise and fall in his country. A few years ago, he came back to the U.S. to find a place he could call home.
A year ago, he was doing a story at the Boston Globe about how the Latino voters — with their help — would help defeat Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in California’s governor’s race. Caruso’s story ran on February 26, 2005. The front page was dominated by a single word: “BUSTED.”
In it, Caruso reported, “The Latino voter turnout in 2006 was at a historic high, surpassing the Latino turnouts of 2000 and 2004.” The story included a list of Latino organizations that had put together a strong get-out-the-vote campaign for Schwarzenegger. The Latino vote had turned out to be the most decisive element in the race, and that’s when the story’s headline changed: “Schwarzenegger to Win With 40 Percent Latino Turnout.”
It was a smart thing to do, because most Latinos — 80 percent of them, according to Caruso — don’t vote at all. (They’re young immigrants, but their children have not yet arrived to vote at the ballot box.) For most Latinos, participation on the polls is only a part of the political process they know and understand. And for most, political participation at the ballot box isn’t an end in itself.
If this is true, then the impact of minority turnout on electoral politics is less consequential for all minorities than it is for white men like Rick Caruso. Caruso, a black man, is a conservative, and the Hispanic vote (the only one he knows of) helped put Arnold Schwarzenegger in the governor’s mansion for a single term.
But can white men like Caruso — and other white guys like him at this point in our country’s history — win elections of consequence? The answer is yes, but not because they can buy a lot of votes, or buy votes. It’s because they have more than just money on their side and a network of friends to back them up, that of their own creation.
One of the