How Obama Can Keep Latino Voters: Focus on Health and the Environment

President Obama spent most of the week in California, the state known as the electoral ATM. It was a smart way to close out the third quarter of the fund raising cycle. But even as the checks roll in, campaign watchers are assessing which candidates have energized which segments of the electoral map.

Judging from current numbers, Obama is developing a bit of a Latino problem.

A recent Gallup poll found that his approval ratings have fallen to 48 percent among Latino voters—the lowest since he became president. In 2008, Obama carried 57 percent of the Latino vote. Today, 48 percent say they would give him a second term. In New Mexico, his numbers 69 percent in 2008 to 58 percent right now.

There are several likely reasons for this drop. With the economy still faltering, unemployment rates among Latinos hover above 11 percent, two points higher than the rest of the nation. Meanwhile, Obama has yet to advance the comprehensive immigration reform he spoke about in the 2008 campaign.

This is not a voting block any candidate wants to trifle with. Roughly 22 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible to vote in 2012. Seventy-five percent of the Latino population is concentrated in eight states, where their numbers reach or exceed 1 million: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, and Colorado.

Latino voters could decide several Congressional races in 2012, and maybe even the president if it gets close enough.

That’s why it is so critical for Obama to mobilize this base of support. Despite the dip in Obama’s approval ratings among Latinos, many will probably vote for Obama anyway. The question is: will they come out in big enough numbers to make a difference in battleground states.

If Obama really wants to reenergize these voters and get them to the polls, he needs to stand strong on something Latinos care deeply about: public health and the environment.

These are issues that cut close to home for many. Sixty-five percent of Latinos in the United States live in areas where the air is too polluted to meet federal public health standards. Fifteen percent live within 10 miles of a coal-fired power plant, one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the nation. Breathing air in these regions can lead to increased asthma attacks, bronchitis, cardiac disease, and cancer.

Most Latino voters view strong environmental safeguards and cleaner, more sustainable solutions as ways to protect their families. They will vote for leaders who fight for policies that bring safer air and cleaner water.

A poll of Latino voters across five western states found that 83 percent reject the false choice between protecting land, air, and water and having a good economy. The National Latino Coalition on Climate Change found that a majority of Latino respondents equated switching to clean energy with building a good economy.

Obama can win impassioned Latino support if he makes environment and public health a more central part of his platform. Many Latino leaders were deeply distressed when Obama abandoned stronger smog standards earlier this month. If he sides with polluters one too many times, he will fail to mobilize these critical voters.

But if he allows the EPA to continue releasing strong public health standards and if he keeps threatening to veto the dirty bills coming out of Congress, he can find common cause with the fastest growing population in the country.

How Obama Can Keep Latino Voters: Focus on Health and the Environment

President Obama spent most of the week in California, the state known as the electoral ATM. It was a smart way to close out the third quarter of the fund raising cycle. But even as the checks roll in, campaign watchers are assessing which candidates have energized which segments of the electoral map.

Judging from current numbers, Obama is developing a bit of a Latino problem.

A recent Gallup poll found that his approval ratings have fallen to 48 percent among Latino voters—the lowest since he became president. In 2008, Obama carried 57 percent of the Latino vote. Today, 48 percent say they would give him a second term. In New Mexico, his numbers 69 percent in 2008 to 58 percent right now.

There are several likely reasons for this drop. With the economy still faltering, unemployment rates among Latinos hover above 11 percent, two points higher than the rest of the nation. Meanwhile, Obama has yet to advance the comprehensive immigration reform he spoke about in the 2008 campaign.

This is not a voting block any candidate wants to trifle with. Roughly 22 million Hispanics are projected to be eligible to vote in 2012. Seventy-five percent of the Latino population is concentrated in eight states, where their numbers reach or exceed 1 million: California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, and Colorado.

Latino voters could decide several Congressional races in 2012, and maybe even the president if it gets close enough.

That’s why it is so critical for Obama to mobilize this base of support. Despite the dip in Obama’s approval ratings among Latinos, many will probably vote for Obama anyway. The question is: will they come out in big enough numbers to make a difference in battleground states.

If Obama really wants to reenergize these voters and get them to the polls, he needs to stand strong on something Latinos care deeply about: public health and the environment.

These are issues that cut close to home for many. Sixty-five percent of Latinos in the United States live in areas where the air is too polluted to meet federal public health standards. Fifteen percent live within 10 miles of a coal-fired power plant, one of the biggest sources of air pollution in the nation. Breathing air in these regions can lead to increased asthma attacks, bronchitis, cardiac disease, and cancer.

Most Latino voters view strong environmental safeguards and cleaner, more sustainable solutions as ways to protect their families. They will vote for leaders who fight for policies that bring safer air and cleaner water.

A poll of Latino voters across five western states found that 83 percent reject the false choice between protecting land, air, and water and having a good economy. The National Latino Coalition on Climate Change found that a majority of Latino respondents equated switching to clean energy with building a good economy.

Obama can win impassioned Latino support if he makes environment and public health a more central part of his platform. Many Latino leaders were deeply distressed when Obama abandoned stronger smog standards earlier this month. If he sides with polluters one too many times, he will fail to mobilize these critical voters.

But if he allows the EPA to continue releasing strong public health standards and if he keeps threatening to veto the dirty bills coming out of Congress, he can find common cause with the fastest growing population in the country.

Should Candidates Who Don’t Believe in Science Be Disqualified from Serving as President?

As the GOP candidates jockey their way toward the presidential nomination, they continue to create new litmus tests for what makes a worthy pick. The top contenders have to loathe government. They have to hate health care reform. And most deny the reality of climate change.

Most of these benchmarks have their roots in ideological battles but that last one is different. It requires candidates to forgo reality as they disavow scientific evidence.

I wonder how they choose which science to accept and which to ignore. Is it alright to acknowledge that gravity exists and cigarettes cause cancer, but not okay to concede that man made climate change is making the Arctic is melt and extreme weather events are becoming the norm? When do you cross the line? When does the crazy start? Most importantly, should ignoring science disqualify you from being president?

Having a president who willfully disregards the scientific evidence of a looming threat is not in our national interest, to put it mildly. I don’t think President Reagan would have gotten elected if he’d said he didn’t trust the data showing the Soviet Union had an enormous stockpile of nuclear weapons. We don’t need leaders who close their eyes to the facts.

But in this race, it’s not about the facts; it’s about speaking to the Tea Party crowd. And denying climate change offers candidates an irresistible trifecta. It allows them to belittle the science geeks and eggheads who might think they are smarter than ordinary folks. It gives them a chance to talk about government regulations—in the form of limits on carbon emissions—which gets their base all riled up. And it helps them keep the campaign donations from oil and coal companies rolling in.

Siding with the 3 percent of scientists who question climate change may play well with a small minority of hard-right voters, but it doesn’t serve the rest of us. There has always been a place in American society for the fringe dwellers—the religious zealots and the conspiracy theorists and the committed Luddites. But that place is not in the White House. Living in denial in the face of evidence isn’t a sign of leadership – it is a sign of delusion and it should disqualify you for serving as President.

There is also a healthy tradition of skepticism in America, but skepticism is not an excuse for inaction. It should be the beginning of a quest to find answers. If Representative Michelle Bachman doubts the existence of climate change, she should travel to the Arctic in the company of researchers. If Governor Perry doubts that the globe is warming, he should walk the scarred plains of Texas with those who have studied the links between climate change, more frequent droughts, and intensified wildfires.

The fact that they don’t journey to find the answers tells me they aren’t skeptics at all: they are just closed-minded. They don’t want to pursue new information or collect the facts on the ground. They want to stay within the confines of Tea Party ideology.

Casting doubt in and of itself shouldn’t disqualify you from becoming the president of the United States. But willfully rejecting the facts, when the consequences of doing so will be devastating, should.

 

 

 

Should Candidates Who Don’t Believe in Science Be Disqualified from Serving as President?

As the GOP candidates jockey their way toward the presidential nomination, they continue to create new litmus tests for what makes a worthy pick. The top contenders have to loathe government. They have to hate health care reform. And most deny the reality of climate change.

Most of these benchmarks have their roots in ideological battles but that last one is different. It requires candidates to forgo reality as they disavow scientific evidence.

I wonder how they choose which science to accept and which to ignore. Is it alright to acknowledge that gravity exists and cigarettes cause cancer, but not okay to concede that man made climate change is making the Arctic is melt and extreme weather events are becoming the norm? When do you cross the line? When does the crazy start? Most importantly, should ignoring science disqualify you from being president?

Having a president who willfully disregards the scientific evidence of a looming threat is not in our national interest, to put it mildly. I don’t think President Reagan would have gotten elected if he’d said he didn’t trust the data showing the Soviet Union had an enormous stockpile of nuclear weapons. We don’t need leaders who close their eyes to the facts.

But in this race, it’s not about the facts; it’s about speaking to the Tea Party crowd. And denying climate change offers candidates an irresistible trifecta. It allows them to belittle the science geeks and eggheads who might think they are smarter than ordinary folks. It gives them a chance to talk about government regulations—in the form of limits on carbon emissions—which gets their base all riled up. And it helps them keep the campaign donations from oil and coal companies rolling in.

Siding with the 3 percent of scientists who question climate change may play well with a small minority of hard-right voters, but it doesn’t serve the rest of us. There has always been a place in American society for the fringe dwellers—the religious zealots and the conspiracy theorists and the committed Luddites. But that place is not in the White House. Living in denial in the face of evidence isn’t a sign of leadership – it is a sign of delusion and it should disqualify you for serving as President.

There is also a healthy tradition of skepticism in America, but skepticism is not an excuse for inaction. It should be the beginning of a quest to find answers. If Representative Michelle Bachman doubts the existence of climate change, she should travel to the Arctic in the company of researchers. If Governor Perry doubts that the globe is warming, he should walk the scarred plains of Texas with those who have studied the links between climate change, more frequent droughts, and intensified wildfires.

The fact that they don’t journey to find the answers tells me they aren’t skeptics at all: they are just closed-minded. They don’t want to pursue new information or collect the facts on the ground. They want to stay within the confines of Tea Party ideology.

Casting doubt in and of itself shouldn’t disqualify you from becoming the president of the United States. But willfully rejecting the facts, when the consequences of doing so will be devastating, should.

 

 

 

Weekly Mulch: One Year After the BP Oil Spill, None the Wiser

 

By Megan Hagist, Media Consortium blogger

One year after the worst oil spill in U.S. history began, key questions about its environmental impact remain unanswered. The 4.9 million barrels of BP oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico continue to threaten marine wildlife and other vile surprises have surfaced along the way.

Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard lists 10 reasonswhy we should not let the BP spill fade into the background. Perhaps the most important is the spill’s effect on locals’ health, about which Sheppard reports:

Of the 954 residents in seven coastal communities, almost half said they had experienced health problems like coughing, skin and eye irritation, or headaches that are consistent with common symptoms of chemical exposure. While the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting health monitoring for spill cleanup workers, residents in the areas closest to the spill are concerned that their own health problems have gone unattended.

Unfortunately, protests from these communities are unheard. Low-income and minority communities are typically targeted for oil production due to inadequate political power, but indigenous women in the United States and Canada are ready to change that.

Acting Against Big Oil

Organizations like Resisting Environmental Destruction On Indigenous Lands (REDOIL),  Indigenous Environmental Network, and Women’s Earth Alliance are working together to apply continuous pressure on oil companies in order to stop some of their more environmentally disastrous projects. Ms. Magazine’s Catherine Traywick shares insight from activist Faith Gemmill:

“We are trying to build the capacity of community leaders who are on the frontlines of these issues so that they can address these issues themselves,” Gemmill says. Her organization trains community members who are confronted with massive industrial projects and provides them with legal assistance and political support. Women’s Earth Alliance similarly links indigenous women leaders with legal and policy advocates who can, pro-bono, help them fight extractive industry, waste dumping and fossil-fuel production on sacred sites.

Meanwhile, Congress continues to neglect the National Oil Spill Commission’s advice to endorse safety regulations, while demands for domestic offshore drilling become more vocal under presumptions of lower gas prices and increased employment. But are these reasons worth the economic and environmental risks associated with drilling offshore?

According to Care2’s Jill Conners and Matthew McDermott, the answer is no. They break down the facts, noting:

Political posturing notwithstanding, offshore drilling will not eliminate US demand for foreign oil or really even make significant strides into reducing that dependency. At current consumption, the US uses about 8 billion barrels of oil per year; conventionally recoverable oil from offshore drilling is thought to be 18 billion barrels total, not per year.  What’s more, offshore oil drilling will not guarantee lower fuel prices — oil is a global  commodity, and US production is not big enough to influence global prices.

What about Wind Power?

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement approved the Cape Wind Project, a plan to build an offshore wind farm five miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod. First proposed 10 years ago, the farm will consist of 130 wind turbines, each 440 feet tall and capable of producing 3.6-megawatts of energy.

The controversial project has been opposed by some environmentalists, who expressed fears that the installation of the turbines could have destructive impacts related to aviation traffic, fishing use, migratory birds, and oil within the turbine generators, among other issues.

Moral issues are raised too, as local tribes have fought against the Cape Wind project. Earth Island Institute’s Sacred Film Land Project has reported on the Wampanoag Indian tribes’ petitions, which ask for protection of sacred rituals and a tribal burial grounds located directly in Cape Wind’s path of installation.

Green-Ed

A somewhat worrisome study published Monday by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communicationsheds light on Americans’ climate change knowledge. Results show teenagers understand climate change better than adults, regardless of having less education overall, with a larger percentage believing climate change is caused by humans.

Some of the study’s questions were summarized by Grist’s Christopher Mims, who recounts that only “54 percent of teens and 63 percent of adults say that global warming is happening,” while only “46 percent of teens and 49 percent of adults understand that emissions from cars and trucks substantially contribute to global warming.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets

 

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