My priority for this election is not advocating for a lone candidate.
My priority is advocating for democracy itself.
At a breakfast at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Hillary Clinton spoke at length about what is at stake in this urgent moment. The hacking of, and outright attack on, our democratic system is a very real and scary thing. There are troubling factors that make this election much different from any prior, due to the interference of other countries through technology and propaganda. It is dividing us in a way that it never has before.
With that divisiveness at an all-time high, Election 2020 becomes bigger than any candidate. We’re talking about our system, the way in which we cast our vote. It’s an attack on the core of what patriotism means. This shift is dangerous, and so my intent is to protect and uphold the system.
The first time I volunteered was for Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign. I was a senior in high school, and in our government class they said, “Choose whoever you want, but you have to devote a certain amount of hours to volunteer.” We registered voters. That was the first taste of politics I got, and I really learned a lot and enjoyed that specific work — voter education, voter outreach. There is so much voter suppression happening now that this kind of effort will be key in the fall.
Information, no matter how minute, is empowering — like making sure people know what identification to take, know where their polling place is, know the correct dates. It’s also imperative to make sure voters have ballot measure information and down-ballot information. We need safeguards in a climate where voter ID laws, gerrymandering, redistricting and changing polling places serve to attack and mislead this process. I often deal with a misconception that I speak exclusively for the Latinx community. I don’t speak for anybody. My focus is to help people find their voices, and speak for themselves.
For candidates who want to speak to issues that matter to Latinos, I would encourage them to remember they’re talking about issues that matter to Americans. The economy is the No. 1 issue for all Americans, and that includes Latinos. Health care too. Latinos are Americans, and
we struggle in the same way.
There’s a taking for granted of the Latinx community. Most Democrats assume we’re going to vote in their favor. I haven’t heard one Democratic candidate address the Latinx community in any specific way before Nevada. Our community has been under attack for a long time. The problem with news media right now is, they’re making a lot of assumptions about us. The Latino community is synonymous with illegal, and synonymous with a lot of derogatory archetypes that are not necessarily true. I am a ninth-generation American, but if you look at me and a person who may be a more recent immigrant, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate us by the color of our skin, or the way we sound and speak. It’s an unconscious bias that comes from repeated images in the media, this notion that we are dangerous. It’s hard to combat.
The culture, however, is shifting in America. It is diversifying in a very real way, and the shift is freaking people out. That’s one of the challenges we have as a community, to make sure that we educate people about who we are and how much we’ve contributed to the country. It’s why I take my job as a narrative storyteller so seriously.
As the activist Favianna Rodriguez says, we must change culture before we change policy.
In addition, I see no meaningful strides from these candidates to address women. I’m a founding member of Time’s Up, and we’ve been trying to get questions into the Democratic debates. No one is discussing sexual harassment, pay equity or paid maternity leave.
The field is weighing how to beat Trump, but when we eventually get to a Democratic nominee, she or he will have to have something to say to all Americans.
Whoever that candidate might be, “integrity” is a word I’ve been repeating to myself. I don’t think we have that, the quality of being honest. The fact that we have to ask for that in a presidential candidate is, frankly, crazy. First and foremost, let the candidate exhibit fairness and honesty. Under that umbrella are so many other things. Equality, justice, morality. Let policy flow from that access point.
As told to Matt Donnelly