Unity was the political headline coming out of Friday’s news cycle, after Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared side by side, in color-coordinated outfits, to put aside their 16-month internecine battle for the Democratic party’s nomination and show (dare we say) a united front at a 3,000 person rally in the aptly named town of Unity, New Hampshire
Press reports gushed over how Obama’s tie matched Clinton’s pantsuit, pondered their lack of a full hug, and pounced on the chance to show discord through a group of Clinton supporters, one of whom stuffed tissues in her ears as Obama spoke.
But the attempts to show solidarity went far past Clinton’s and Obama’s carefully choreographed display in the Granite State.
Preceding the Unity rally on Friday, Clinton spoke to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in Washington, DC on Thursday and asked some of her most enthusiastic supporters to back Obama in the general election. She told the crowd that if Sen. John McCain won the presidency little would be done to advance the Latino agenda on immigration reform and the country would see, “four more years of the same.”
Clinton was greeted with a standing ovation. NALEO’s president Adolfo Carrión, the Bronx Borough President, referred to her as “nuestra hermana” – our sister. Hispanic supporters of Clinton say that her backing of Obama will be instrumental in winning the group’s support in November. During the primaries, Latinos backed Clinton 2 to 1 over Obama.
Obama also tried to show that unity was a natural next step for Latinos who had supported Clinton. In his speech at the NALEO convention on Saturday, he stressed that Blacks and Latinos have a shared history in the struggle for equal rights. “We marched together in the streets of Chicago to fix our broken immigration system,” he said to the applauding crowd. “And it’s because of that 20-year record of partnership with your communities that you can trust me when I say that I’ll be your partner in the White House and I will be your champion in the White House. And that’s what you need now more than ever,” Obama continued. “Because for eight long years, Washington hasn’t been working for ordinary Americans. And few have been hit harder than Latinos and African Americans.”
Democrats aren’t the only ones trying to build bridges after messy political battles. Sen. John McCain spoke to the NALEO convention on Saturday, promising to pursue comprehensive immigration reform within his first 100 days in office and to reach out to a community that became alienated from the Republican party after Congress’ failed attempt to pass comprehensive immigration reform last year.
McCain was on of the chief authors of the failed bill. He now must fend off attacks from Obama, that attempt to stoke doubts that McCain and the Republican Party cannot be trusted to follow through on the immigration issue.
Obama, who took the stage after McCain at Saturday’s convention told the crowd: “[McCain] deserves great credit as a champion of comprehensive reform. I admire him for it, I know that he talked about that when he just spoke before you, but what he didn’t mention is that when he was running for his party’s nomination, he walked away from that commitment. He said that he wouldn’t even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote. If we are going to solve the challenges we face, we can’t vacillate, we can’t shift depending on our politics. You need a president who will pursue genuine solutions day in and day out in a consistent way, and that is my commitment to you.”
The attacks come at a time when Latino support for McCain is sagging. A recent AP-Yahoo poll showed that Obama’s lead among Latinos was 47 to 22 over McCain, with 26 percent undecided.
McCain’s attempts to regain ground on the immigration issue and rebuild ties with the Hispanic community has not gone unnoticed A headline in the Los Angeles Spanish-language daily La Opinion from early last week put it this way “McCain regresa al centro en inmigración.” – McCain returns to the center on immigration.
Saturday’s speech was just the beginning of an intensified effort by McCain to regain ground with Latino voters.. From July 1st to the 3rd, McCain will visit Colombia and Mexico to stress the ties the United States has with Latin America and focus on the shared security and economic concerns.
Unity – or unidad- it seems, might just rival ‘Change’ as a theme in this year’s election.