THE LATINO VOTE INFLUENCE IN U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS STARTED IN 1963 WITH JOHN F. KENNEDY
Despite widespread belief that Barak Obama‘s 2012 reelection campaign was when the Latino vote “finally [awakened]” in a U.S. presidential election, John F. Kennedy has him beat with his 1963 race to return to the Oval Office.
According to The Huffington Post Latino Voices, the Latino vote earned respect from politicians much earlier than most believe. Historians credit Kennedy with being the first to “officially [acknowledge]” this “important voting bloc” when he made a speech in the Rice Ballroom in Houston in November 1963.
Kennedy earned the votes of many Hispanic in his 1960 race to the White House, especially Mexican-Americans who gave him 85 percent of their vote. When Kennedy failed to appoint Latinos during his administration, he faced backlash from the community that helped him. When it came time to start campaigning for reelection in 1964 and a close race at that, Kennedy knew he had to soothe the waters with his Hispanic supporters.
The president made a trip to the Lone Star State in 1963. While there, Kennedy was advised he should make an appearance at a League of United Latin American Citizens (the “largest Latino civil rights group in the country” at that time) gala in Houston. The activists hosting the event were excited about a visit from the president, but could not advertise his coming since it was not part of his official schedule.
Kennedy showed up to the Rice Ballroom with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson. The president delivered a speech about “foreign policy in Latin America” and the importance of the civil rights group to whom he was speaking. Then, the first lady spoke in Spanish about the shared history of Latinos and Texas. The crowd shouted “Viva Kennedy!” in response to both speeches.
Thus, the acknowledgement of the Latino vote as an important force in American politics was born.
Latinos have gone on to influence a number of “presidential elections for more than 50 years,” but they seem to be “attracting attention in 2012” because “Latinos are now the largest minority group in the U.S.” and “voter participation is up.”
Hispanic voters will only continue to grow in their presence and their influence in American politics. It will be in ways outside of the voting booth too, with more Latinos running for office, supporting their favorite candidates as campaign volunteers and being activists than ever before.
The U.S. has come a long way in its approach to race and ethnicity. Despite the challenges the Latinos faces now or in the future, at least members of the community know they have the power of democracy behind them.
The power of the vote is in every American’s favor, regardless of race and/or ethnicity.
See Jackie Kennedy speak to Latino voters for the 1960 election in Spanish: