Talk about lost in translation.
Democrats hoping to court Hispanic voters in the 2020 campaign season by turning out election materials in Spanish just aren’t getting their message across. Literally.
According to an analysis by Politico writer Jesus Rodriguez, every Democratic campaign site with hopes of catering to Hispanics — by posting material in Spanish — is falling woefully short of producing error-free copy in language that fluent Spanish speakers will understand.
In some cases, Rodriguez found, the material seemed to represent little better than a cut-and-paste job from a Google translation.
While this might be intended to show that the candidate’s heart, at least, is in the right place, it ends up giving exactly the opposite message.
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“It’s the front door to the campaign. And it’s indicative,” Lisa Navarrete, an adviser at the Hispanic advocacy group UnidosUS, told Rodriguez.
“If you’re not investing in this … it will indicate to us that perhaps you’re not taking the other parts of reaching out to the community as seriously.”
Now, granted, fluency in Spanish is not exactly a common trait among American journalists (your correspondent, for instance, would have about enough Spanish to ask where the men’s room is, in a pinch).
It’s also worth noting that President Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 had no website in Spanish, the White House website lacks a Spanish page (it had one during the Obama years), and Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign is similarly lacking.
Do you think Democratic candidates are embarrassing themselves with mistakes like this?
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Would it seriously surprise anyone if it were otherwise?
But if a political party and its top candidates have the temerity to present themselves as honestly interested in championing a community based on its language, they would do well to at least make the effort of doing it competently.
And Democrats — so far at least — aren’t coming close to that.
According to Rodriguez, four candidates merited top billing on their use of Spanish: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; California Sen. Kamala Harris; and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Rating as “average” were former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and New York Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand.
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Candidates Rodriguez considered “struggling” were Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Long-shot contenders for the Democratic nomination John Delaney, the former U.S. rep. from Maryland, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang earned failing grades for not having a Spanish website at all.
No matter where they fell on the grading scale, virtually all the candidates had made embarrassing mistakes that would have gotten them an “F” in a high school Spanish class.
According to Rodriguez, Harris, for instance, at one point posted in Spanish that she had “wasted” her life defending American democracy (her campaign’s language skills have since improved).
Castro’s website makes “rookie mistakes,” according to Rodriguez, “such as calling the United States ‘América’ instead of ‘Estados Unidos’ and being inconsistent between the informal tú and the formal usted.”
Klobuchar’s website, according to Rodriguez, uses Spanish that appears to be cut and pasted directly from a Google translation. (Which would not only earn an “F” from a Spanish teacher but could be a form of plagiarism too.)
Astute readers will notice that the list is missing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Texas Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke. Rodriguez gave them both “incompletes” because of a paucity of Spanish-language material related to their presidential campaigns on their websites so far.
Politico being Politico, Rodriguez noted that both men had adequate Spanish-language material in previous campaigns, which is apparently why he didn’t give them failing grades. (It might also have something to do with the fact that both men are ridiculously popular among a certain liberal demographic that happens to read Politico.)
Still, it’s passing strange that a man whose real name is Robert Francis O’Rourke — but who goes by the nickname “Beto” to appeal to Hispanic voters — doesn’t make just a little bit more of an effort to act like he’s as Hispanic as his moniker implies.
A cynical observer of American politics might think that Senor O’Rourke has no real connection to, or even interest in, Hispanic voters beyond what support he might be able to scam from them in the primary or general election.
In fact, a cynic just might feel that what Beto is doing with Hispanics is a good picture of Democratic candidates as a whole — and the party as a whole — and the way they really look at Americans.
Stories like this from liberal-leaning publications like Politico might do their best to present the facts in the light most favorable to liberals — like giving “Beto” a pass for not posting enough Spanish-language material yet to make a judgment — but anyone who’s followed American politics for more than an election cycle or two knows the drill.
For Democrats, any community is important only as long as its votes can help Democratic politicians take or keep power. (The suffering of the country’s black community is the best, most disgraceful evidence of that.)
That’s the messages American voters really ought to be getting — no matter what language it’s in.
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