In their harried pursuit of Latino votes in previous and in upcoming primaries like that in Texas, candidates Obama and Clinton have added another to the still-growing string of records broken this election year: number of times the phrase “Si se puede” has been used in a U.S. presidential election.
The record is being broken in large part thanks to the powerful, yet deadly combination of the exponential growth in the Latino electorate and the fabulous lack of imagination of campaign strategists. In their efforts to highlight the “intimacy” and “unity” between the candidates and Latinos, rally after rally in Dallas, Houston, El Paso and other urban, suburban and rural parts of Texas has included loud, mantra-like repetitions of the Spanish language phrase, which means “Yes We Can”.
Originally coined in 1972 by my friend, United Farm Workers co-founder, Dolores Huerta, “Si se Puede” became the UFW’s motto ; It then transcended the UFW to become an important slogan for many labor, immigration and other historic struggles involving the country’s largest “minority”.
And now, in what appears to signal another mainstreaming of a Latino trend, many, if not most Clinton or Obama rallies include some mention of the English or Spanish or English and Spanish language political slogan (see New York Times pic above).
While it is true that the mainstreaming of “Si Se Puede” provides us with another signal of how the larger body politic is successfully adjusting to the death of the black-white electorate, this mainstreaming comes at a high cost: the cheapening of “Si Se Puede”. To transform a term rooted historically in the salt of the earth struggles of working class Latinos in the campaigns of candidates who also repeat mantra-like the phrase “middle class” alters and diminishes the political value and movement power of “Si Se Puede”. That my friend, Dolores Huerta, uses the term to promote her favored candidate, Hillary Clinton, saddens me less because I am anti-Clinton than because I was pro-Si Se Puede since my political childhood.
Before the inevitable moment when big corporations start using the term as slogans in ads selling us cars, burgers and tampons arrives, let us put up a big “No Pasaran” (They Shall Not Pass) before the forces of Little Political Imagination: BOYCOTT “SI SE PUEDE” IN ELECTIONS-AND BEYOND. Such a boycott may well free up and force the creative energies to come up with newer, fresher and less-compromised political language.
Si Se Puede is Dead. Que Viva……………………….