Antonio Villaraigosa: Latino ‘window dressing’ at DNC?

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Among the Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions for the word token is this: “Member of a group (as a minority) that is included within a larger group through tokenism; especially : a token employee.”

I wanted to look it up to see if the definition had changed much since the civil rights movement days when activists used the word to define blacks and Hispanics who had been appointed to or placed in positions members of those minority groups had never before occupied.

Antonio Villaraigosa, Democratic National Convention, Republican National Convention

In this Nov. 30, 2011 file photo, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at the Los Angeles City Hall. It may have been a partisan barb from a Democrat, but Villaraigosa’s pointed criticism of the array of Hispanic speakers at the Republican National Convention laid bare a truth that could hurt the GOP: Mitt Romney is having a tough time winning over Latino voters. “You can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate,” he said. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

Window dressing was another word those activists used — among them, undoubtedly, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, chair of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week.

I found it amusing and curious this week to see that Villaraigosa, the leading Latino surrogate for President Barack Obama, had used those words to describe his counter-parts in the Romney-Ryan presidential campaign with the Hispanic headliners at the Republican National Convention.

“You can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate,” Villaraigosa told reporters in Tampa. “Window dressing doesn’t do much for a candidate…”

Those brown faces and Spanish surnames campaigning for Mitt Romney to whom Villaraigosa must have been alluding to obviously include Republican Hispanics like Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada.

They are a United States senator, a U.S. senator-to-be and two governors.

Of course, the list of Hispanic elected officials supporting and campaigning for Romney is much longer, surprisingly so. Most of these new elected officials have come to office in the last four years – Rubio and that group in the last two – at a time when Republicans had reportedly fallen out of favor with Latinos.

And these aren’t appointed positions. They have been elected by voters – and in many instances by voters where their elections weren’t slam dunk affairs. That’s to say, they weren’t elected in small districts where Hispanics are the majority, nor in liberal Los Angeles, a city half Latino and overwhelmingly Democratic.

In Texas and Nevada especially, there’s a long line of non-Hispanics who thought they had first dibs on the senate office which Cruz will likely winin November, or the governorship that Sandoval won over the son of one of the most powerful politicians in that state.

villaraigosa and obama

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa greets President Barck Obama during LULAC Conference. (AP Photo)

I am trying to see what Villaraigosa means by “window dressing” because these people certainly don’t fit the definition of a token. Unless, of course, the mayor is talking about anyone with a brown face trotted out to do a campaign’s dirty work, which would more specifically include and define him.

I’ve been covering this campaign closely, especially the Hispanic wooing aspect, and I’ve yet to see the kind of mean-spirited comments about him from the Republican Hispanics like those he’s been hurling at Rubio and Co.

It’s fair to say that Villaraigosa — the one-time student activist who had “Born to Raise Hell” tattooed on an arm — has proven himself to be the president’s Latino political thug slamming not only Romney but also Hispanics who have never said anything nasty about him.

In fact, before Romney named his running mate, Villaraigosa was quoted in a wire service story strongly criticizing Rubio – under consideration as a Veep choice at the time – and his lack of experience.

I thought it funny. A mayor – and not a very popular one now in his hometown – trash-talking a Latino in the U.S. Senate, the most exclusive club in America and a place where Villaraigosa has no chance of ever belonging unless a California senator happens to die and a Democratic governor appoints him there.

And if that were to happen, wouldn’t Villaraigosa – as a brown face with a Spanish surname trotted out for political purposes – fit the window dressing definition better at the DNC than anyone he’s now criticizing?

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