U.S. presidential candidates know they can’t make it to the White House without the so-called Latino vote; according to the Center for American Progress, Latinos will comprise at least 13 percent of the electorate in the 2016 election. The same think tank also estimated that the Republican presidential nominee will need to have the backing of 47-52 percent of the Latino electorate in order to win the general election next year.
It’s a hardly a surprise, then, that candidates are tripping over themselves to connect with Latino voters. From Jeb Bush’s early visit to Puerto Rico to Marco Rubio’s brandishing of his heritage credentials, candidates on both party tickets want to prove that they’re aware of and sensitive to the particular interests of this demographic group.
Some of these efforts, however, have fallen short. And some, such as the recent blog post, “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela,” posted by Paola Luisi on Hillary Clinton’s website, have backfired completely.
In the “7 things” post, Luisi says Clinton is like an abuela because she reads to kids before bedtime (illustrated with a picture of two kids who appear to be white), because she reacts with an eye roll when people are being disrespectful (paired with a clip of Clinton’s now-famous eye roll during a congressional hearing about Benghazi), and because she used the word “basta” (enough) to talk about Donald Trump’s outrageous policy proposals.
NBC News reported that Luisi is Latina, with family roots in Uruguay, and a quick search of the Hillary Clinton website and of Google indicates that this isn’t the first post she’s written for the campaign–nor the first one that’s generated controversy.
Regardless of its author (and of whether Clinton herself signed off on it, which seems unlikely), this post provoked Latinos and Latinas to take to twitter en masse, tweeting their annoyance and anger under the #NotMyAbuela hashtag. Critics accused of Clinton of “Hispandering”–pandering to a Latino audience–by trying to trot out linguistic and cultural touchstone bona fides. Latino Twitter users called out Clinton’s past and current positions on immigration, her selective use of Spanish to appeal to a bilingual audience, and her economic privilege relative to many Latina grandmothers, among many other topics, to emphasize that she’s nothing like their grandmothers.
The post, which has been written about widely, didn’t generate a response from Clinton herself. The candidate did not respond to the #NotMyAbuela hashtag or the post at the time of this writing. The post and ensuing conflict, however, have raised anew the issue of how white candidates address and attempt to connect, often awkwardly and inappropriately, with voters of color in their effort to garner votes. The Clinton campaign’s post was an attempt to be hip and humorous, but it has had the opposite effect.