LUIS VARGAS: MINORITIES OWE NO ALLEGIANCES

Read more here: http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20151022/OPINION/151029813/13831

Each major political party now has at least one debate under its belt for the 2016 presidential election. People are starting to choose the candidates they like, and while it is way too early to be making predictions, many have chosen sides and are passionately advocating the candidate of their choice.

The 2016 election will be about more than just any individual candidate, however. It will largely be a sign of approval for the job that Republicans have done while in control of the House and the Senate, or of the job of the Democrats while in control of the presidency for the past eight years.

Ahead of the 2016 elections, I think it’s time that minorities in Rhode Island take time to reflect on which party has their best interests in mind, and whether the allegiance they’ve given to the Democratic Party has been worth it.

In their first debate, and arguably the defining debate of the election for some of the Democrats running for the presidency, the “party of diversity” had five white people on stage, all over the age of 50. The candidates for the Democratic nomination talked about many topics. They talked about their enemies, they talked about climate change and gun control, and they talked about expanding government programs. One thing they didn’t talk much about? Education.

One year ago, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll on what the top issue was for Hispanics. Education topped the list, with a whopping 92 percent of Hispanics saying it was extremely important or very important — education, after all, is the key to climbing out of poverty. Despite this, the Democratic candidates for president made no mention of the public schools across the country failing minority children, especially in Rhode Island, where one in five children lives in poverty. While they controlled both the House and the Senate during President Obama’s first year in office, they focused on health care — not education, not climate change, and not fixing our immigration system.

This would appear to be a prime opportunity for the national Republican Party to focus on the issues that matter most for those crucial voters necessary for anyone to win the White House in 2016. The Republicans haven’t done themselves any favors though. With Donald Trump at the forefront, despite his anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the lack of immigration action or action on education reform by the Republicans who currently control both the House and the Senate, minorities have a lot of thinking to do.

In Rhode Island, there is less to discuss. With the exception of a few chief executives and the late U.S. Sen. John Chafee, Democrats have soundly controlled all aspects of public policy in the Ocean State. If you want a change from the 70-year status quo we’ve had, however, there are alternatives.

Minorities in Rhode Island owe allegiance to neither party. In 2016, they should focus on the issues that matter most to them and their families, and look less at political affiliation. We may be surprised by the results.

Luis Vargas is a 22-year old Hispanic in Providence, former independent candidate against state Rep. Joseph Almeida, D-Providence, and director of community development for the Rhode Island Republican Party.

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