A poll conducted just ahead of this week’s 2020 Democratic presidential debates found a plurality of voters believe that speaking Spanish during a debate is “pandering.”
42 percent of those responding to the YouGov survey, which was released Thursday, would not be impressed by a candidate who showed off their Spanish-language skills during a debate. On the other hand, 31 percent said that speaking Spanish was “respectful,” while another 27 percent were unsure.
A plurality of Democrats polled said the opposite, with 46 percent saying they thought speaking Spanish was respectful compared to 32 percent who said it was pandering. Among Hispanic voters, 37 percent said the gesture was respectful compared to 27 percent who said it was pandering.
The poll may not be good news for a few Democrats that participated in this week’s debate. Both former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker answered some questions in Spanish during Wednesday night’s debate. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro also spoke some words in Spanish during the debate.
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2020 Democratic presidential debates mark the return of “Hispandering”
According to a Thursday NPR report, there’s nothing new about politicians pandering to Latino voters. Slate blogger Mickey Kaus accused then-Democratic Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of a disingenuous effort to earn Latino votes, coining the term “Hispandering,” after Gephardt proposed legalizing “undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for five years and worked in the country for two years.”
The term stuck, and examples of alleged “Hispandering” have been catching the public’s attention ever since. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has faced “Hispandering” accusations in the past. In 2016, she walked out to a Jennifer Lopez song during a Latinos for Hillary event in San Antonio. She would go on to refer to herself as “La Hillary” and “Tu Hillary” at the same event. On the other side of the aisle, Republican primary candidate Jeb Bush elicited eye-rolls from many when he spoke Spanish in a 2015 Cinco de Mayo celebration ad.
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Syndicated columnist Esther J. Cepeda summed up the issue of pandering during the 2012 election, accusing politicians of virtue signaling their support for the Hispanic community while offering no real substantive policy ideas.
“Never mind policy, trot out some Hispanic stars, drop a few words en español as you talk about how very important ‘Hispanic issues’ are — as if they weren’t the same as all Americans’ issues — and do everything but don a golden-threaded mariachi sombrero while promising ‘el mundo,'” Cepeda said.
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