Watch Out for Hispandering in 2016

hillary abuela
This meme made the rounds of the Internet to illustrate Hillary Clinton’s Hispandering.

The watchword in 2016 is going to be Hispandering, a mix of two words, Hispanic and pandering, that some research shows dates to 2002. What an irresistibly delicious term!

In this heavy-duty year of presidential politics, some candidates will try to make a connection with Latinos, but many will stumble – as Hillary Clinton already has – by presuming too much and thus Hispandering.

Clinton’s recent outreach to Hispanics fell flat when she tried to become our abuela. Twas right before Christmas, and about the time when daughter Chelsea announced she was expecting a second child, when the Clinton campaign posted a tweet (with a photo of Puerto Rican crooner Marc Anthony, a big supporter) stating she was just like our abuela because she worries about children, emphasizes respect for women (she used the word respeto) and she supports Dreamers, who were brought to this country illegally as minors by their parents.

Awkward.

Counter hashtag “#notmyabuela” immediately popped up – I suspect egged on by Republicans and Democratic rival Bernie Sanders – creating a wave of ridicule.

“Hillary Clinton no es mi abuela,” said one tweet.

“She doesn’t remind me of any abuela I’ve met in Miami,” said another.

“Rich white women never had to share a few eggs between 15 children,” stated yet another.

And these were the kinder, gentler 142 characters. The Clinton campaign quickly edited the tweet and then it disappeared altogether.

The Democratic presidential frontrunner was attempting to click with the country’s 50 million-plus Hispanics, an ever-increasing proportion of the electorate. But the campaign tried too hard. Don’t knock off abuela, the bedrock of Latino families, to crown yourself or make your point.

Here are some rules for candidates, even though I know many  won’t be able to resist Hispandering this year.

  1. It’s OK to speak English – Just because we may speak Spanish to our abuelas doesn’t mean we don’t speak English at all. In fact, the majority of Latinos speak English.
  2. We were born here – The overwhelming majority of Hispanics in the U.S. were born in the 50 states.
  3. Don’t get too chummy-chummy – Latinos hug and kiss each other when we meet and greet, but that’s between us. You’re not part of the family.
  4. Be yourself – Don’t try to be Latino. Please.
  5. Tell us about your plans – Don’t talk down to us. Address us as you would any other group. And don’t just focus on immigration. Latinos have many concerns and lean in many directions.

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