Part one of the two-night first Democratic primary debate took place in Miami on Wednesday night, and while President Donald Trump was largely correct that the event was “boring,” it did have a few moments that were interesting enough to spark conversations and memes.
Some of the more interesting moments came when, completely unprompted, three of the Democratic candidates on stage — former Texas Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and former Obama Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro — all spoke in Spanish.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that in the opinion of at least one Hispanic Democratic strategist, the Spanish-speaking that was no doubt intended to appeal to Hispanic and Latino voters came across as unwanted “Hispandering” that probably wasn’t as effective as the candidates had hoped.
Providing post-debate analysis for MSNBC, Democratic strategist Fernand Amandi acknowledged the importance of outreach to the Hispanic and Latino communities but felt that the candidates failed with their “D- high school Spanish.”
“There are many voters in the state of Florida who are Hispanic. We saw, not one, but two candidates last night on the stage speaking Spanish,” MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle said.
Ruhle noted that “(Democratic candidate) Marianne Williamson made a joke on Twitter saying, ‘I guess I have to learn Spanish by tomorrow night at 9 P.M.’ Is that a winning move to draw voters in? … Was doing that a good move for the primary?”
Amandi replied, “You know, I think it signals the importance, Stephanie, of the Hispanic vote, the fact that many — unprompted — went there with the Spanish language.”
“But it felt a little bit like ‘Hispandering’ to me,” he continued to chuckles from the rest of the panel.
“And if you’re going to do some of this stuff, come out with a little bit better than the D- high school Spanish, you know, at least you want to go with the A+,” Amandi said.
“But having said that, it is an important segment of the electorate and you see the case being made, and I think that’s something, perhaps tonight, we’ll see tonight if another candidate, or two, decides to go in that direction as well,” he added.
The quality of the Spanish aside, it was a blatantly obvious attempt at pandering for support among the bilingual and Spanish-speaking voters that make up a growing segment of the Democratic Party’s base.
The most hilarious part of it all, however, was the look on Booker’s face when O’Rourke — the Irish Texan who has occasionally been portrayed as Hispanic by the liberal media — began to speak in less-than-perfect Spanish in answer to a question about tax policy.
That side-eye look from Booker spoke loud and clear: “How dare you use my planned gimmick to pander to voters before I had a chance to do so!”
As to whether any of the candidates in the second part of the debate to be held Thursday night will speak Spanish remains to be seen. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, said to be at least conversational in eight languages, could throw everyone for a loop with a diatribe in Norwegian.
Whether “Hispandering” plays well with Hispanic and Latino voters or comes across as condescending also remains to be seen, but given the utter lack of self-awareness of many in the Democratic Party, how the candidate’s actions are received by actual voters doesn’t seem to matter much at all.
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