Lessons Learned By CT Latino 'Bernie' Supporters


, ,

Last spring, a group of Latinos throughout Connecticut demonstrated their enthusiastic support for the Vermont senator.

Bill Sarno/CTLatinoNews.com
According to Bernie Sanders’ most ardent supporters, Hillary Clinton outmaneuvered Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.   That allegation not only left many of the Vermont senator’s followers feeling bitter and excluded from the political process, but also left Sanders Latino supporters in Connecticut a bit more pragmatic in their approach to politics in the future. 
As Election Day, November 8th, now nears, members of the “Bernie Sanders movement” say they want to remain politically involved behind people who are inclusive and can be held accountable, even if that means Hillary Clinton, said Jose Emmanuel Alfaro Flores, one of the founders of Connecticut Latinos for Bernie Sanders.
Asked if he is supporting Clinton, Alfaro Flores replied “absolutely.” However, after spending a year immersed in the grassroots effort to enlist the Latino community behind the Vermont democratic socialist, the Manchester resident is focusing on his career. He says he is busy as an advocate for local and statewide education issues and does not have the time to work for anyone on the national level.
Looking forward, Alfaro Flores said one of the major lessons he took away was the interest in politics within the Latino community. “Latinos are far more politically involved than I thought,” he said.
The CT Latinos for Bernie Sanders were a diverse group of Latinos, some native born and others with immigrant backgrounds. Along with Alfaro Flores, a U.S.-born son of El Salvadoran immigrants, the group’s co-founders included his now fiancée Frances Ayala, whose heritage is Puerto Rican but was born and raised in Connecticut, and Carlos Alberto Camacho, who was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Alfaro said that Sanders’ Latino supporters in Connecticut have fallen  into three groups: those supporting Clinton, those interested in a third party candidate, primarily Jill Stein of the Green Party, and those intending not to vote at all.
Nationally, according to different polls, 37 to 55 percent of Sanders activists now plan to vote for Clinton. However, many Latinos and others continue to weigh their options in the presidential election.
Among Sanders’ most ardent supports, a reluctance to back the Democratic nominee still persists, according to a poll by the Alternet released October 7th. Surveying 461 Sanders delegates, the national news website found that more than one-third would vote for Clinton, but that 17 percent were undecided and that six percent planned to write-in Sanders name; another six percent were planning to indicate “none of the above” on their ballots.
At the same time, the Sanders diehards also underscored they would rather have Clinton than Trump as the next president. In California, a safe state for the former first lady, 24 percent of the delegates said they would vote for Stein compared to in swing states where 9 percent were ready to vote for the Green Party candidate.
Some political observers say that the former secretary of state is gaining traction among Sanders people by adjusting her positions to include some of their social and economic justice concerns and to distance herself to some degree from banks and Wall Street.
In Connecticut, Clinton is being supported by two Latinos who were chosen as Sanders delegates to the national convention: Eloisa Melendez, the Norwalk council member, and state Rep. Edwin Vargas of Hartford.
Vargas said Clinton has grown as a candidate, become more progressive and has adopted many of Sanders’ positions. This includes advocating that Wall Street pay its fair share of taxes and, of particular interest to young people, wants to do something about student debt.
Melendez said that even at the convention, where Sanders endorsed Clinton, she ran into “Bernie people” who said they could not support the former secretary of state. She argued that Clinton “still represents more of your values than Trump.”
Alfaro Flores, who is an advocacy manager for an educational organization, said he now has a more pragmatic view of the Connecticut political arena. “Sometimes you have to compromise to get a win,” said Alfaro Flores who, while not currently involved in the Clinton campaign, hopes to play a political role in the future. “You can have progressive views and have a practical mindset,” he added, which includes doing what is needed to get the job done.
Alfaro Flores said that, as an independent citizen who supports progressive causes and is politically active, he is “not in a position to vote for a third-party candidate.”
 Moreover, Alfaro Flores said that it would be “irresponsible for young people to not vote in this election; the stakes are too high.” He added that he hoped that his friends and colleagues will come to a similar conclusion.
 For Melendez, who is attending college while serving her second year in the Norwalk council, voting for Clinton also is important to help the state and local candidates on the bottom of the Democratic ticket, which includes U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and the congressional candidates.
 “Sanders has two years left in his Senate term and needs help (in Washington) with his revolution,” she said.