Election 2012: George Lopez vs. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, A Missed Opportunity?

When George Lopez in his HBO special went on a rapid-fire tirade after “getting political,” many of us didn’t get upset because our culture has desensitized us to this kind of explicit language. Whether it’s a live comedy performance or cable shows, you would think you’re in a war zone “F bombs” are dropped that often. 

When Lopez called President Obama’s likely Republican challenger “f--king Latino,” many of us winced. Mitt Romney’s father was born in Mexico

But then Lopez went off on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, including calling him a bad word in Spanish for a gay male prostitute. The crowd ate it up, laughing and cheering in agreement.

The self-proclaimed “America’s Sheriff” embodies the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment that has swept through the country, resulting in tough anti-illegal immigration laws such as Arizona’s controversial SB1070.  “Sheriff Joe”, who is facing re-election, has also been slammed with a federal lawsuit alleging civil rights violations and racial profiling against Hispanics. 

Still, Lopez not only crossed the line, he missed an opportunity to raise an ugly truth about the Latino community – and do something positive about it.

Founder and editor of the website the News Taco Victor Landa asks George Lopez to turn a critical eye on Hispanics for our deplorably low voter registration numbers. Calling us our “own political enemy because we don’t bother to register and vote,” the veteran journalist writes

“[T]he fact that there are so many Latinos who are eligible to vote but haven’t registered is as outrageous as anything that Joe Arpaio can or will do. It’s just as frustrating, just as tiring.” 

Landa is right. Advocacy groups and news reports alike touted how Latinos  mobilized in 2008 and helped elect President Obama. Still, of those eligible to vote, only half registered, compared with 66 percent of eligible Whites and 65 percent of eligible Blacks, according to the non-partisan think tank the Pew Hispanic Center

Bu here’s the tragedy: between the elections of 2008 and 2012, the 2010 U.S. census confirmed the extraordinary growth of our community, increasing to 50 million (or 16 percent) of the population. 

Still, voter registration among Latinos is still in the dumps in comparison to our demographic explosion. Why? The bad economy, unemployment, job losses, and home foreclosures have forced people to move and they haven’t registered in their new towns. Yet another reason is that Hispanics are “new citizens”, just naturalized or turning 18 and may not have the good “civic habit” of other ethnic and racial groups. Last but not least is our mañana tendency – I’ll wait until tomorrow or I’m not going to vote because someone else will.

Our time can only be “now” if each of us commits to registering to vote, becoming informed, showing up in November, and becoming involved in our communities, in our local governments, and schools. This is a monthly, at times a weekly, heck, even daily commitment.

Besting our voter turnout numbers in 2008 to match, even surpass that of other groups means a lot of power because leaders, parties, and brands will starting listening and following our lead.

And that’s no laughing matter.

Tell us: What will motivate our community to register to vote in numbers that match our growth?

Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.