There is growing criticism among some in the Latino community who feel president-elect Obama has not appointed enough Hispanics to cabinet positions. The complaints began with the choice of Hillary Clinton over Bill Richardson for Secretary of State. New Mexico’s Governor Richardson, whose mother is of Mexican descent, has considerable foreign policy experience, having served as U.N. Ambassador during the Clinton administration.
The argument over a person’s qualifications for a cabinet post is a fair discussion. But these critics are now eyeing the entire cabinet and demanding that Hispanics be represented in proportion to their presence in the population. In other words, they are asking for quotas.
This is a dead-end path.
A quota mentality is bad politics. How many non-Hispanic voters will elect a Latino candidate if they believe he or she will put Latino interests first? On the other hand, having a name that ends with a “z” does not necessarily make you an advocate for Hispanic causes. Let’s not forget that as Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez did very little to help the Latino community — or its public image.
Quotas in the private sector are also a bad idea. They breed resentment and suspicion. Sure, a few fortunate Latinos may reach prestigious positions. But it taints the qualifications of the rest of us. Were you hired because you were best person for the job? Or were you hired because the company needed a Hispanic to meet their quota?
Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. If we are underrepresented in the government, then we should work to change that by electing more Latinos. In the long run, demands for quotas will do more harm than good.
What Hispanics should demand is that president-elect Obama lives up to his campaign promise to make immigration reform a top priority. Let’s not obsess over who is appointed to the cabinet. Let’s just make sure they get the job done.