Election 2012: George Lopez v. Sheriff Joe Arpaio Missed Opportunity

When George Lopez in his HBO special went on an “f” word rapid-fire tirade after “getting political”, many of us didn’t get upset because our culture has desensitized us to this kind of 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 as I write in Election 2012: ¿Mitt or Mitteo Romney?

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 wooting in agreement.

The self-proclaimed “Toughest Sheriff in America” 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% of eligible Whites and 65% 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. Censusconfirmed the extraordinary growth of our community, increasing to 50 million or 16% of the population.

Still, voter registration among Latinos is 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 start listening and following our lead.

And that’s no laughing matter.

This post appears in Latina Magazine where I am a weekly politics columnist as Election 2012: George Lopez v. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Missed Opportunity.

To read more of Viviana’s Election 2012 columns in Latinaclick here.

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



  1. says

    YES! I haven’t seen Lopez’s “tirade” but I wish more celebrity Latinos who have the ear of so many Latinos, would embrace their social responsibility to encourage Latinos to get out and vote. The problem is that we continue to let other people stifle our voices and Latinos often feel like we can’t make a difference. That our opinions – and votes – don’t matter.

    We need to change this outlook starting with our children, empowering them to find their own voices and helping them to overcome their fear of using them.

    Thanks, Viviana.

    • says

      I couldn’t agree with you more. We have to educate our children and instill in the them good habits which include being civically engaged. I also want them to know that they have skin in this game called America. It’s their country!

  2. says

    I haven’t watched the George Lopez tirade either, but I think it would have been nice for him to end it with, “Now go out there and register to vote!” Like so many things, I think “civic habit”/duty starts at home. My grandmother started nagging me about registering to vote, pretty much every day after my 17th birthday. So of course, on my 18th birthday, I did just that.

    I now live in Mexico, where we just had our presidential elections. My husband took our two oldest kiddies with him, so that they could see what’s it’s all about and explained why it’s so important to vote and register to vote. I’m happy to report that my 14 year old daughter is very excited to participate in the next presidential elections in 2018! :)

    • says

      This comment has made my day because it brings up a very important point. There is a rich tradition of political participation and civic engagement in Latin America. I remember when I lived in Mexico, people flocking to the polls for the 2000 election. If Latinos in the U.S. who are eligible aren’t registering and casting ballots, it’s not because of where they’re from. I’m trying to get to the bottom of why our community is lagging when it comes to voter registration.

    • says

      Good point. In other countries like Mexico, voting is on a Sunday, when most people are off and don’t have this as an excuse. Other countries make voting mandatory!

  3. says

    I had not heard of Lopez’s rant; I’m going to have to look for it. Your post is timely and so on the mark. Wouldn’t it be great if a George Lopez would take it to the next level and spearhead a Latino voter registration campaign? Thank you for raising the issue, and I agree that registering to vote–and being civically engaged–should be a priority for everyone in our community.

    • says

      I think George Lopez is a good guy and he’s used his celebrity to be involved with issues and the community. But he could have finished his f-bomb “tirade” (which makes for good television), announcing a big voter registration drive and setting up tables at all his shows. I’m sure NCLR, Voto Latino, Ya es hora could use the help.

    • says

      It’s so urgent, particularly now because of our demographic explosion. Numbers mean nothing if a community doesn’t have muscle–or in this case voting!–to back them up.

  4. says

    Thanks Viviana!

    I haven’t watched the George Lopez tirade either.

    I totally agree that we need to encourage Latinos to get out and vote !
    I believe that most people do not vote, becasue they somehow got this idea that their vote does not count. However, their votes can make a huge difference !

    • says

      I think you’re on to something Uchi. People don’t think their vote counts. Where does this feeling come from? I’m wondering if it has too do with all the money/interests in politics where regular people feel “small” in comparison to the heft of lobbyists.

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