Adriana Maestas over at Latinopoliticsblog.com has created quite a stir out in California. She claims that Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Orange County) has maintained an intimate relationship with a defense industry lobbyist even though she sits on the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees. Maestas’ piece is well-researched and even includes her own sources, distinguishing it from the inane vitriol of many other bloggers who merely enjoy attacking anyone in power. But the quality of the piece is probably not what is fueling the subsequent brouhaha.
The author’s sin is that she is a Latina taking on another Latina. As someone who tries to practice the Panther creed of “never disrespect a brother [or sister] in public,” I can understand why some people have taken issue with LatinoPoliticsBlog.com. Because there are so few of us that obtain positions of power, the last thing we need is to drag one of the few Latino or Latina role models we have into the gutter. That is one of the reasons I am not attacking Barack (a fellow community organizer, Chicagoan, and person of color) just yet on issues such as preventitive detention. He is under unreasonable pressures as the first Black President; so, why should I make it easier for the many forces already aligned against him (even before he took office)? I am certainly old-school in my excitement every time a person of color gets into a position of power. In fact, I was truly excited and proud of the Sanchez sisters when they were elected. But do I think Maestas is a vendida that is jealously trying to take down a fellow Latina?
No. Maestas is right to question Sanchez’ ethics. In this day and age it is not good enough to merely have a brown person in power. In Chicago, where we have elected quite a few Latino politicians, we know that electing a representative with a Latino background does not necessarily mean he or she will represent the interests of Latinos. Here, the old, corrupt Chicago Machine is fueled by a Latino sub-machine. This sub-machine has traditionally secured patronage jobs for some Latinos at the expense of rubber-stamping the Mayor’s policies even when they have been clearly detrimental to the majority of Latinos. The sub-machine has generated cacique leaders (see my entry about The New Caciques) that have been embroiled in corruption scandal after corruption scandal. Latinos who do not expose corruption among our own officials do our people a disservice by holding up such leaders as role models to our kids. I long for the ancient aristocracy that the Greeks pioneered and whose demise De Tocqueville lamented in the Ancien Regime: the best and the brightest who could maintain a spirit of independence vis-à-vis the central government (or King) instead of bowing down for the sake of their own private inurement. We know that the deck is stacked against Latinos in public life, but that can never be an excuse for ignoring corruption.
I truly hope that Maestas is wrong about the “Loretta Sanchez Scandal.” I hope that Congresswoman Sanchez will say something to clear this matter up (according to Gustavo Arellano, she won’t speak to anyone). She ought to do this not only for her constituents but also for the rest of us who are desperately looking for Latino and Latina leaders we can be proud of.
Photo: The Washington Post