Word Of The Day: Hispandering (And Why Hillary Clinton Got It So Wrong)

Published December 23, 2015
Updated January 24, 2018
Hillary Clinton Hispandering

Hillary Clinton made a desperate appeal to Latino voters: she’s just like you’re abuela. Pictured is Clinton with singer and actor Marc Anthony, who, obviously, all abuelas love. Image Source: HillaryClinton.com

Hillary Clinton—despite all the unconvincing efforts of her campaign team—has very little in common with most people’s abuela, but that didn’t stop her trying to tell people otherwise.

The presidential hopeful posted a list on her campaign website called “7 Ways Hillary Clinton is Just Like Your Abuela,” where they ripped a format straight from the viral website playbook: punchy one liners paired with gifs and shareable images. The list kicked off the last week before Christmas, but the familial feelings of the holiday season weren’t as widespread as the campaign probably hoped for. Instead, a new hashtag, #NotMyAbuela, took over.

What started as a questionable way to gain the “respeto” of young Latin American voters ended with Clinton being outed as an extreme Hispanderer. Sure, it’s not anywhere near as offensive as Trump calling all Mexican immigrants criminals, but cultural misappropriation is a clear sign of a candidate who doesn’t understand their voters. To understand the problem, it is best to try to understand Hispandering itself.

A portmanteau of the words “Hispanic” and “pandering,” the term was coined by Slate writer Mickey Kaus back in 2002 in his blog Kausfiles, in reference to a “Hispandering proposal” to legalize a portion of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. It generally refers to a fake interest in Hispanic issues and culture (such as Clinton calling herself an “abuela”) and is done for self-serving reasons. Hispandering was picked up by the news media faster than the politicians could do the pandering.

Politicians running for office really started to get the memo of the importance of the Latino vote during the 2012 election, and the Hispandering reached new heights. This year, the Latin vote is even more crucial – according to an analysis by America’s Voice, the Republican nominee will need to get between 42 and 47 percent of Latino votes to win the popular vote. That’s twice as many votes as Romney got in 2012.

With that in mind, it’s clear to see what the Clinton campaign’s end goal was with their webpage. One look at the website, though, and it’s obvious the Clinton campaign failed miserably.

“She reacts this way when people le faltan el respeto … ”

“This is bad. Really bad,” the website Latino Rebels wrote about the abuela tactic. “If this is where the Clinton campaign is going, it might as well just be completely transparent about the fact that all it wants to do is Hispander like no one has Hispandered ever before.”

This Hillary Clinton hispandering is hardly the first example of the issue, of course. Here are three more transparent Hispandering moments from 2015:

1. I am tu Hillary

“I gotta tell you, I love being La Hillary – I promise I will keep working on my pronunciation – but I’m not just La Hillary. I’m tu Hillary.”

This was part of Clinton’s speech to a Latino crowd in Texas – one that opened up with singer Selena Quintanilla’s song “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” as Clinton’s walk-up song. We’re going to go out on a limb and assume that Clinton was not previously familiar with either Selena Quintanilla or “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.”

2. Barack Obama recognizing the importance of Tequila

“I’ll be brief, I’ll let you get back to the tequila.”

When Obama took it upon himself to make a Cinco de Mayo speech, he was sure to catch the attention of the people – tacos, churros, margaritas and, of course, tequila. He then proceeded to talk seriously about immigration while weaving tequila references throughout.

3. Jeb Bush speaks Spanish

Politicians seem to believe that Cinco de Mayo is the appropriate occasion to reach out and show they care about the Latin American community. Political Spanish language coaches must be pretty busy this time of year.

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines is a freelance writer in New York City. He graduated from Auburn University, and his recent bylines can be found at Men's Journal, Inverse, and Grape Collective.
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