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Column: Frustration with the president

SAN DIEGO -- In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, many Hispanics are talking about voting for the lesser of two evils. The hard part is figuring out the lesser evil.

African-Americans aren't facing the same dilemma, and yet many of those on the far left are also disappointed in President Obama. While most black voters approve of his job performance, there is also frustration that he hasn't been more attentive to issues such as the lack of economic development in African-American communities, high unemployment among black youth, and a school system that fails children right from the start.

Having already been criticized by prominent figures such as PBS host Tavis Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornel West, Obama has now earned the scorn of the progressive website Black Agenda Report. Executive Editor Glen Ford recently said this at a public forum:

"Let me say from the very beginning that we at Black Agenda Report do not think that Barack Obama is the Lesser Evil. He is the more Effective Evil. He has been more effective in Evil-Doing than Bush in terms of protecting the citadels of corporate power, and advancing the imperial agenda. He has put both Wall Street and U.S. imperial power on new and more aggressive tracks -- just as he hired himself out to do. ...

"The prevailing assumption on the Left is that Obama has good intentions. He intends to the Right Thing -- or, at least, he intends to do better than the Republicans intend to do. It's all supposed to be about intentions. Let's be clear: There is absolutely no factual basis to believe he intends to do anything other than the same thing he has already done, whether Democrats control Congress or not, which is to serve Wall Street's most fundamental interests. But, the whole idea of debating Obama's intentions is ridiculous. It's psycho-babble, not analysis. No real Left would engage in it."

I'll co-sign that. It's the same way in the Latino community, where the president's defenders are pushing three arguments: Obama's intentions toward Latinos are purer than those of Republicans; Obama only drifted to the right and became a hard-liner on immigration because Republicans in Congress pressured him; and Latinos have no choice but to vote for Obama because the Republican alternatives would be so much worse.

It's a pathetic place for Latinos to have arrived after giving a majority of their votes to the Democratic candidate for president in 13 straight elections starting in 1960. Do you suppose that, back during the campaign to elect John Kennedy, young Latino volunteers told one another: "One day, many years from now, after we have given the majority of our support to Democrats in this election and a dozen more, we'll get to the point where we choose between the lesser of two evils?"

When I made that observation to one of Obama's Latino supporters recently, he just shrugged and said: "It's not good. But that's how it is."

As far as Latinos are concerned, both political parties have behaved reprehensibly. The nicest thing you can say is that they don't care one way or another about what Latinos want or need. The worst thing is that they either ingratiate themselves with voters in the mainstream by bashing us (as Republicans do) or look the other way at moments of crisis to avoid angering voters in the mainstream (as Democrats do). So both parties are pandering to the same voters. And they're not Latino.

Sadly, neither Obama nor Mitt Romney is giving Latinos the one thing they hunger for most: respect.

Romney slaps Latinos on one cheek by touting endorsements by individuals who are despised in the Latino community such as Kris Kobach, the author of the Arizona immigration law that amounts to racial profiling, and former California Gov. Pete Wilson, who in 1994 exploited anti-immigrant anxiety and anti-Latino bigotry to get re-elected. Then Obama comes along and slaps Latinos on the other cheek by breaking his promise to fix the immigration system and shattering scores of Latino families by deporting more than 1.2 million people, and then having the audacity to lie about both.

For a group that is often talked about in the media as an important group of swing voters with the power to decide elections, Latinos find themselves with a choice between terrible and dreadful.

If this is what power feels like, you can have it.

Ruben Navarrette's e-mail address is