It may have been a long slog that led to tonight’s Democratic debate, in which Univision’s Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas join Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty at the moderator’s table, but the pair are just as comfortable setting their own destiny, rather than waiting around for a commission to bestow them a seat at the debate table.
In an October 2015 interview with the Archive of American Television, Ramos describes what he did when he learned Univision would not be moderating a sanctioned 2012 debate. “When the commission on presidential debates decide not to include us, or any one of us, or any other Hispanic journalist, for that matter, as a moderator,” he said, “we felt that we needed to speak up. And it ended up being much better, because instead of being part of the debates, we created our own debates.”
The network went on to host its own forum.
“When we see that something is not right,” he continues, “we can make it right, and then, every politician in the United States has to confront the questions that the Hispanic community has, and we were fortunate enough to be able to ask those questions directly to the president and the Republican candidate and whoever comes in the future.”
Salinas sees a parallel between politicians who ignore the Hispanic voter and media outlets who follow suit, as she describes how that has changed for the better this cycle, if only incrementally.
“I think that now we’re beginning to see mainstream media pay a little more attention to the Hispanic vote,” she says. “They usually come to us and ask us about the Hispanic vote. Now, at least, they’re included in some polls, they’re included in some of the questioning when they’re talking to politicians about the Hispanic vote, but I don’t think they understand the issues enough.”
“I think the mainstream media is losing out on Hispanic voters, on a larger audience. It’s not just politicians who are losing out, it’s the media, also. They don’t understand that there’s potentially millions of people that could be watching them that are watching us.”
In a few hours, we’ll be able to see how that frame–the hopes, fears, and interests of the Hispanic voter, will impact the kinds of questions and ideas the Democratic candidates will be asked to reckon with.
We’re looking forward to something broader and deeper in scope than the token immigration question of some previous debates.
The debate starts tonight at 9 p.m, which you can watch in Spanish on Univision, in English on CNN, or stream on The Washington Post’s site or Apple TV.