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Ask Tim Dickinson: ¿Qué Pasa Con Bill Richardson?

Borracho asks:

“With all of the focus on Obama’s race, Hillary’s tough bitch image, and Edward’s haircut, what does a mucho, macho Mestizo like Richardson have to do get some news coverage? Especially since he is the only one of these candidates who can actually say he has accomplished something during his career?”

Hey Borracho: Most important, I think Richardson needs to do more to play up the fact that, Anglo surname aside, he is indeed a ‘Mucho Macho Mestizo’. In a year of path-breaking candidates, he’s arguably the path-breaking-est. We’ve seen credible African Americans run for president. And credible women run for president. Heck, an African American woman once ran for president. But we’ve never seen a candidate like Richardson.

His grandparents are two Spaniards, a Mexican, and a Smithsonian biologist from Boston. He grew up on a hacienda in Mexico city, moving to Boston for high school before becoming a star pitcher at Tufts, a congressman, a U.N. ambassador, an Energy Secretary and a Governor. He personifies not only the American melting pot as Obama does, but also its immigrant story.

But with the last name Richardson, he can confuse people: According to a recent poll, more than half of American Latinos said there was no Latino in the race. Indeed, fewer than a third of Latinos identified Richardson as a member of ‘la raza.’

Chew on that for a second. Can you imagine what Hillary or Barack’s numbers might look like if only a third of women or African Americans recognized that they weren’t just everyday white guys?

Now, with the current anti-immigrant backlash (read: brown panic) sweeping segments of America — and lily white states like Iowa and New Hampshire are hardly immune — running as a Hispanic has its pitfalls. Which is perhaps why Richardson is running on his resume — and seemingly soft-pedaling his ethnicity. “I’m not running as a Hispanic,” the Governor told me in a recent interview. “I’m running as a governor who is proud to be Hispanic.”

Richardson is running as a Hispanic the same way Rudy Giuliani is running as an Italian. Maybe that’s just who he is and how he sees himself. But by forgoing the media bonanza that could have come his way by, say, announcing his candidacy on Univision or Telemundo, Richardson missed a chance, in the early days of the campaign, to have his name grouped with Hillary’s and Obama’s in every single discussion about the novelty and diversity of the Democratic nominees.

Instead, Richardson has seemed content to allow that limelight accrue to Clinton and Obama, while he runs solely on his resume. Which is a shame. Because instead of stories like — “There are three novel candidates in the Democratic field; And you’ll never guess who is most experienced?” — Bill Richardson has been treated like Joe Biden with a tan.


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