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Socialization, Politics, Power, and the Media

In their talks, our six speakers presented different viewpoints on socialization, politics, power, and the media. While all the speakers have arrived at their current place in political life through different routes, all have ties with the San Antonio area. Of the six, Beth Dattomo is unique in that she was not born and raised in the city and does not currently work here. Though she spent some time in San Antonio, she was born in Chicago and currently works as the chief of staff for the mayor of Garland.

Though the speakers share a connection with the city, their educational backgrounds and work experiences are widely diverse. Of all of the speakers, Robert Garibay is the most inexperienced, as he is only 18 and still a student at Northwest Vista College. Two of the speakers have small-business backgrounds. Elena Guajardo grew up working in her family’s store, and as noted on the official website of the city of San Antonio, Delicia Herrera is a small-business owner. Guajardo has supplemented this experience with work in corporate America (Bell) and the non-profit sector (social work).

Two of the presenters, Justin Rodriguez and Monica Guerrero, were born and raised in San Antonio but pursued their education in law elsewhere before returning to serve their hometown through political involvement. I particularly appreciated Guerrero’s story of her educational path: she did not hide the fact that she was not always academically successful. However, despite some twists and turns (failing grades and school transfers), she ultimately succeeded in her chosen endeavor. The speakers’ backgrounds reveal that there is not a single path into political life.

The presenters’ close ties to San Antonio have aided most of these people in their desire to represent the people of the city. One commonality amongst the elected officials (or the candidates hoping to be elected) is that they all emphasized the grassroots basis of their campaigns. Guajardo, who served as Council Woman for District 7 from 2005-2007 and who is currently running in the election, spends much of her campaigning energy walking blocks and talking to the voters in order to hear what issues most concern them.

Garibay and Rodriguez (both candidates for City Council District 7, though Rodriguez is the incumbent) and Delicia Herrera (currently serving City Council District 6) similarly run grassroots campaigns in order to better reach the constituency. In 2002, Guerrero ran a successful grassroots campaign for county court judge. She talked to the voters, held events at dance halls, and sold tamales at a baseball stadium. While Dattomo is not an elected official, she does have influence with the mayor of Garland, and they have implemented measures to insure that the mayor has a large amount of contact with the people of Garland.

Dattomo remarked that citizens often only see political figures during the election periods, and once the elections are over, voters have limited contact with their elected officials. In order to change this situation, she and the mayor have implemented Garland Top 100 Business Visits and Mayor’s Evenings In/Mayor’s Evenings Out so that the mayor can continue to have contact with the community. She emphasized that elected officials need to keep in touch with what is going on in their communities and that the public needs to be apprised of what the official is doing to serve their needs and interests.

The speakers mentioned that one motivation for running these smaller campaigns was the question of money. Guajardo noted that economic issues have severely limited minorities’ access to politics and said that the money needed to run for office has in particular limited women’s involvement in politics. She believes that in order to run a successful campaign, the candidate must either come from money, have acquired large amounts of money, or be retired so that they can devote the majority of their time and energy to the campaign process.

She has been quite successful in raising money for her political endeavors, a fact that bothers her opponent Garibay. Garibay mentioned that while his opponents can raise $80,000, he has only amassed $1000. Similarly, Guerrero ran her successful 2002 campaign without expensive television ads. Large campaigns are simply too expensive to run. It is unlikely that these economic realities are the sole motivation for running these grassroots campaign as the speakers all maintain close ties to the community.

Rodriguez emphasizes that he has been involved with neighborhood associations and volunteer activities throughout his tenure as councilman, and Garibay lists uniting the community as one of his primary goals if he is elected as councilman in this election. Herrera is also very much involved with neighborhood associations and teaching courses in the community. These activities are highlighted on the web-sites for Rodriguez, Garibay, and Herrera. The presenters each had slightly different definitions of politics. Guerrero defined politics as the ability to make others agree with your point of view.

This type of action can occur anywhere – work, school, home. Her unique perspective perhaps arises from the fact that she is serving as a judge and her utmost concern must be with upholding the law (and not serving the voters’ interests). Rodriguez has a very broad definition of politics. In his talk, he said that politics is being involved in the democratic process, and he emphasized that you do not have to be an elected official in order to be political. Herrera’s definition is more limited: she said that politics is putting mechanisms in place to accomplish your goals.

Herrera’s definition of politics is quite similar to an idea that Rodriguez brought up in a different context. Giving examples of cell phone usage in school zones and sustainable energy plans, he said that the job of a council member was to implement long-lasting solutions to problems. In fact, as Guajardo remarked, City Council is the policy board for the city of San Antonio. As such, the mechanisms that Herrera refers to seem to be more part of the job of council person (as Rodriguez noted) than elements of politics, per se.

However, the issues that each of the speakers highlight as being relevant to their campaign or job reveal how far they see politics as impacting citizens’ lives. In her talk, Guajardo said that public safety and energy sources top her list of the most important political issues. Her web-site, however, places most stress on economic concerns and stresses her desire to create jobs for San Antonio residents and to support local businesses. Garibay and Rodriguez, who are involved in the same election, mention these same issues, especially public safety.

Garibay, as he remarked in his talk, would like to see a stronger middle class, while Rodriguez’s website reveals that he supports the expansion of the economic base through support of large corporations (especially Toyota and Microsoft). These candidates’ websites also disclose that political actions impact other areas of life, such as road and sidewalk conditions, public libraries, and the maintenance of city parks. These issues are strongly tied to the concerns of the citizen’s of San Antonio. While the speakers’ definitions of politics had some similarities, their definitions of power were almost all completely different.

Garibay simply said that politics equals power. His vague definition perhaps stems from his youth and inexperience. Dattomo’s remark that power is your ability to influence people is quite similar to Guerrero’s definition of politics mentioned above. Rodriguez and Herrera’s definitions of power share some similarities. Rodriquez notes that power is your ability to accomplish what you set out to accomplish, while Herrera takes this one step further in saying that power is actually doing what you set out to do. As she defined politics as the development of mechanisms to accomplish your goals, she, like Garibay, equates politics with power.

In Herrera’s estimation, accomplishing your goals not only gives you power but empowers the community that you represent. I thought that Guerrero’s discussion of power was the most intriguing of all of the speakers. She said that everyone has a certain amount of power, but that as soon as you say how much power you have, you lose a little bit of that power. For her, the need to assert your power to others means that your power is not immediately evident. If you are actually powerful, you will have no need to say it, others will be able to sense it. In their talks, the speakers touched on issues of the media.

Even the male speakers remarked that the media is particularly harsh towards women. Dattomo talked about the recent Presidential campaign and the media’s portrayal of Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama. The media largely focused on fashion and appearance rather that the women’s ideas. Guerrero also noted that women, more so than men, must be very careful about their appearance, and she said that she is particularly conscious of changing her appearance to suit her audience. Herrera had perhaps the harshest remarks about the media, saying that it is destructive.

In her opinion, Latina women have been particularly targeted by the media. All of the speakers presented thoughts and ideas that were thought-provoking. Their commentaries on the circulation of power in the field of politics were enlightening, and their views on the media’s impact in politics gave much food for thought. The speakers’ clarifications of the various governmental departments were also informative. I particularly appreciated the diversity in how the presenters came to be involved in political life and how devoted they are to serving the interests of the citizens of San Antonio.

Works Cited Garibay, Robert. “Garibay for City Council District 7. ” 4 May 2009. http://www. robertgaribay. com/6452. html. Guajardo, Elena. “Elena Guajardo for City Council District 7. ” 4 May 2009. http://www. voteelena. com/. Official Website of the City of San-Antonio. “Delicia Herrera, Council District 6. ” 4 May 2009. http://www. sanantonio. gov/council/d6/? res=1280&ver=true. Rodriguez, Justin. “Justin Rodriguez, Councilman District 7. ” 4 May 2009. http://www. justinrodriguez. org/Justin%20Rodriguez%20for%20District%207%20-%20Community%20Involvement. html.

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