The ongoing scandal at LA City Hall is casting a spotlight on identity politics. Buried underneath the leaked audio is the fact that Nury Martinez, Kevin de Leon, Gil Cedillo, and Ron Herrera wanted to create a Latino coalition. They were trying to consolidate power with people of the same identity, however limited their definition of the word identity was. That’s all according to New Yorker Staff Writer Jay Caspian Kang.
Kang says that’s just how politics work in LA. “If you have a city that is half Latino and that there is an under-representation on a very powerful City Council, and the reality of politics in the city is racial coalition politics, which I think everyone would agree in Los Angeles is a very powerful force, [then] doing politics in this sort of way is almost inevitable.”
Right now LA has a more progressive wave with people like councilmember Nithya Raman and the recently-elected Eunisses Hernandez. Kang spoke to both of them and says that they “do not discount the importance or even the need to appeal to people's identity to understand that people are coming from countries or that they're coming from backgrounds that are important to them, and that there is an issue of under-representation for certain populations.”
But he says it’s important to appeal to people beyond race and consider all backgrounds, including socioeconomic. That type of politics is different from coalition building.
Meanwhile, since the resignation of Nury Martinez, LA has fewer City Council members who represent Latinos, who make up nearly 50% of the city’s population. Kang says there’s a hopeful case that this coalition will be strengthened.
“Nobody is questioning the idea that a city that is half Latino should have more than four seats on the City Council, and that this might reinvigorate people to try and bring in politicians who might have a broader understanding, so that whatever coalitions that are built between the Latino politicians would not be … at odds with, say, a Black coalition, which is some of the stuff that we heard in those tapes.”
However, he says in the wake of the tapes, people will look for any type of corruption, and Latino politicians will have more difficult relationships with communities.