The Democratic Party’s cleanup from its embarrassing email leak has eliminated the Latino face and voice that was its chief messenger.
The party showed a handful of top staffers the door Monday in response to the emails' release. Among the former staffers was Luis Miranda. He was the party’s director of communications – it’s spokesman for all media and a senior staffer who helped shape and deliver the party's message.
In Washington, a Latino in such a position is rare. Most are hired in lower-level positions, confined to dealing with Spanish-language media and media that caters to Latino audiences.
“There still is a lot of ceiling that needs to break and he had broken that ceiling. The fact that he’s not there is a setback,” said José Parra, who had served asdeputy communications director for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., before leaving to start his own consulting firm.
Having a Latino in the role took Latinos beyond the “pigeonhole of just being able to speak to Latino voters,” said Larry Gonzalez, a Democratic strategist with the Raben Group lobbying firm. “Everyone in the Latino community seeks to not just be the brown person in the room, but to showcase the skills to reach every level of voter.”
The departures were announced in a news release by the party. In it, party chair Donna Brazille praised Miranda, saying he "helped hold Republicans feet to the fire, while ensuring Democrats nationwide articulate a clear contrast between the two parties."
During the convention, Brazille had promised to clean out desks and drawers as she apologized to the party's Hispanic caucus at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia last week.
Further comment was not available from the party late Tuesday evening.
The party's leaked emails - including some written by Miranda - had caused some split in the party, including among Latinos, who took sides over their contents. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shcultz, D-Fla., who was the Democratic National Committee chair, stepped down as a result.
The dispatches were dumped by WikiLeaks, just as the Democrats’ convention was getting under way. To Bernie Sanders backers, the internal documents buoyed their suspicions that the party had worked in favor of Hillary Clinton during the primaries.
Miranda had been at the center of some of those and other emails. His statements in an email about administration policies regarding Central American migrants who were being arrested for deportation drew protests and calls for his ouster from Casa de Maryland, immigrant advocacy group.
Gustavo Torres, the group's executive director, was satisfied with the moves made by the party, saying it needs to progressive and pro-immigrant. He did not regard Miranda as friendly with organizations fighting for immigration reform. Miranda is an immigrant from Colombia.
“We are demanding now that the Democratic party identify progressive and pro-immigrant Latinos and Latinas for that position,” he said. “There are so many people who are progressive and pro-Latino and this is an opportunity to identify someone immediately.”
But Parra said Miranda’s departure is a loss for the community, even if in his role, Miranda was not focused on the Latino community, “he was someone who understood the community and Hispanic media and how those dynamics intersect. Having someone with that vantage point was helpful.”
Nathaly Arriola, who was a deputy communications director at the Office of Personnel Management and oversaw all press interaction, said Miranda was a trailblazer for Latino communicators. But she said “the pipeline is still there and has been building up.”
The test will be whether minorities continue to be hired at senior positions or those who do the hiring retreat from diversity. Now that Clinton is the party nominee, more of her campaign staffers will become part of the party structure, as is standard once a nominee is chosen.
Gonzalez said he does not think the issues that led to Miranda’s departure will leave the party jaded about hiring Latinos for those positions in the future.
“There’s always been that commitment and understanding to have Latinos at every level, whether for ethnic media or director or communications. Any issues with previous hires shouldn’t preclude (other Latinos) from taking that position,” he said. “At least, I hope it wouldn’t.”