The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has a dream: to get the presidential candidates to address issues specific to small businesses, particularly Hispanic small businesses. And the organization thought it finally had the means: it signed on to co-host a debate among the Democrats last night, Martin Luther King's birthday. The debate, broadcast live from Las Vegas on MSNBC, was to focus on "Black-Brown issues," but USHCC promised to wedge its agenda in among many competing agendas. "USHCC is proud to join the Nevada State Democratic Party, IMPACTO and 100 Black Men in hosting this important debate to ensure the candidates address critical small business issues including trade, taxes, health care, and immigration," said David C. Lizárraga, USHCC Board Chair, in a statement.
By the end of the debate, it was clear that two hours wasn't enough to devote to all the issues at hand. Partly this was because the moderators, principally NBC's Brian Williams and Tim Russert, spent too much time reviewing non-Black-Brown issues, like the Iraq war, encouraging the candidates to pointlessly retread familiar ground. The phrase "small business" was not uttered once during the debate, and when the candidates brushed on the relevant topics (health care, immigration and taxes came up briefly; trade did not), they always did so from the most general perspective. But in truth I can't begrudge them for sticking to broad themes when speaking to a national audience. It may be blasphemy to say it here, but small business is in fact a special interest -- albeit a very large one.
At the last moment, though, one candidate, at least, did try to sound like an entrepreneur -- or at least a particular species of entrepreneur. Senator Hillary Clinton wrapped up by saying, "You know, we've got to get back in the solutions business in America."