Henry Cisneros, we need you!

OPINION They used to call Henry Cisneros the Latino political messiah, but that was a generation ago when he was mayor of San Antonio and…

FILE:: Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Henry Cisneros attends the National Clean Energy Summit 7.0 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on September 4, 2014 in Las Vegas. Latinos in the Democratic Party are ailing, and Henry Cisneros might be the help they need. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)


They used to call Henry Cisneros the Latino political messiah, but that was a generation ago when he was mayor of San Antonio and had what “Texas Monthly” magazine said was an unlimited future.

He had presence, charisma and a brilliant mind. And, though a Democrat, he was loved by Republicans as well. He could unify people of various backgrounds, faith and philosophy.

“Henry is a Lyndon Johnson-like consummate consensus politician – he’s rare act,” said longtime Texas political boss Bob Bullock.

Governor Henry Cisneros, some Texans predicted. Vice President Henry Cisneros, others imagined. Recognizing that, President Bill Clinton named him to his Cabinet where Cisneros looked perfectly perched for the next step up.

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Then Cisneros made a misstep, getting into legal trouble, and his political career was over.

But today Latino Democrats have never needed anyone as badly as they do Henry Cisneros, who has spent the last two decades quietly going about life never expecting that political redemption could be at hand at a moment when he least expected.

Troubling times for Latino Democrats

For if you haven’t noticed, Latino Democrats are in serious trouble, missing the presence of a legitimate high-profile Hispanic leader who can have the national prominence to champion the Latino agenda as the 2016 presidential campaign prepares to unfold.

Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor who chaired the 2012 convention and was even mentioned as national ticket material, chose not to run for the soon-to-be open U.S. Senate in California. He is being written off.

New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the highest ranking Latino Democrat in Congress, is currently mired in a legal battle as he tries to avoid federal corruption charges.

Henry Cisneros

FILE: Henry Cisneros, an American politician and businessman. He came into the national spotlight as the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, USA. Cisneros might be the only hope for an ailing Democratic Latino party in the U.S. (Photo/ Latin List HBO)

Gloria Molina, the California political giant killer who effectively became the Latina Henry Cisneros? She was recently slaughtered at the polls while trying to make a comeback. The Castro twins, the disciples of Henry Cisneros? Julian, the former San Antonio mayor, has virtually disappeared in the Obama cabinet. Joaquin has under-impressed in Congress where he has been swamped along with other Democrats.

Meanwhile, the GOP is boasting two top Latino U.S. Senators and two Latino governors, not to mention Jeb Bush with his Latino family ties.

What can Henry Cisneros do for Democrats

Make no mistake, Latino Democrats aren’t even in the ballpark with the Republicans who include two possible presidential candidates in Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

As for Cisneros, no one is suggesting that Henry should run for president or any other office. He is 67, and the role he has played for the Castro brothers – as senior advisor and guru – is exactly what he could play most effectively for Latinos nationally.

He is the co-creator of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and the New American Alliance, groups designed to promote Latino issues but more as a joint cooperative in which Cisneros does so together with other voices – who, quite frankly, aren’t in his class.

Instead, what Henry Cisneros needs to do is resume the role that first brought him to be noticed – championing a Don Quixote egalitarian crusade while dazzlingly advocating the Latino agenda in the national dialog about the future of America.

It is a vision that has been sorely missing from our political landscape in the U.S.

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As Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad, who has been an ally in the housing development business, says any time he gets the opportunity to talk about him: “Henry Cisneros is what America is all about. He’s an incredible person, an incredible visionary and leader.”