The Republicans' favorite right wing extremist fanatic, Michele Bachmann, and their comic relief star, Herman Cain, have been putting on entertaining sideshows to divert attention from the more boring front runners, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. Perry is better at using taxpayer money to hand out favors to his big campaign contributors in Texas than he is at expressing himself in the English language, and Romney has lied and flipped-flopped about his record on so many issues that even his most dedicated (and wealthy) supporters have long since lost count.

Bachmann and Cain, on the other hand, never cease to amaze with their falsehoods and absurdities, the most recent being Cain's Koch brothers inspired "9-9-9" plan, which would put most of the tax burden on those who can least afford it. However, despite a temporary bump in the polls for Cain, no serious observer gives either him or Bachmann any chance of being nominated as a presidential candidate next year, let alone elected.

This is despite Cain's close connections with and past financial support from these very same Koch brothers. Yet neither candidate seems ready to give up. Not, at least, while there are still campaign funds to be spent, book contracts to be signed (Cain already has one - can Bachmann be far behind?), and, no doubt, the lucrative Fox News "Analyst" positions waiting in the wings.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that both candidates have taken the desperate step of stirring up anti-Latino hate by calling for a multi-billion dollar Mexican border fence. Cain accuses Mexican immigrants of killing US border agents. But the number of would-be immigrants who have died at the Mexican border within the past few years ranges from 2,000 to over 5,000, acording to most estimates.

Cain would use electrified fences to increase this number, even though he now claims to be joking. When President Obama made a humorous remark about Republicans who wanted to build a border moat with alligators, Cain replied that he was in favor of this idea. Maybe, instead of a Fox News spot, Cain should have his own late night comedy show. 

In Bachmann's case, the most vicious kind of bigotry comes to her as naturally and effortlessly as the most sublime music in Western history did to the immortal composer who, ironically, shared the first four letters of her last name, or the profound writings of the great 20th century novelist who shared the last four letters of the same name. Not only did Bachmann repeat the familiar attempts to scapegoat immigrants for our strictly Made in America economic problems, but she even threw in the standard racist canard about how her Norwegian ancestors came to America legally, learned English and assimilated, in supposed contrast to today's Latinos.

Of course, when Bachmann's ancestors arrived in America, almost all immigrants were legal as long as they were healthy and white. There are also studies showing that today's Mexicans and other Latin Americans learn English faster than the European immigrants of 100 years ago.

Bachmann's anti-immigrant tirades are part of her larger pattern of hate - against gays, against Congressional Democrats, whom she has called "Un-American", and even against Libyan freedom fighters, whom she has falsely accused of being Al-Qaeda supporters. But while Bachmann and Cain may be good at exploiting hate, they are not as good at math. Pew Hispanic Center figures put the total 2010 number of eligible Latino voters at 21.3 million, up from 13.2 million in 2000. If the Republicans want to take back the White House, a little less prejudice and a little better arithmetic might be in order.

But why are Latinos, such an important and fast-growing group of American citizens, unable to use their numbers, their votes and their economic power more effectively? Why do they seem to have so much difficulty making their influence felt? How can Barack Obama, who was supposed to be the ally of immigrants and other minorities in America, continue to get away with deporting 400,000 Latino, Asian and black immigrants each year without a greater backlash?

In the Occupy Wall Street movement, tens, or hundreds, of thousands of Americans are protesting against exploitation by powerful financial interests. But where are the protests, the demonstrations, the outrage, against anti-immigrant racism and hate? Where are the peaceful, nationwide marches, rallies, sit-ins, boycotts and strikes against the attempts by Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona and other states to bring back the days of segregation and racial persecution? Have Latinos and other minorities become too intimidated to make their voices heard?