Latino Republicans are not enough to win Latino votes
About a couple of Sundays ago on Univision’s Al Punto, Republican State Leadership Committee Chair and former George W. Bush advisor Ed Gillespie reiterated his party’s goal to recruit 100 Latino candidates for state office. “I think that would help us increase our share of the Hispanic vote,” reasoned Gillespie. “People relate to someone who they can identify with.”
Note to Ed: it’s going to take a lot more than that.
Sure, last year, three Latino Republicans made history when they were elected to top statewide offices.
But during his campaign, now Governor of Nevada Brian Sandoval supported Arizona’s immigration law and reportedly dismissed the racial profiling concerns that so many Latinos share – on the basis that his own children don’t ” … look Hispanic.” Rather than trying to help solve the immigration problems that afflict a large number of Latinos, New Mexico’s first Latina Governor Susana Martinez has positioned herself to the right of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, waging nasty legislative warfare to boast her “anti-illegal immigration” credentials. And finally, there is Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) 2010 U.S. Senate campaign marked by his tendency to convey different messages depending on the language he was speaking.
Meanwhile, most Republicans lost the Latino vote by wide margins last year. There are a few good reasons why.
Second: Republicans were unable to communicate a winning message to Latinos on the issues they care most about: immigration, the economy, education, and health care. And there’s obviously little reason to think that will change next year.
The GOP dedicated significant political capital over the past few months to ensure millionaires don’t pay the same tax rate that most Americans do, a measure most Latinos would like to see put in place. While Republicans were busy defending the richest one percent of Americans who now earn more than 20 percent of total income, 6.1 million Latino children suffered through poverty in 2010.
Members of the GOP have pulled every stunt to block immigration reform and the DREAM Act, measures that are overwhelmingly supported by the Latino community. Instead, Republicans have chosen to focus on changing the 14th amendment’s citizenship provisions and passing state legislation that degrades the Latino community as a whole.
Earlier this year, Republicans proposed cutting 43 education programs, including dropout prevention projects, language instruction and financial aid — programs which Latinos have historically benefited from. More recently, the GOP introduced a bill that would cut aid to Latino-serving institutions by 83 percent.
Meanwhile, the “Obamacare” bill that Republicans are so intent on repealing would actually go a long way in reducing the widespread lack of health care coverage present in the Latino community and provide Latino families with the preventative care they need to keep health care costs down.
In the end, Republicans still support tax cuts for the rich while waging war on their immigrant gardeners and nannies. Yet, they have no problem with education budget cuts and are obsessed with repealing health care reform. The problem with this strategy – as far as Latinos are concerned – is that poverty is high, education attainment is lagging, record-levels of people within the community are uninsured, and almost everyone has a close friend or relative who is undocumented.
Last year’s Latino Republican candidates broke a glass ceiling and showed just how far the Latino community has come. Yet, Latino voters should keep in mind that they were riding on the back of policies that will make it harder for more members of the community to follow suit. Token-izing a few Latinos within a party that’s largely terrified of demographic change hardly impacts a community in desperate need of leaders who will empower it.
Martinez, Sandoval, and Rubio certainly represent success stories that the Latino community should be proud of. To deny that some Latinos feel a deep sense of connection to them would be naive. To argue that Democrats aren’t embarrassingly deficient when it comes to getting more Latinos on their ticket would be delusional. Yet, using this as the single criteria when deciding who to vote for is downright irresponsible. And it seems many Latino voters have already figured that out.