By Ernesto Alvarado
Key GOP analysts have pointed towards the courtship of Latino voters as the party's "Great Challenge"and noted that success,not only in this election but for the future, depended on the rapidly rising minority group. Unfortunately for the Republicans, Romney, Santorum and Gingrich have done an abysmal job atfostering a relationship with Latinos and their key issues. With the eventual emergence of a party candidate to take on President Obama, it may be too late to woo the 2nd largest minority group in the country. The quagmire the Republican Party finds itself in will continue to grow and they have only themselves to blame.
4. History tells Latinos to be weary of Republicans (except Cubans)
Hispanics have historically voted along Democratic lines, apart from Cubans who continue to vote almost exclusively Republican. This anomaly comes from several factors including: Kennedy's decision to call off airstrikes at the Bay of Pigs causing a negative connotation of Democrats with Cuban exiles, a strong anti-Communist approach by the Republican Party in the 70's and 80's and Ronald Regan's declaration of "Viva Cuba Libre! Cuba Si, Castro No" in Little Havana. As Obama has begun to reach out to Cuban-Americans, a gradual shift has been noted.
Apart from Cubans, the strong anti-Communist rhetoric of the Republican Party had disastrous implications for a large portion of Latinos especially those in Latin America. Proxy wars in El Salvador and Guatemala as well as propped dictatorships in Nicaragua and Honduras killed millions of civilians within the region and is a crucial factor in the initial immigration numbers from Central America. Attempting to quell the feared spread of communism, the United States initiated a School of the Americas which trained paramilitary forces in combating guerillas (and apparently civilians) that resulted in crimes against humanity throughout the region that continue to be battled in International Court today. Several of these conservatively-backed murderers even received accolades by Mr. Reagan himself.
Needless to say, the first generations of Latinos to enter the United States during that era might have a reason to be skeptical of the GOP.
3. Barack Obama
President Obama did an outstanding job in energizing the Latino voters that paid off at the polls. He spoke of comprehensive immigration reform, the passing of the DREAM Act, and promised an improved economy that had Latinos dreaming of actual "change". An unresponsive Republican Party and mounting pressures abroad (Arab Springs and Afghanistan) made these goals difficult to attain during his first term and left some Latinos disenchanted. Make no mistakes, Barack promised Latinos the moon and stars on his first date and they ended up with a cheap movie and stale popcorn. That's not to say that the love affair won't be rekindled, and with good reason.
Obama's administration has deported more immigrants that G.W. Bush did in both of his terms combined, a staggering figure that oozes of hypocrisy. Yet, if one were to actually analyze the situation and realize that it's part of his job description to enforce the laws, one would have to cut him some slack and also applaud his ability to hamstring an argument championed by the Republicans (lax enforcement of immigration laws). Obama made it a point to note in his State of the Union address that he will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform, which should be easier to pursue aggressively into his second term. The challenging of the Arizona and Alabama laws has also demonstrated his dedication to well-thought reforms to immigration. Latinos seem to be more optimistic with Obama at the helm rather than the other staunch opposers of reform.
With that said, immigration reform isn't even the most pressing issue on Latinos' minds. The economy ranked first among concerning political issues for Latinos. Unemployment has steadily decreased during Obama's first term and the overall state of the economy has marginally improved which is a dire improvement to the "Great Recession"period he inherited. Latinos could see this positive movement as reason enough to renew the Commander-in-Chief's contract or simply have too little faith in the Republicans who had a large hand in creating the economic downturn in the United States.
Oh, and he's sort've charismatic...Latinos like that.
2. Anti-Immigration and DREAM Act
These two issues are probably the most synonymous with Latinos in the mainstream media. The issue Latinos take with the GOP isn't their opposition but their reasons behind their lack of support for comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act. When prominent Republicans speak on the subject, their words drip of the sort of ignorance on issues that makes one wonder where their advisors attended college.
The entire approach to immigration reform by many Republican politicians have come under fire universally for racial undertones. Jan Brewer and the anti-immigration law in Arizona was lambasted by critics from across the political spectrum and even the co-author of the bill refuses to defend it in front of Congress. The brilliant (cough) politicians of Alabama has negatively impacted their economy through targeted immigration policies that drove out a good portion of their farm workers. For good measure, discussions of creating a fortified fence that would cost the taxpayers millions and the elimination of "anchor babies"and potential terrorists reinforce the idiotic ideology some in the GOP adhere to. The general lack of understanding that most illegal immigrants in the United States are trying to obtain work or an education is alarming and will continue to alienate Latino voters. As Fox writer Paul Goldman emphasizes, the "deport them all" stance that Republicans have taken will have a dire consequence once elections come around.
Still, Republicans may still count for some Latinos that do not have a vested interest in immigration but could very well lose them in their opposition to the DREAM Act. This bill would allow academically eligible students born to illegal parents to apply for universities, which could assist them in obtaining residency or citizenship once their higher education is completed. Once again, the fear of "anchor babies", selection over citizens, unfair advantages in financial aid, and "rewarding illegal immigration"have been pillars of opposition used by the GOP. The rejection of the bill by Republican politicians might not be entirely felt at this moment, but remember that those students denied their merited shot at a college education have friends and colleagues that are approaching the voting age. If President Obama manages to pass the DREAM Act as he has continued to promise, the effect on the Republican Party will be disastrous and long lasting. Education ranks second in Latino concerns and the continued denial of young Latinos' education by Republicans will not bode well for their presidential candidate.
1. Clowns on Parade (I mean the Republican Presidential candidates)
What is there left to say about the Republican Primaries that John Stewart and Stephen Colbert haven't said?
In a previous article, I pointed out fundamental flaws in the Presidential candidates vying for the GOP's nomination and things have only worsened since then. Mitt Romney has maintained a lion's share of delegates but has continued to show how ineffective he remains with certain demographics because of his "top-down" rather than grassroots campaign. His lack of personality coupled with his gaffes about his wealth have eroded a once confident trot to the GOP nomination. As a Mexican-American, Republicans were confident that Romney would be able to garner support from Latinos like few other candidates have and he was initially very successful until his rhetoric overtook common sense. He vehemently supports the Alabama and Arizona laws and has even reached out to the authors of those bills in order to develop his own immigration goals. The idea of "self-deportation", or making life so unbearable for immigrants that they are forced to return to their country and hence reduce the cost on the American government, has been mocked and perceived as one of the largest gaffes made by the Romney camp. The longer the campaign trail drags on, the more of Romney's ideals are sacrificed for voter pandering. In a final curtain call to his Latino support, he opposed the Dream Act and attacked Rick Perry's approval of it.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how Mitt lost the Latinos.
Rick Santorum has surprisingly garnered support among the southern states and has continued an underdog run against Romney's resource-rich campaign. It has become painfully clear however, that Santorum's extreme rhetoric based on his religious beliefs will be a massive handicap against a well-rounded candidate such as President Obama. It hasn't helped that he has wanted to:
These issues will surely have an impact on Latinos come election time, but Santorum clearly seems in over his head when discussing issues such as immigration. The grand scheme supported by Santorum was to build a fence and to "have the discussion about the 11 million in the US when the fence is built."It's an admirable political ploy to have Santorum speak of his immigrant past but it is something completely different to maintain an unrealistically hard stance on immigration and expect to gain Latino support. His culturally insensitive remarks on Puerto Rican statehood further solidifies his sophomoric status as a candidate and isolates him from yet another voting faction. Even if he tries to pander to Floridian Latinos who tend to vote Republican, one can't escape the feeling that his flaws as a candidate will inhibit his run.
Newt Gingrich...see Exhibit A. I'd be hard pressed to waste virtual ink explaining why Latinos wouldn't vote for this guy.
It's a sad state of affairs when you're most supportive candidate for Latinos was Rick Perry.
So what does this mean?
The Republican Party will have to take a long look in the mirror if it is to seriously attempt a courtship with Latinos. Every campaign cycle, politicians that were once respectable and viable candidates are forced to pander to extremes that result in ideologically based rhetoric that makes them sound ultra-conservative to gain a nomination. This has had an extremely negative impact on the relationship with Latinos and an organizational change of ideas towards the Hispanics in America must be adopted from the top down.
Unfortunately, the weak Republican pool may have an adverse effect on this year's campaign. If the GOP candidate turns out to be as weak as some expect, Obama's victory would come easily and his support from Latinos would arrive by default. This could potentially allow Obama to ease on his promises since no other viable alternative would be accessible. To not vote would be doing a disservice to the Latino community. This would be a time to be more politically active in order to press Latino issues to both parties to ensure they are in the forefront of any political agenda.
The Latino population is not only growing, but it is a young demographic. President Barack Obama's policies, if successful, will create supporters for the Democrats for years to come including those that would be in the DREAM Act generation. Comprehensive immigration reform would be a death blow to the GOP as it would also be seen as an Obama initiative friendly to the Latinos in America. Those Latinos that are hearing about anchor babies, border walls, racially charged immigration laws, and attacks on their language are eventually going to become a prominent voting block with long-term memories.
The Republican Party's long-term success with Latinos is dependent on their ability to systematically change their ignorant and extremist views of Hispanics domestically. As the Cubans have shown, once you lose a segment of voters, it's extremely difficult to regain them. For the sake of the Republican Party, Santorum or Romney should revamp their failing approach to Latinos or the GOP will be spending a pretty penny on "I'm sorry" ads in Espanol.
Just ask Newt.