Friday, May 29, 2009

The GOP's Latino disconnect

In 1972, President Richard Nixon received 60 percent of the Latino vote in his successful bid for re-election. In 2008, President Barack Obama received 67 percent of the Latino vote in his successful campaign. A complete swing in a 36 year span.

If I were a Republican, I would be very concerned about such a turn, especially when you look at the generation that voted 60 percent for Nixon. That generation alone voted 63 percent for Obama. Obama won the Latino vote in Florida and Texas, traditionally GOP strongholds.

That is why you are seeing some Republican U.S. Senators cringing at the comments of Wendy Long, Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh concerning the nomination of U.S. Appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States. They understand that six of them voted for Sotomayor to be confirmed in the current position she holds and that any inflammatory comments will further alienate Latino voters from the GOP.

When he was the RNC Chair, Ken Mehlman did his dead-level best to reach out to the Latino community. However, it did not seem as though he laid a solid foundation for continued outreach as evidenced by the 2008 Presidential vote. It is now going to be Chairman Michael Steele's task to re-invigorate that effort.

However, it might be tough. Here is an excerpt of the RNC Party Platform, approved the 2008 RNC Convention:

Embracing Immigrant Communities


Today's immigrants are walking in the steps of most other Americans' ancestors, seeking the American dream and contributing culturally and economically to our nation. We celebrate the industry and love of liberty of these fellow Americans. Both government and the private sector must do more to foster legally present immigrants' integration into American life to advance respect for the rule of law and a common American identity. It is a national disgrace that the first experience most new Americans have is with a dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy defined by delay and confusion; we will no longer tolerate those failures.
In our multi ethnic nation, everyone – immigrants and native-born alike – must embrace our core values of liberty, equality, meritocracy, and respect for human dignity and the rights of women.

One sign of our unity is our English language. For newcomers, it has always been the fastest route to prosperity in America. English empowers. We support English as the official language in our nation, while welcoming the ethnic diversity in the United States and the territories, including language. Immigrants should be encouraged to learn English. English is the accepted language of business, commerce, and legal proceedings, and it is essential as a unifying cultural force. It is also important, as part of cultural integration, that our schools provide better education in U.S. history and civics for all children, thereby fostering a commitment to our national motto, E Pluribus Unum.


We are grateful to the thousands of new immigrants, many of them not yet citizens, who are serving in the Armed Forces. Their patriotism is inspiring; it should remind the institutions of civil society of the need to embrace newcomers, assist their journey to full citizenship, and help their communities avoid patterns of isolation.

So embracing the culture means mandating English-only laws? That is going to be tough sell in a group that comprises 14 percent of the national population. However, the RNC web site, www.gop.com, has a Spanish language link, unlike the web site for the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, www.rnha.org, which does not have such a link.

It is the little things that make a difference to a significant population group that you want to sway to your political camp. Another interesting thing about both web sites, they do not address concerns that specifically impact the Latino community. Both sites are all about supporters conforming to the core values of Republicanism, not how Latinos can uniquely empower themselves as Republicans to solve their problems.

Maybe that is a bit much to ask a political party to do, but I am not the one seeking to reverse a 36 year skid.

Now a Latina is on the verge of becoming a member of the Supreme Court and the conservative talking heads are on the attack. The GOP leadership may want to heed the warning of the early colonists to the British monarchy when dealing with this issue and continued outreach to the Latino community, "Don't Tread On Me!"