LatinaLista — On election night, the realization that Latinos were fulfilling their political destiny was a public dawning that triggered observations by mainstream pundits ranging from almost gleeful — “This was a demographic shellacking” — Chuck Todd of NBC/MSNBC to downright insulting — “The white establishment is now the minority,” FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly lamented on Tuesday. “It’s not a traditional America anymore. There are 50% of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. Who is going to give them things?”
Whichever way Tuesday’s election results are to be interpreted, the standalone fact is Republicans have made a mess of their relationship with the majority of Latino voters and they not only paid for it but have become baptized-by-fire believers that Latino voters do pose a viable threat to the sustainability of their party.
Newly elected TX Senator Ted Cruz didn’t have to wait long to be tapped as a spokesman for the Latino voters who didn’t vote for Romney.
On “CBS This Morning,” Cruz said Republican candidates need to do a better job of making their case with Hispanics. He said, “There is no doubt that both parties competed for the Hispanic vote and at least last night President Obama earned much more of the Hispanic vote than did Mitt Romney.
“At the end of the day, Republicans need to do a better job at laying out the key to economic opportunity is economic growth and is jobs and that the policies that produce that, I think, are not the policies of this administration. At least last night, that was not the result nationally.”
Cruz suggested the Republicans’ issue with reaching Hispanics was articulating their message effectively. “I think the values in the Hispanic community are fundamentally conservative,” he said. “But you’ve got to have candidates that connect with that community in a real and genuine way and communicate that the values between the candidate and the community are one and the same.”
Asked by “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell about immigration and whether he would support a measure akin to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposal that would allow a pathway to citizenship such as visas for illegal immigrants who are already in this country, Cruz said, “I don’t think the answer to our immigration problems is amnesty.”
Cruz doesn’t speak for the majority of Latino voters, and not because of the stupid accusation that was circulating earlier that he’s “not Latino enough”. There is no doubt Cruz is Latino, he’s just not the same kind of Latino who is responsible for sweeping Obama into office.
The majority of Latinos who voted for Obama were Mexican Americans. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are Cuban Americans. Unlike traditional Cuban Americans — who have always been a little wealthier, more educated and far more conservative than the rest of the Latino population, a good portion of Mexican Americans tend to fall at the other end of the spectrum. More Mexican Americans would be classified as the working poor, have fewer college degrees and more are tolerant in their views of same sex marriages, contraception, etc.
If the GOP wants to know how to message to the Latinos who didn’t vote for them, they would do well to not ask Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or any of the other Cuban American politicians within their ranks. Not because these fine men and women are not Latinos and Latinas, but because they are different Latinos than the majority.
Because of Cuban Americans’ historic tendencies to be extra zealous in their conservatism, and all that it entails, it’s no wonder that Cuban Americans are hardly fazed to have Rubio and Cruz as Tea Party members. It’s a much bigger deal among Mexican Americans when any Mexican American politician chooses the Tea Party, even over being a Republican.
The Tea Party agenda is just a much harder sell among Mexican American voters. In turn, it’s not unusual for those Mexican Americans who are part of the Tea Party to have to do a lot of explaining to their fellow Mexican Americans.
If the GOP is really on a soul-searching quest to improve their standing among more of the Latino electorate then they need to start listening to Jeb Bush, George P. Bush and other Republicans who self-identify as Mexican American, either by blood or heart.
Simply “articulating their message effectively” isn’t and will never be enough. It’s all about the substance, and right now the rest of the Latino electorate doesn’t see any substance in the GOP worth voting for.