Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Politics > Can Republicans Salvage the Hispanic Vote?

Can Republicans Salvage the Hispanic Vote?

LatinaLista  — It all depends on whom you ask whether or not Republicans have used all nine of their (cat) lives when it comes to appealing to Latinos.

According to Leslie Sanchez, the author of an upcoming book “Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other,” and who wrote an op-ed that appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Republicans will have to work hard but they can do it.

The assumption in 1999 – I believe proven true – was that Latinos are best described as a swing vote with a center of gravity in the low-to-mid 30s in terms of GOP support. Republicans will not likely win huge national majorities of the Hispanic vote in the next two decades – to say otherwise is unrealistic. But this is not necessary for the GOP to return to power or even attain dominance in American politics. If they compete seriously for Latino votes, Republicans can in the short run move the Hispanic GOP center of gravity into the low 40s. If that continues to happen, Democrats would be hard pressed to win future presidential elections.

But Sanchez is a political insider who is operating on surveys and polls to make her predictions, far from the Latina/o in the street. Yet, she does concede that:

The real question is whether conservatives can accept and welcome the cultural differences of a potential political ally. It sounds easy enough, but there are a few very vocal conservative politicians and commentators who would rather cede the Hispanic vote to the left than exert the effort required to cultivate it.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., best known for his anti-immigration position (he even asserted in a recent presidential debate that there was too much legal immigration), famously denounced Miami as a “third world city” last year. To go by his own explanation, it is simply because there are too many people there who speak Spanish. Never mind that a very large number of them are American citizens or legal immigrants who fled from communism.

There’s no doubt the racial hardliners within the Republican Party have done far more damage to their image among Latinos than the Party’s stand on the issues. Tancredo, Sesenbrenner, Hunter, etc., who have hidden their insecurities about the growing Hispanic population, behind talk of “national security” by proposing legislation that supports the construction of a border wall, racial profiling and endorsing extremely punitive measures against undocumented immigrants and those that help them, are today’s poster boys as to why most Latinos don’t feel the Republican Party speaks for them.
Am I alone in this assumption — hardly.
In her blog post “A very disturbing editorial…what is she thinking?”, on Hasta Los Gatos Quieren Zapatos LeeSee passionately argues against Sanchez’s op-ed piece and describes her impressions of the Republican Party:

Republicans are the worst, they have systematically allowed their attack dogs to tear into the most defenseless of all, the poor, the disenfranchised and the ethnic.
They have lied, cheated and made hypocrisy the virtues of the day, they have succeeded in appointing judges to the Supreme Court who are destroying fragile inroads made into the wilderness of racial and gender equality. Women do not count, their bodies are property of the state, ethnics do not count, they just want a hand out.
Racial politics are the order of the day, sowing seeds of fear is their specialty. Republicans say they will take care of the people yet they do not, they bungle even the most simple task, they allow a city, (a city!) to drown knowing full well the incompetent idiots in charge of disaster relief can’t pour pee out of a boot on the best of days.
The Republicans lie about everything, make a mockery out of justice system and enrich their cronies from the American treasury, they rob us blind and pretend as if its for the good of the country, even more galling wave the flag of freedom to hide their sins.
The current approval rating of the administration in the White House is lower than a worms belt buckle and yet the woman who wrote today’s editorial linking Latinos to Republicans has the god damned gall to sell it like it’s real.

LeeSee is not alone. Another blog Hispanics Against Republicans has been gaining ground with readers.
The blog describes its mission as: to serve as a reminder on why you should not vote Republican. A reminder of how Republicans really feel about Hispanics. Vote Democrat in 2008 for a better future for our family and friends
These blogs are not unique. Like Latina Lista, its social justice that many Latinos are after. It’s natural that the Party that doesn’t show favoritism in upholding that justice is the one that would be most successful in getting the Latino vote.
In a paper presented by Dr. Agnes Koos at the Midwestern Political Science Association Conference in Chicago of April 2006 titled “Self-Interest and Self Identity: Explaining Hispanic Political Attitudes,” Dr. Koos writes:

…Length of stay in the US, and mainly belonging to the second or a later generation of immigrants, seem to have a polarizing effect on group consciousness. On the one hand, the original national identities of the immigrants are effaced, and an American identification strengthens.
On the other hand, longer stay in the US favors the development of a minority Latino consciousness, clearly associated with a Democratic Party inclination. The data support that Latinos tend to vote for Democrats because of their belonging to a disadvantaged group, rather than because of their belonging to a Mexican or Argentinean culture.

But Latino voters are changing. It is not going to be so easy to predict our allegiance in the future based on past voting behavior. One of the most significant changes among Latino voters and which could really cause a swing vote situation one day is what Dr. Andrea Althoff describes in her article Will Hispanic Immigrants Vote for the Democrats or Republicans?
A whole new Latino classification comes into play — Latino Renewalists. These are Latinos who are either Hispanic Evangelicals or Roman Catholic Charismatics.
Althoff says, “Latinos are converting to evangelical Christianity at a high rate.” If so, then the track record for Evangelicals doesn’t lie with Democratic gains, but Latino Evangelicals create a story of their own.

It is hard to predict how the changes in the religious landscape will play out in the presidential elections in 2008. It seems however not imprudent to predict that the Democratic Party in one respect holds a critical advantage (at least in the short-run). Latino Catholics still outnumber Latino Protestants to a large extent, and these Latino Catholics prefer by and large the Democratic Party over the GOP…
In the long run, however, the Republican Party may benefit from the conversion of Catholic Hispanics to Protestantism. This would then in turn transform the former historic ethnic-religious advantage of the Democratic Party among Latino Catholics.
Interestingly, this polarization was already visible during the 2004 presidential campaign. Another, even more likely scenario is perhaps that the disappointment with immigration reform will convince Latino renewalists to embrace a passive approach to politics, with no voting gains either for the Republicans or Democrats.

Such an approach would be far scarier than any boycott or march. A passive approach to any election would never be a desirable route to take.
It would be better to create a third party at that point that comprised the ideals and realities of being a people of color within a political system that separates the voters from their concerns.

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  • yave begnet
    July 23, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    I wonder how much the studies you cite have taken into account the effects of the recent immigration debate. While it’s true that many Latinos’ social conservatism would seem to make the GOP a good fit, I think this factor is more than outweighed by the polarizing effects of the immigration debate. California’s Latino population may not be that much more liberal than in the rest of the country, but ever since Prop 187, CA has voted reliably Democratic. As the crazies in the GOP come out from under their rocks in the immigration debate, I think immigrant-friendly communities have felt the hatred on display. I have certainly been surprised at the vitriolic anti-immigrant reaction since the 2006 immigration rallies. I can’t believe this won’t impact Latino political group dynamics the way the civil rights debate impacted black voting patterns.
    Sanchez said:
    If they compete seriously for Latino votes, Republicans can in the short run move the Hispanic GOP center of gravity into the low 40s. If that continues to happen, Democrats would be hard pressed to win future presidential elections.
    Dream on. The way things are going, the GOP will be hard-pressed to win the next few presidential elections.

  • leesee
    July 24, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Thank you for including us in your posting. Naturally we were thrilled, we have now arrived.

  • Marisa Treviño
    July 24, 2007 at 11:19 am

    No hay duda que tu llegaste long before this posting 🙂
    Latina Lista

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