May 28, 2009
The Hispanic Vote (John Feehery)
@ 12:52 pm
Much has been said about the importance of the Hispanic vote.
Some Republican strategists say that for the GOP to be competitive in future presidential elections, they’ll have to capture about 40 percent of this fastest-growing minority group.
President George W. Bush, who spoke a bit of Spanish, had a strategy to reach out to Hispanic voters and actually hit that 40 percent number in the 2004 election.
But it has been a bad couple of years for the Republicans when it comes to the Hispanic vote.
As a Pew survey points out, “Some 57 percent of Hispanic registered voters now call themselves Democrats or say they lean to the Democratic Party, while just 23 percent align with the Republican Party — meaning there is now a 34-percentage-point gap in partisan affiliation among Latinos. In July 2006, the same gap measured just 21 percentage points — whereas back in 1999, it had been 33 percentage points.”
The debate over President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, may make that trend even more pronounced.
What has caused this collapse of Republican support in the Hispanic community?
According to surveys, hard-line opposition to illegal immigration is the big reason for the slide. Again, according to Pew, “By 41 percent to 14 percent, Hispanic registered voters say the Democrats rather than the Republicans are the party doing the better job of dealing with illegal immigration … Immigration has become a more important issue to Latinos since the last election. Some 79 percent of Hispanic registered voters now say it is an ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important issue in the upcoming presidential race; up from 63 percent who said the same thing in June 2004.”
The Hispanic community is no monolith. Cubans vote differently than Mexicans. Dominicans have different concerns than Venezuelans. Puerto Ricans don’t have the same political impulses as Salvadorans.
But they all have a desire to be respected. They share a similar language. They all have come to America to help their families have a better life. But many of them have loved ones whom they have left back at home.
George Bush understood all of that. He looked at the Hispanic community as an opportunity to get votes, not as a threat to American independence. He viewed Hispanics as hardworking Americans worthy of respect. And as a result, he got a pretty big percentage of their votes.
Unfortunately, the party doesn’t seem to have President Bush's sensitivity to the Hispanic community. The immigration debate at times took on a racist undertone that turned off many potential voters in that community.
And now, we have Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, who seem to want to dig the hole deeper with this vital voting bloc.
Newt is done running for office and Rush has never run for office, so their comments are notable only in how destructive they are for the party. Keep in mind, it was Rush Limbaugh (and Lou Dobbs) who worked hard against an immigration bill that would have fixed our immigration laws and taken that issue off the table for the next election.
The irony in all of this is that it was the Democrats who pulled out all the stops when it came to stopping the first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee. Democrats wouldn’t allow Miguel Estrada to get a vote to become a judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals. They filibustered because they were afraid that Bush would then appoint him to the Supreme Court. It was an unbelievable and unconscionable decision by the Democrats, but somehow they got away with it.
It was Democrats who did nothing to pass an immigration bill in either the House or the Senate, despite President Bush’s best efforts to get something done. And Democrats have put immigration reform on the backburner for their agenda this year.
Democrats have used and abused their Hispanic supporters. Most Hispanics are pro-life. Democrats have a radical anti-life agenda. Most Hispanics are religious, while the Democrat Party is avowedly secular. Many Hispanics (Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans) are strongly anti-communist, while the Democrats find anti-communism to be passé. Many Hispanics are small-business owners, but the Democrats want to tax small-business owners the hardest.
But Hispanics look beyond all of these issues and continue to flock to the Democrats, because they perceive that the GOP is a bunch of racists who don’t want to welcome them into the country, let alone into the party.
Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich haven’t helped change that perception in these opening days of the debate over Sonia Sotomayor. Senate Republicans, for the long-term good of the party, should strongly condemn incendiary language in the debate, and then vote her onto the Supreme Court. She is going to get in anyway. Let her get in with GOP support.
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