Jim Clark: Americans for Prosperity and the Libre Initiative
October 22, 2014
Following the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee engaged in some searing self-analysis trying to focus on a strategy for the future.
In 2000, George Bush garnered about 45 percent of the Latino vote, while in 2012, Mitt Romney won only 27 percent, a disturbing trend.
Nationally, between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the US population grew 12 percent, but the Latino population grew 82 percent. Taken alone, the Caucasian population actually shrank.
At the conclusion of the skull session, RNC Chair Reince Priebus announced that the GOP would aggressively reach out to Latino voters and bring them into the "big tent" of the party of Abraham Lincoln.
What has happened since 2012 as a result of the GOP Outreach effort? Not much.
The RNC is still devoting the bulk of its budget to political races in swing states, but they did set up a system of ministering to Hispanics in states with high Latino populations.
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That, however, generally involves one person per state. From what I understand, each state Latino director participates in cultural events and distributes RNC materials and otherwise does what he or she can. Not exactly an overwhelming effort.
But one conservative organization, Americans for Prosperity, got the same message and set about to reverse the trend.
They founded and funded the Libre Initiative, a nonprofit with the following message: "Latinos are hard-working, independent, family-oriented people of faith. The biggest threat to Latino prosperity is government welfare programs; they entrap and strangle. Therefore Latinos should hold themselves free ("Libre") from these temptations."
Then they expand on the message in Spanish and English: "Libre is working with the Hispanic community to achieve real change that will lead to the economic recovery of the country. Today we are paying more, making less and facing more government regulation than ever. Libre advocates policies that protect our liberties, advance prosperity, create jobs, grow our economy and decrease dependency."
The Libre Initiative operates local offices in states that have high Latino populations such as Florida, Texas, Colorado and most recently in Clark County, Nev.
The Nevada story could be the most interesting. Readers may recall that Americans for Prosperity is a national conservative organization founded by the Koch Brothers of Wisconsin. The Koch brothers are frequently singled out as whipping boys by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
So when Libre recently opened a Las Vegas office the Washington Post's "Politico" reported: "Reid has used the Senate floor as a forum for a months-long anti-Koch campaign during which he has called the brothers everything from 'un-American' to 'radical' and has worked to turn them into national poster children for a Republican Party that caters to the interests of the very richest whole ignoring those of the middle class."
Reid, who has announced his intent to run for reelection in 2016, addressed a union convention in Las Vegas last summer. A Politico reporter advised him that the Koch Brothers were organizing Nevada with Americans for Prosperity and Libre.
Reid replied: "I don't see that they have any reason to come after me. Why would they?"
But only a few minutes later he told the union members about the encounter and asked: "What have I done to bother the Koch Brothers? Only everything I can, right?" So stand by for the battle of the Silver State.
Meanwhile, at the grassroots level, Libre staffers are circulating in the Las Vegas area spreading a message of limited government, property rights, rule of law, free trade and sound money.
Their program involves engaging Latinos wherever a need is found. They help with tax returns, conduct homework clubs, offer radio talk shows and the like. They have paraphernalia such as T-shirts and dark glasses with their message on them.
As foot soldiers in what could become the mightiest political battle in the US in 2016, they come across as understated and just here to help. Kind of like the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada State GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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