Political opinion: GOP should ‘talk to Hispanics like they’re Americans’
Special to the Bonanza
Republicans who oppose comprehensive immigration reform are convinced that any accommodation made to Latino illegal immigrants will inevitably end up awarding them US citizenship somehow or other.
I call this the Sen. Jeff Sessions/Cong. Peter King theory of national politics. I like to think of them as the “don’t confuse me with the facts” crowd.
The 2014 national election results have now been pretty well analyzed, and some interesting trends among Latino voters have emerged.
First of all, Latinos represented 10 percent of the total vote in 2012 and 8 percent in 2014.
It is possible that many Latinos sat on their hands after President Obama announced that he would not issue his immigration reform executive order until after the November 2014 election, giving rise to a great deal of uncertainty.
Second, the issue of jobs and the economy has now been superseded by immigration reform in the minds of a majority of Latino voters.
According to recent polls, over 60 percent of likely Latino voters have a close relationship with one or more people who are illegally in the U.S.
Third, the “punch” of the Latino vote comes from states where the Latino voter percentage is large enough to be able to determine election outcomes; these are Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Nevada and California.
Fourth, Latino voters are not monolithic. A substantial minority, ranging from 24 percent in Arizona to 45 percent in Florida, voted GOP last November.
Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval won 47 percent of the Latino vote, compared to 23 percent for Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison; Sandoval had only token Democratic opposition, while Hutchison was opposed by Latina Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, so it appears that who the candidate is (rather than what his/her political party is) can make a big difference with Latino voters.
Nationally, a Latino Decisions poll showed Latino voter support for GOP candidates averaged 30 percent in the latest election.
What do these trends portend for future of the GOP? Pundit Michael Barone, writing for Rassmussen Reports, analyzed them as follows: African American voters (approximately 12 percent of the electorate) have historically split their vote 90 percent Democrat and 10 percent Republican; this is likely to continue.
Asian American voters (3 percent of the electorate) have vacillated,, with 73 percent voting for Obama in 2012 and 50 percent voting for House Republicans in 2014.
Hispanic voters (10 percent of the electorate and growing) have shown majority support for Democrat candidates and strong minority support for GOP candidates.
However, the Democratic Party strategy has been to isolate geographic and cultural core groups of “gentry liberals” and African Americans.
Barone writes that “Gentry liberal causes … abortion, gun control and environmental absolutism … are repelling rather than attracting Hispanics,” a trend worth watching.
Lastly Barone looks at white voters. Granted, this group is not growing, but is also not headed for obscurity.
White voters composed 72 percent of voters in 2012 and 75 percent in 2014. The white vote is increasingly Republican with 59 percent supporting Mitt Romney in 2012 and 60 percent for GOP candidates in 2014.
A related commentary was provided by Harvard Law trained syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, a Libertarian-leaning Latino.
He reports that Dallas radio host Chris Salcedo, executive director of the Conservative Hispanic Society, points out that: “Democrats try to get Hispanics in the fold so they can ignore them later in between elections, which is what happens.”
Republicans, he concludes, “should talk to Hispanics like they’re Americans and explain why their message is a winner.”
If the GOP can shed its bipolar love-hate attitude toward Latino voters and present a united front, it can build on that 30-plus percent base Latino support and be competitive in future presidential elections.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served in the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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