The 2012 election cycle is barely over, the ink on the political postmortems barely dry. The pundit class, however, is talking up the 2016 presidential race, possible candidates, and snake oil solution for what ails the losing party. This is to be expected. The members of the Political Industrial Complex (pollsters, talking heads, political consultants) need to make a living, as do the media outlets and potential candidates who pay for these services.
A good friend called me from South Florida yesterday to discuss the election results, and was especially interested in the GOP’s Latino problem. He knows how much that word grates on my political nerves. So he used it on purpose. Yes, my amigo is a liberal Democrat. This is the latest issue that the Political Industrial Complex has decided needs to be vetted. Books will be written on it. Academics will study it. And all sort of advice dispensed.
I’ve never been keen on breaking down America into ethnic groups. Kind of defeats the purpose of one nation under God right? Why obsess over what divides us when what we should be doing is fining common ground to improve our lot? We’re never ever going to attract non-traditional Republican voters by focusing on race or language. There is no such thing as a Latino-issue. It is common sense. Take immigration.
The allegedly more informed punditocracy has been telling us, including some from the Republican school, that we must soften our stance on immigration if we wish to attract more Americans of Hispanic ancestry to our ranks (Hispanic, another divisive word). We are too angry when we talk immigration, they say. Bunk and double bunk. This is one of the most condescending arguments I’ve ever heard; it is what the liberal Democrats want us to do because it helps them, not us. It also makes for easy money for members of the Political Industrial Complex.
Americans of Hispanic ancestry do not want or need to be reminded, over and over it seems these days, about their immigrant status, legal or illegal. The at times obsessive focus on undocumented folks by the media and the Left is to done to confuse voters and make it harder for Republicans to reach consensus on the matter within our ranks. We must stop fueling it. Folks who vote with their feet to come to America do so because they want to start anew, not be reminded over and over again that they immigrants, somehow made to feel that they are second-class citizens. That is what some liberal Democrats do because that is how they keep folks in their ranks.
What can the GOP do? For a while, the Republican Party did a good job focusing on issues, running quality candidates for public office, and not taking the race bait from the Left on these issues. But we lost our way. We started using labels such as Hispanic or Latino. Mistake. At one point, I recall that Members of Congress were offered, get this, Spanish lessons to help Members better connect with potential voters or using Spanish media. An even bigger mistake. And, of course, the GOP has become neurotic on the immigration issue. The biggest mistake of all.
I’ve spent a great deal of time and campaigned in states with high populations of American of Hispanic ancestry. The issues that matter most to folks are anything but immigration. Bread and butter issues predominate. Socially conservatives, they do not need to be reminded about our social and values core, however, it gives us an advantage that most Democrats wish they had. And there is a huge percentage of this voter group that own businesses and, as such, really dislike taxes and regulations. Just like the immigration issue, language can unite or it can divide. These folks speak English very well. Using a language other than English, with some very limited exceptions, is condescending and rude.
The GOP must avoid, at all cost, the immigration boogeyman. We must stand our ground that our borders must be protected and find ways to reintegrate folks who may be here illegally. Reintegration does not mean amnesty; it could mean, special legal status, a step below legal permanent resident, for life. However, we must be careful about allowing the Left to use it as a political bludgeon. Our biggest political asset is not here in Washington with the Political Industrial Complex with their chattering class or book tours, rather in our states and local governments with conservatives that know how to get elected because they focus on issues that matter to all Americans, regardless of backgrounds.