The people have spoken. The pundits have weighed in. It’s now up to the politicians of the Republican Party to move through their stages of grief and find a new strategy to win national elections.
Obama’s campaign message resonated with 55% of women, 71% of Hispanics, 73% of Asian-Americans, and 93% of African-Americans. While the GOP is unlikely to relent on its Anti-Choice stance or develop empathy for the challenges facing Asian and African-Americans, there exists an opportunity to reach out to Hispanics. With 60,000 Hispanic youth reaching legal voting age each year, the GOP can no longer ignore this increasingly powerful cross-section of American voters.
The solution offered by some of the GOP pundits is remarkably simple; pander.
Florida’s junior Senator Marco Rubio is sitting on the bench. If he would have been on the ticket instead of Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney would be president-elect today (so the Conservative pundits surmise). All the party needs to do is make his smiling face more prominent and Latinos will switch their party affiliations pronto!
Rush Limbaugh confirmed this well-considered and proven approach to diversity in his defense of the party’s past outreach attempts during a recent post-election rant. The Republicans have Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain - don’t tell him that they haven’t made an effort! If pressed, I’m sure he would have eventually added the Fresh Prince’s cousin Carlton as another prime example of GOP inclusion…
While one can only expect simple minds to offer simple solutions, I’m guessing that the average high school history student could spot the problem with showcasing a Cuban-American as the GOP’s token Hispanic.
Cuban nationals don’t face the same immigration challenges as all the other emigrants from Latin American countries. The “wet foot, dry foot” policy grants Cubans – and Cubans alone – a form of political asylum that is not afforded to any other Latino. Long story short, Cuban-Americans like Marco Rubio aren’t representative of the same struggle as the rest of the Hispanic demographic. It is no small wonder that Cuban-Americans are more conservative in their politics - they are the one-percenters of Latinos!
In order for the party to better understand the needs of Hispanics, I suggest putting Sarah Palin in charge of the outreach mission. Her expertise in identifying other cultures has been well-documented with her eyewitness observation of Russia and her proclamation of Africa as a country. Who better to find Hispania?
With the next election in 2014, it’s doubtful that the GOP – even with the help of someone as intellectually curious as Palin – will discover Hispania in time. Spoiler alert – Hispania hasn’t existed since the time of the Ancient Romans. The term Hispanic is about as accurate of an ethnic or geographic identifier as that of American Indian. The only common denominator among Hispanics is the Spanish language (apologies to the people of Portugal who also originated in Hispania, but were excluded from the official ethnic classification).
It is unfortunate that the term Hispanic has become accepted shorthand for the people of Latin America. While the term Latino may be more accurate, using this identifier will likely create controversy within GOP leadership. Not because it is too generic, but because of the requirement to roll one’s tongue when pronouncing the word properly. The xenophobic part of the base will turn even whiter with fear should a candidate like Rubio show proper respect to his heritage with a momentary slip into Spanish…
It will be difficult for the GOP to pander to Latinos.
The needs of each individual nationality are as diverse as the heritage behind them. No two cultures are exactly alike. The governments that each group is fleeing from are different. The singular commonality is the opportunity America affords each individual.
Thus far, the GOP has sent strong signals to Latinos seeking their version of the American Dream that they need no longer apply. If you’re here illegally, kindly self-deport. Take your "anchor babies" with you. Your next attempt to return will be met with a better border fence and trigger-happy militias. And if you do manage to make it past our beefed-up border patrol, we’ll still track you down through ethnic profiling.
Is it any wonder that 71% of Latinos rejected the party of Mitt Romney? It’s hard to support a candidate whose party has demonized your ethnicity as nothing more than a bunch of common criminals. Worse yet is a hypocritical base that conveniently forgets that its own ancestors were once immigrants seeking a better life who were welcomed by Lady Liberty.
It is sad that it has taken the threat of more lost national elections for the GOP to wake up to the reality that the demographics of America are changing. A Romney presidency would have represented the last opportunity to impose the will of some of white America on women’s reproductive rights, immigration policy, and aid to disenfranchised minorities. A single four-year term in the White House would have not only postponed the inevitable, but extended the advantage for decades through ultraconservative Supreme Court appointments upholding draconian legislation.
It’s time to stop hoarding the American Dream and start sharing it with all Americans.
I predict that the GOP will move quickly on Immigration Reform. It has already been reported that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is willing to review a bipartisan plan that was shelved in 2009 after the GOP decided it was more important to deny President Obama reelection than solve this festering problem. It will take a serious spin-job to gain the support of the GOP base, but it represents the only chance the GOP has for saving face and returning to the support Latinos showed George W. Bush a mere eight years ago.
I will also predict that propping Marco Rubio up as the spokesperson for Latinos will backfire badly. He may be acceptable to white voters – and that might be what the party needs to convince the base that Latinos can be Americans too – but he will not move the needle among Hispanics (even if he does slip into Spanish when he pronounces “Latino”). He has never shared the same struggles and doesn’t share their views on social justice. He will be seen as another Tio Tom.
My final prediction is that this expedient about-face will not move the needle in terms of Latino support for the Republican Party. The assumption that this demographic is a homogenous group voting on a single issue is incorrect, yet it continues to highlight the real problem with today’s GOP – lack of genuine empathy.
Democrats don’t hold an exclusive on empathy, but it is a core value. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes is not the sole province of Liberals or Progressives. Last I checked, empathy was a virtue held by every religion – Christians in particular. Empathy and fiscal prudence are not mutually exclusive concepts.
The current GOP is now looking for a pitch. A catchy slogan. A clever hook. Republicans are hoping that a pander, a token, or an overture will do the trick. Expedience may necessitate this tactic, but it won’t mask the fact that this newly found interest in immigration reform is nothing short of a ploy.
It’s not the changing demographics of the American people that present the most pressing problem to the Republicans. It comes down to a question of genuine empathy.
Is the Republican Party capable of putting itself in the shoes of anyone other than the wealthiest Americans?
UPDATED 11-12-12, 3:00pm CST to include link to Daily Beast Article enumerating the issues of importance to Latino voters.
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