Rest easy, Texas Republicans. The Republican National Committee is here from Washington to teach you how to get Hispanic votes. I think I’d rather jog in a wool suit on a July afternoon in Houston than organize Hispanic voters for the Republican Party these days. The problem with the Republican Party’s otherwise-laudable idea to reach out to Hispanics is that Republican officeholders are doing everything they can to push them away, dooming this “rebranding” effort to failure.
Not too long ago, Texans were teaching national Republicans how to do this. George W. Bush made reaching out to Latinos a priority. He pushed immigration reform, called the Mexican President his friend, said we should treat immigrants with respect regardless of how they got here. He sprinkled his speeches with Spanish words, rolled his R’s and made high-level Hispanic appointments. And in 2004, Bush got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote.
For the last 10 years, Texas Republicans have been running in the opposite direction. Rick Perry learned his lesson in his presidential campaign when he was booed for a 2001 law that gave children of unauthorized immigrants in-state college tuition. Now all four Republicans running for Texas lieutenant governor want to repeal it.
Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial frontrunner, is taking flak in his primary for tepidly endorsing the law’s “noble” intention and saying he wants to reform, not repeal, it, though he can’t say how or why. Don’t waste any tears on Abbott’s pickle. As Attorney General, he pushed for a Voter ID law that could disenfranchise as many as 795,955 Texans who are registered to vote but who lack a driver’s license, 38.2 percent of whom are, you guessed it, Hispanic. Hard to court voters you’re trying to keep from voting.
Nationally, Republicans aren’t doing themselves any favors either. Iowa congressman Steve King, the Republicans’ point man in Congress on immigration, said last month at a rally in Nebraska that illegal immigrants have killed more Americans than 9/11. And who could forget Rep. Don Young fondly reminiscing on an Alaska radio show about his dad hiring “50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes” back in the day. Good times.
And then Republicans shut down the federal government because they hate the Affordable Care Act. According to a recent poll, what did Hispanics list as their top two issues? Government spending and affordable healthcare, the same things the GOP wants to kill.
Whom can the Republicans be targeting in their outreach? Sado-masochistic Hispanics with driver’s licenses who hate immigrants and government, think college is for sissies and never watch the news? This isn’t an alliance. It’s an abusive relationship, and the wife got the heck out a long time ago.
If Republicans keep up this racist vibe, they might look fondly back on the 27 percent that Mitt Romney got in 2012. That historical low-water mark is why the Republican National Committee tried to rally support for immigration reform in its rebranding report last March.
“If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence,” read the report. “It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”
Since then, congressional Republicans killed comprehensive immigration reform and voted to deport hundreds of thousands of children brought into this country by their unauthorized immigrant parents. That’s why the Public Religion Research Institute found last month that only one in 10 Hispanics could offer a positive comment about the Republican Party. Likely Hispanic voters now prefer Democratic congressional candidates over Republican ones by a 2-to-1 margin.
I’ve had hard jobs before, many when the minimum wage was $3.35 an hour. I’ve cleaned horse stalls, shoveled the excrement of hundreds of guinea pigs, and mowed lawns in Miami in the summer. I’ve delivered newspapers, bussed tables and washed dishes. But I’ve never had a more thankless task than the poor organizers trying to rally Hispanics to a political party that suppresses their vote, defunds their priorities and insults their race.
Vaya con Dios.
© Copyright 2013 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who writes columns for the Austin American-Statesman and MSNBC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JasStanford.