In GOP runs a big risk of losing Hispanics (The Arizona Republic - 6.17.07), Clint Bolick of the conservative Goldwater Insititute writes that the Republican risk losing Latinos over the immigration issue.
I've met Mr Bolick and I admire the work that he has done across the country as a lawyer in the fight to give innercity African American and Latino parents the right to choose better schools for their children. Mr. Bolick believes that giving poor parents the same right to choose their children's school is civil right--and I agree.
Mr. Bolick is also right that the GOP is squandering whatever gains they've made with Latino voters by associating the party with the extremism of the likes of Tom Tancredo, Patrick Buchanan and the radical and xenophobic rightwing.
However, Mr. Bolick seems to expect large scale conversions of Latinos simply because of their alignment on social issues. While certainly some of that is ture, but the reality is that Latinos--as is the case with all other Americans--weigh a variety of factors in deciding which party to support.
While the GOP was gaining a steady stream of Latino supporters, the hysteria and bigotry surrounding the immigration issue has been especially demoralizing to Latinos which lean moderate-to-conservative. Many of these people believed they had found a philosophical home within the GOP and that principles and ideas were to always trump any notion of racial or group membership. But the immigration issue-- more so than any other issue in recent memory--has exposed many rightwingers as being deeply hostile to the growing presence of Latinos in American life.
Agitation against people of color crossing the Southern border without official permission, it turns out, is simply a thinly veiled--and politically acceptable--tack for racial/cultural supremacists to demonstrate their hostility towards all Latinos--regardless of immigration status.
Perhaps if the GOP immediately adopts the suggestions Bolick proposes the party could salvage some Latino good will, but I'm not so sure. Below are Bolick's recommendations and my responses:
• Get the immigration issue behind.
How? The conservative radio talkshow alarmists are totally committed to defeating any sensible reform. However, it seems that even if a reform measure could be adopted this year and signed into law, the rightwingers seem hell-bent in continuing the fight against the measure's supporters.
• Get religion.
Again, religion will only go so far. Actually, the loss of Latino support for the GOP in this last cycle came largely from Latino evangelicals--many which are deeped troubled by a form of political conservatism that to them appears to be mean-spirited and unchristian. The same can be said for conservative Latino Catholics.
• Aggressively promote school choice.
This is an issue that has resonated with poor innercity Latinos, but even here it's not clear how Republicans can capitalize on it going forward. The truth is that many urban Democrats now support some form of school choice. Additionally, a party who's most vocal members oppose allowing the Latino children of the undocumented to receive their constitutionally protected right to an education can hardly be trusted on education matters.
• Reach out for real.
Good idea. However, the GOP has been talking about getting serious about Latinos since master strategist Lee Atwater strolled the earth. It's Bolick and all sensible conservatives (yes, I believe that there are such people) that need to get real. Some Latinos embraced the GOP only to find themselves lumped in as undesirable foreigners and trashed. The GOP must now prove that it truly values Latino Americans.
For the good of the country and the political process, I hope the GOP can correct itself and begin building national majorities for constructive reforms. But I'm not holding my breath. As long as the party is infected with Tancredoism, it can only find its way to minority status and defeat.