Perhaps because his little brother Jeb warned him, former President George W. Bush and aides knew well that the changing ethnic mix in the United States would cause problems for the Republican Party.
In the waning days of his presidency in 2009, Bush said that the Republican Party:
“should be open-minded about big issues like immigration reform, because if we’re viewed as anti-somebody—in other words, if the party is viewed as anti-immigrant—then another fellow may say, well, if they’re against the immigrant, they may be against me.” [Fox News Sunday, Interview with Brit Hume, January 11, 2009]
It was a warning not heeded. Republicans opposed the Dream Act and efforts toward immigration reform. They took insignificant steps–like parading out conservative Latinos at the Republican National Convention, such as Florida U.S. Senator Marco Antonio Rubio, “the crown prince of the Tea Party Movement,” and the now elected U.S. Senator from Texas, Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz.
One other attempt to identify with Latinos was characteristic of the deceitful Republican presidential campaign. On the stump and with the right audience, of course, Mitt Romney played up his tenuous Mexican ties, not mentioning the connection was based on the fact that his great-grandfather fled to Mexico to continue practicing polygamy.
Now the Republicans appear to be getting the message: Latinos voted 75 percent to 23 percent for President Obama. TalkingPointsMemo.com reported:
“For the first time in US history, the Latino vote can plausibly claim to be nationally decisive,” Stanford University university professor Gary Segura, who conducted the study, told reporters.
According to Segura, the Latino vote provided Obama with 5.4 percent of his margin over Romney, well more than his overall lead in the popular vote. Had Romney managed even 35 percent of the Latino vote, he said, the results may have flipped nationally.
Latino Power is real. Beyond their strong influence on the presidential race, Congress and governorships, hundreds of Latinos serve in state legislatures; thousands serve in local government.
I’ll bet that Republicans in the new Congress will be more willing to work with Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform. They make other concessions as well. But they will also figure, wrongly, that Latinos will accept their intrusive social agenda — anti-abortion, privatization of Medicare and Social Security and the crazy pledge to never raise taxes.
My guess is that the Republicans are going to get it wrong. Interest groups are not monoliths and people aren’t stupid. A profile of Latinos, as with the changing demographics of the United States, will show that they are increasingly young, progressive and interested in Democratic values. Latinos are no more fooled by Rubio and company than African Americans are fooled by U.S. Rep. Allen Bernard West in Florida or the handful of other blacks tied to the Republican Party.
Latinos will not be snowed by extremism and lies.