Latinos for Romney?
The Kansas City Star
Mitt Romney said, in the infamous “47 percent” hidden video, “If the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting bloc has in the past, why we’re in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.”
He’s right that the Republican Party would be in trouble, but insults our intelligence by saying it would be bad for the nation. Why, because minority votes shouldn’t count as part of a majority coalition, if they’re too united? A majority is a majority, no matter how that coalition is built.
What his self-absorbed ambition keeps him from seeing is it’s his own country club racism that keeps him from getting more of those minority votes. His is not the garden-variety vulgar racism, viscerally anti-immigrant, of the extreme right wing.
His is an elite brand, characterized by the monocled tittering so audible in the video. It’s the racism of the uber rich, the kind that’s polite to immigrant gardeners and admirably philanthropic, but in the end condescending to anyone not like themselves (rich and white).
Any group’s votes have to be earned. President Obama had to defend his record at a recent Univision forum. He overpromised and underdelivered on immigration reform, and he was called out on that, rightfully so. He, at least, can point to a diversified Cabinet, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, a Dream Act-ish temporary solution for young immigrants (even if politically timed), and continued support for immigration reform.
And Romney, what does he offer Latinos? Besides the insults in his video—including a bad joke that he’d have a better shot getting elected if he was Latino, and not just the son of a Mexican-born American—he staked out extreme positions against illegal immigrants during the primaries. He held up Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer and infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio—two people anathema to most Latinos—as “models” on how to handle the immigration issue. He dissed the Dream Act, and talked up “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants as a realistic solution (eerily reminiscent of the 19th century scheme for African-Americans to “self-deport” to Liberia).
Concerns about “balkanization” of our nation and contempt for “identity politics” are common bugaboos of the right, and to some extent understandable. President Obama himself famously called, in his 2004 convention speech, for uniting a segmented America.
But Latinos, and African-Americans, have been trending Democratic because that party at least tries to speak to their needs. They are voting their self-interest, no different than any other voters.
When the GOP listens locally, they’ve been able to elect Latinos such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. Nationally, for whatever reason, Republicans like Romney have been eager and willing to placate the anti-immigrant voters in their Tea Party base.
How can Romney and other Republicans expect Latinos to vote for politicians who so blithely dismiss the human reality of millions of illegal immigrants already rooted in our society? Why should they be expected to vote for those who are harshly legalistic towards young immigrants brought here as youths, kids who know only the United States as their nation? Instead of seriously looking at the nuances of such issues, they demand Dream Act youths be deported to a land that is entirely foreign to them.
The GOP, with its angry antipathy towards immigrants, and its stereotypes in general about minority voters, has nothing to say to them, except “trust us, we’ll treat everyone the same.” That’s a big leap of faith, considering the party’s history. Elitism and racism aside, Republican political instincts as regards minorities are strategically inept. The demographics don’t bode well for a minority-less GOP. The white vote is inevitably shrinking. A strong Democratic Latino vote could keep Colorado, Nevada and Florida in Obama’s column this November, and then maybe permanently Democratic.
Many trace the now seemingly permanent loss of California, once a swing state, for the GOP to Gov. Wilson’s support for the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 in the 1990s. African-American voters helped bring Virginia and North Carolina into Democratic play in 2008, possible again this year. This was simply unheard of years ago. Some analysts think minority voters combined could nudge Arizona, Texas, even Georgia, towards Democrats in future elections. Look at the Electoral College map and explain how any GOP presidential candidate stands a chance against such odds?
Democracy is about meeting the needs of the people. That includes groups of like mind sometimes voting in patterns because their needs as individuals are or aren’t being met. It’s their right to do that. That’s not “bad for the nation,” just bad for Republicans. What’s bad for the nation is one party continuing to write off large portions of the populace, with no sincere effort to understand their needs.