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We have been hearing about the coming Latino vote tsunami since at least 2004. With each passing election cycle, the predictions become both more dramatic and less credible.
The “Hispanic vote” – or “Latino vote” as its hagiographers prefer to call it – has been trending Democratic for 50 years, with Obama getting 68 percent of that vote in 2008. But what the alarmists and propagandists do not mention is that this 68 percent was less than Clinton got in 1996 and not substantially different from most other Democratic candidates since Carter.
What makes the Latino vote increasingly important is not a change in the percentage of Latinos who prefer the Democratic Party to the Republican Party but the increasing size of the Latino vote relative to other ethnic groups. The Latino population is growing at a faster rate than non-Hispanic whites, Asians, blacks and other demographic groups.
So, it is sensible and smart for Republican candidates to reach out to Latino voters. The obvious question is how to do this. Will it be done intelligently and in keeping with Republican principles, or will it be done stupidly in a way that alienates large numbers of the Republican base?
There is considerable irony in the current situation, as Democratic strategists increasingly base their appeal to Latino voters on misconceptions and stereotypes rather than astute analysis of polls and Latino values. The result is overconfidence in the inevitability of a rising tide of Democrat loyalists with Hispanic surnames. They seem completely unaware of the fact that in the congressional elections of 2010, Republican candidates gained a larger share of the Latino vote than in 2008 or 2006. Moreover, there is every reason to believe this trend will continue into 2012.
One reason for the Democratic self-delusion is their misplaced preoccupation – shall we say obsession? – with “comprehensive immigration reform” – amnesty – as the one issue that will drive Latino voters to support Democratic candidates. The evidence supporting that assumption is non-existent.
It is frankly a refreshing change to talk about Democratic delusions instead of Republican stupidities. Yet, we must acknowledge that there are plenty of Republican pundits and campaign consultants who drink the same Kool-Aid.
A recent example of Democratic missteps on the Latino vote is the Obama White House decision to proceed with the DHS administrative amnesty for illegal aliens by way of a broad “prosecutoral discretion” in the processing of deportation cases. This was touted and widely hailed in the mainstream media as a major overture to the Latino vote, which is seen as a key pillar of Obama’s base. But, guess what? His poll numbers among Latino voters continued to drop, along with his numbers for every other demographic group. Obama’s new push for amnesty legislation has had no effect on his poll numbers among Latino voters.
What is going on? The answer is so simple even a Republican National Committee political consultant ought to be able to understand it: Latinos are deserting Obama for the same reasons other voters are deserting him.
The big lie about the Latino vote is slowly being exposed for what it is – a construction of political convenience and necessity for the American left. The left wing of American politics needs an uninterrupted flow of new “victims” (read: clients) into the political arena, and Hispanics are supposed to fill that role. The problem is, most Latinos do not want to fill that role.
The good news for American politics is that Latino-Americans are not that different from other voters. They care about jobs, educational opportunity and national security just like other Americans. And they can be won over by Republican candidates if they campaign in Latino communities on those issues.
This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. Polls of Latino voters in the summer of 2008 showed that immigration issues ranked fifth or sixth in importance, and that has not changed. A poll in Colorado in September 2010 showed a majority of Latino voters supported the new Arizona law, SB1070, despite the incessant and slanderous attacks against it as “anti-immigrant.” The truth is, Latino voters are a more sophisticated and more complex group of citizens than liberal stereotypes will admit.
Given the abundant and indisputable evidence that, corrected for income and education levels, Latino voters actually behave much like other voters, why is there so much dead-end thinking among Republicans on these matters? Why do so many Republicans persist in believing they must pander on the amnesty issue – or the “Dream Act” – to get Latino votes?
Part of the answer is sheer laziness: It is easier to accept mainstream media stereotypes than do the serious research to find the truth. The other answer is the disproportionate influence of the little cottage industry of Latino consultants and professional “outreach specialists” who profit from the status quo.
Yes, Republicans should endeavor to reach out to Latino voters in 2012 and beyond, as we must reach out to women voters, young urban voters, seniors and “soccer moms.” But the message to each group must be the Republican message, not the La Raza message.