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Maybe one Republican response to the “Latino vote problem” ought to be to remind our first and second generation Latino citizens why they or their grandparents made that arduous journey in the first place. Do they really want to support a political party that seeks to transform the United States into a country that resembles the place they fled?
Why shouldn’t a debate over the “Dream Act” include a debate over the future prospects for keeping that dream alive? Could it be that the dream that motivated millions of immigrants to choose the USA instead of Cuba or Venezuela or Vietnam had more to do with free enterprise than free health care? Would it be smart for conservatives and Republicans to remind immigrants and children of immigrants of the distinction between freedom of opportunity and cradle-to-grave security?
There is a lot of delusional thinking erupting in Republican circles about Hispanics being “natural Republicans” based on their religion or “strong family values.” Unfortunately, the evidence does not support that optimistic view. But it is equally foolish to write off the Hispanic vote as inevitably collectivist in its loyalties.
As a congressman, I attended many naturalization ceremonies where hundreds of immigrants were welcomed into full citizenship. I participated in those ceremonies gleefully –because those immigrants had done it the right way, following the prescribed process to gain full membership in the American community.
I continue to believe that the typical naturalized citizen is just as patriotic as a native-born citizen – and perhaps more so given the dismal state of civics education in our public schools. I wish all citizens had to pass the same civics test that immigrants must pass in order to become a naturalized citizen.
So, it is somewhat puzzling why for the past 50 years – this is not a new phenomenon– newly naturalized citizens register Democrat over Republican by a 3-to-1 ratio. Cuban immigrants have been the sole exception to this pattern. There is no good reason why the Republican Party should accept that. Logically, based on what our two parties stand for, refugees and immigrants who fled socialist-run countries ought to be more attracted to the Republican Party than the party of big government.
Why this is not the case says as much about the Republican Party as it does about immigrants. It speaks volumes not only about why the Republican Party fails to sell its message to immigrants, it speaks to why it is failing among young voters and others as well. Maybe it is more than “messaging” – more than the “packaging.” Maybe the message itself is weak, incoherent and lacking passion.
I am led to the ironic conclusion that the effort to reach the “Latino vote” should compel the Republican Party to better define itself and its message for all voters. Romney did not lose the election mainly because of the Latino vote, but if fretting over that 71-27 margin serves as a wake-up call, that’s a good thing.
There is no need to play the game of identity politics, crafting appeals to each ethnic and racial group based on “tribal loyalties.” We should leave that field to the masters of deceit, deception and distraction, the Democratic Party. They will always be better at that game, as they do not wish to reckon with consequences.
The Republican Party should take a different path. In reminding immigrants of why they fled socialist regimes rife with corruption but short on economic opportunity, Republicans will also be remind themselves and all Americans of what made this country different, what made it a success for generation after generation of immigrant. That difference has a lot to do with our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
In reminding not only immigrants but ourselves why the founders did not write a Declaration of Dependence, we might be able to rediscover our political compass, and that compass might point the way to victory.