Wednesday, October 3, 2012

0 Romney/Ryan Ticket Hurting GOP Hopes with Latinos

With black support virtually non-existent for the GOP in this year's Presidential race, much attention has shifted toward the allegiances of the US' many Latino voters.  Much less monolithic and homogeneous than the title suggests, Latino voters have various experiences and distinct interests.  With that, there continues to be an opportunity for Republicans to cut into Democrats' long-standing hold on the Latino vote.  Courting Latinos, however, is a much different game than courting blacks or even Asian voters due, in large part, to cultural and linguistic factors.

A ready example of this is where Latino voters turn for information as opposed to other demographics.  Blacks, for the most part, still speak English and primarily tune-in to English-speaking channels like CNN, MSNBC, or CBS.  For Latinos, however, Spanish is much more pertinent and for that reason, Univision (which reaches 97% of Latino households) is the gatekeeper to America's fastest-growing voter group.

One of the things I find most curious and interesting about the need for the two parties to court Latino voters is that Univision and Univision hosts have a different disposition and network etiquette for guests.  By this, I mean that hosts on Univision are much less willing to accept non-answers from their guests or to allow politicians to pivot away from questions.

Jorge Ramos, the network's most prominent anchor, put Romney on the spot when he asked Romney if Romney considered himself Mexican-American.  Romney's father was born in Mexico so Romney could have, potentially, answered in the affirmative however to consider himself Mexican-American so abruptly might have alienated him from Republicans who were already suspicious of the former Governor of Massachusetts.  Romney answered as best he could but this is only one example of the willingness Univision hosts -- and hosts from other Spanish-speaking media outlets -- have deliver direct and difficult questions to candidates. (Read more about Jorge Ramos - here)

The other day, I was listening to NPR as they discussed the experiences both Obama and Romney had on another program -- I forget the name of the particular program.  I remember that the host was female and she hammered both candidates on their positions and track records.  For Obama, the questions were based around the record number of deportations under his administration in 2011 (which, to be fair, Obama reversed in 2012 - Guardian UK) and how Obama was advocating for Latinos who had come out in droves for him in 2008.  For Romney, in an even worse position than Obama among many Latino voters, the criticism was even more harsh as the interviewer asked Romney for explanations about his own attitude toward immigration which is far less forgiving than Obama's -- I believe Gov. Romney called for "self-deportation".  Worse than that, until yesterday (literally, yesterday - CNN) Mitt Romney was in opposition of even the DREAM Act which would allow around 1.7 young illegal immigrants to avoid imminent deportation.  In the past, Romney has situated himself as someone who is squarely opposed to the DREAM Act though this yield on the point about the two-year grace period against deportation shows an attempt by the Romney camp to gain support among young Latinos.

This isn't to say that immigration is the most important issue among all Latinos or even a majority of them.  Jobs; education; and healthcare, depending on the poll, tend to outrank immigration as the issue that most Latinos vote on.  However, the immigrant experience and the way that millions of Latinos in the United States are growing up is going to affect their political allegiances later in life.  The Romney/Ryan ticket isn't doing any favors for the GOP by standing in opposition to immigration reform (more benevolent immigration reform, I mean) and banking on Marco Rubio to carry Latinos in 2016 isn't going to be the best strategy.

First of all, Marco Rubio is Cuban-American and being Cuban-American is an experience distinct from that of many other Latin Americans.  The political history of Cuba and the United States along with the fact that growing up as a descendant of the Caribbean as opposed to a descendant of Central or South America make for a very distinct interpretation of one's circumstance in the United States and also of the alternatives for life back home.

For example, many Cuban-Americans in states like Florida carry a fear carried over from their ancestors who lived under Castro about the dangers of "big government", or of "socialism" and thus vote Republican.  The same anxiety isn't as prevalent for Mexican-Americans.  They aren't as afraid of ObamaCare and won't respond as readily to the calls to beat-back the Democrats' socialist machine; in fact, these voters probably stand to gain from legislation that makes health care more affordable.

The issue at hand is that Republicans, if they are looking to actually gain ground with Latinos, should probably court more social issues, reform their stance on immigration, and give ground on issues like the DREAM Act.  If Univision, Jorge Ramos, and the opportunities for advancement for immigrants are the crucial ingredients necessary to draw Latino voters to the GOP then Romney and Ryan might be setting the party in a worse position for winning the hearts of Latinos by playing to the far-side of the right -- a side of the right which, lest we forget, has been alienating itself from the national "sense-of-common-sense" for several years now.


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