By Linda Vega
The great communicator Ronald Reagan once said, “Hispanics are Republican they just don’t know it.” Recently, Harry Reid countered that statement by saying, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be Republican.” As candidates seek nominations and placement in the up coming elections, strategists have begun to ask, “How could knowing this nugget of truth help win the Latino Vote of 2012?”
I was a Reagan Republican many years ago, and still am to my core. However, there is a great difference in the GOP of today and the past as it relates to Hispanics. The forces and conditions of high unemployment, near financial collapse, aging baby boomers who fear lack of affordable medical care, record home foreclosures, and unresponsive legislators with no hope of substantive change have brought out some strong emotional backlash. Issues that affect the U.S. economy, also touch on the lives of many Latinos living in the U.S.
This societal dissonance has created groups who are raising their voices with angry rhetoric stating that they are not going to take it anymore. President Reagan never had to contend with these angry voices, real time news cycle of cable news, bloggers, and social media. I want to make it clear that I am not in any way criticizing people for what they feel or their actions; but it is this overflux of harsh rhetoric that has put us in this conflicted situation in the first place.
The turbulence in our country makes some issues, that affect ethnic groups, the scapegoats to be criticized deflecting the real issue of our hardship, the economy. There is a creation of “us and them” because of a lack of coherent dialogue. In short, anyone who does not agree with the angry rhetoric is not a Republican, in the eyes of many Latinos who are conservative Republicans. There is fear that this divisiveness is creating the Latinos as the probable cause of “them,” as in non-American should they disagree with current GOP dialogue, especially that concerning immigration. The Latino solution is to stay out of the voting polls.
As a result, Hispanics and other minority groups feel a strong divide in their psyche from this push back. Hispanics are hard working people, who love family, and God with a self sufficiency conservative philosophy. If President Reagan was alive and asked what it would take to win the Latino vote? I’m certain he would say, “Speak respectfully, but be firm in your policy.”
The older Hispanics who obtained their U.S. Citizenship from President Reagan’s executive order, are voting citizens. These U.S. Citizens, have children who in turn have grandchildren of voting age who think Republican conservative values but feel Democrat loyalty due to the polemic hatred being voiced from these angry mobs.
Some researchers estimate that a Latino swing vote of twenty million in the next election will be crucial in choosing the next president and some congressional battle ground states. The Democratic Party is concentrating on social outreach to buy this vote. What can we as Republicans do to speak to the heart of Hispanics? I suggest we start with what President Reagan did, speak respectfully even to his amigos on the other side of the isle.