The recent effort by the “gang of eight” senators, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, on immigration has been welcomed by most Republicans and conservative intellectuals. They all agree that the GOP needs to address immigration to make it go away, so that they can focus on reaching out to Latino voters. However, the vocal conservative opposition argues that Republicans are only “pandering” to Latinos for their vote. This is not accurate and misleads many to think that the entire GOP is negative about Latinos. The truth is that the GOP is seeking to revitalize its core from the dwindling numbers that time is snatching away because of an aging member population.
Current members of the GOP are active but are in the age bracket of 50 plus, and there are major signs that new membership is scarce. As an alternative, and rather than wither away into extinction, a revitalization of the Republican Party has to focus on groups that it has been avoiding, or at times alienating because of tough standards.
The statistics show that in Texas alone, the idea of gaining new membership has a high probability with the Latino population. However, the GOP must have a plan to know how to enter the community and engage Latinos with Positive Conservatism in order to regain momentum, not only in smaller pockets of counties, but statewide as well. Access, however, is not easy or well trusted at this point because of the recent history of those boisterous and vocal against Latinos. But there are the grassroots groups within the community, who are the ready soldiers willing to assist in any way possible. They include, these small but dedicated groups, community organizations, even churches to who can lend a hand in the reunification. Trust is difficult, but not impossible, to win over again. With theses groups leading the way, Texas Latino communities would be more comfortable and would accept the GOP after its long absence. Moreover, this would seem more natural and less contrived against the accusations that the party is merely pandering for votes, as some state. But the message should be clear and above all, positive. It should find a tone of familiarity with Latinos who have seen the party as unwelcoming, and conservatives should reassess their view that Latinos are not conservative or not conservative enough.
When President Bush traveled to the Rio Grande Valley, during his campaign, he spoke to the residents about a common denominator among all of us, family values. Moreover, he stressed that those values do not end at the Rio Grande Valley. People could relate, and as a result, they listened to something that was sincere and true. Those values and the connection, transcend any type of verbal fire and antagonistic behavior that politics at its best and worst brings out in us, because they are honest and heartfelt. They also give people the comfort that they should not be doubted as Americans, even if they vote other than Republican. After all, this is the process that we all fight to maintain and improve with our vote and civic participation. But politicians have learned to use this freedom as a weapon against many groups, and while it is good for showmanship in politics, it is also the catalyst for friction between citizens. In the long run, however, it destroys that connection with a group and the political party. It further creates a distance that accrues over a period of time, and is irreparable unless, someone puts forth the effort into repairing the injury.
President Bush befriended Latinos because he didn’t antagonize them if they voted Democrat. In fact, he saw it as acceptable because we then had something in common, the love of family and country. This awakened Latinos to listen to him, to give the GOP a second glance, and eventually the vote. Those days are not gone and can be reignited with the correct message of Positive Conservatism, just like President Bush did. He never pandered to Latinos, but rather in Texas he embraced them as though they were family because to him they are.
Therefore, instead of being the Party that is harsh on Latinos, we should be the Party that talks about the Conservative Positive Attributes that the Republican Party has done for the Latino community, and in Texas, those are plenty. Subsequently, it is because of these Positive Attributes, that families in Texas prosper more than in any other state. Families, Latino families specifically, enjoy good stable jobs and a heritage that many in other states cannot fathom or appreciate at times. Texas history makes millions of Tejanos feel proud of their state history, and such pride has created strength by providing opportunity where there was none. And that freedom was based on one thing: family.
The Texas work force enjoys a range of skilled and unskilled workers. As an agricultural state, it has a large percentage in this sector. It also leads in oil and gas, and tourism. And while these sectors require high skilled workers, it also requires low skilled workers to maintain a the edge. This is why it is imperative that it produce those workers here in its state.
In Texas, approximately 65% of Latinos are under the age of 25 and about 50% are currently enrolled in grades K-12. Their success in education is important to the economy of Texas and the conservative values of the state as well. Texas ranks third in the nation with an 82% graduation success with Latinos. The 10% admission Plan recruits Latinos to higher education institutions that places them in line to attend the universities on a road to success.
Furthermore, the $10,000 B.A. Diploma guarantees that Latinos students have access to an education at a reasonable cost. It is a cost-benefit to the state, as it will receive an incredible rate of return from these educated professionals. For example, A $10,000 diploma will develop an engineer who has an earning potential at an income starting at $60,000. And what does that develop? A Fiscally Conservative voter. Texas has ensured that these future taxpayers and voters will have an opportunity at gaining an education that will place them in a higher income tax bracket and vote for a continued economic success for Texas.
Understandably, Republicans may be frustrated because Latinos place themselves as a segregated group that does not convey the notion that they are “assimilate” into the rest of the population. But in effect, isn’t this what redistricting does? Rather than it being a disadvantage, this segregation could be beneficial to the GOP and to Latinos. For example, redistricting is done to create voter blocs and Republicans draw the districts in way that it offers a greater chance to GOP incumbents or new candidates. And, as it was the case last session, single–majority Latino districts are carved out into other rural district where there is more conservative active “Anglo” voter population. Therefore, the redistricting left the urban Latino areas to the Democrats. But in doing so, they squeezed out the community into a pool that is not concentrated in large and exclusive Latino Population, which in turn leaves little room for the GOP to reach out to Latino voters. But, rather than decry that these are just democrat communities, the GOP should enter these districts and talk about Positive Conservatives to woo voters in their favor. This of course creates more work for the GOP as they must venture out of their comfort zone and enter unknown territory. It is a territory where the preconceived notion is that all Latino communities are democrat voters. Yet this is untrue, after all aren’t we the ones who claim that Latinos are naturally conservative voters?
On the point of immigration, the subject that everyone in the GOP shies away from at every event, the Party should follow Sen. Marco Rubio’s lead. That is, be practical; stop the name calling and work toward a solution that is beneficial to everyone involved. Let’s look to solve the problem without laying the blame on the group of people who are the future work force of America. Let’s change the laws to become modern with our changing demographics and our changing needs. There is nothing wrong with wanting to become part of America, let’s just get them to believe and think like America, just as President Bush did at one time.
So my challenge to those who think that the GOP is scrambling and pandering to Latinos is this, think outside the box and engage them with Positive Conservative dialogue to win them over. History, not so long ago, shows us that it can be done. It’s not pandering, it’s common sense and survival.
Linda Vega graduated from the University of Texas in Austin and the George Washington Law School in D.C. She worked for The Department of Labor, and she is currently in private practice at THE VEGA LAW FIRM. Her areas of expertise are in Immigration and Labor/Employment-Labor Law. In 2012, Linda Vega was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Family Practice Residency Advisory Committee.