Jeb Bush, the Cinco De Mayo Candidate

new atmby Alex Gonzalez

As millions of Mexican-Americans in the country celebrated Cinco de Mayo on Wednesday, surprisingly, Jeb Bush was the only GOP presumed presidential candidate who released a video wishing Feliz Cinco de Mayo to the millions of Mexican-American in the Country. Others candidates like Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Marco Rubio who could have strong appeal to Latino voters said nothing of what is the biggest Latino/Hispanic cultural festivity in the nation traced back to 150 years when Texans, or Tejanos, volunteered in the Mexican army to fight against the invading French army.

What this shows is that Jeb Bush is getting ready to be a true Cinco de Mayo candidate; that is a Republican candidate that will not run away from the Mexican-American roots already ingrained in his family. And this is not only about the fact that his a married to a woman who was born in Mexico, this is a GOP strategy many Republican strategists have only talked about for years.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) released its 2012 “autopsy” Report on the Hispanic vote in early 2013. The plan is to reach out to Hispanic voters and communities in all states. But the reality is that 80% of Hispanics live in the Southwest and Texas, and 80% all Hispanics are Mexican-American, a culture that has lived in that region for over 200 years. California and Texas–where 45% of Latinos live–are very different states but both share similar demographic shifts where Latinos (Mexican- Americans) soon are becoming the majority.

So Republican party bosses for years have looked for a candidate that can build up a GOP base using cultural appreciation  for Mexican-American history while maintaining a conservative economic and “family values” message.

The “Autopsy” Report argued that:

By 2050, the Hispanic share of the U.S. population could be as high as 29 percent, up from 17 percent now. The African American proportion of the population is projected to rise slightly to 14.7 percent, while the Asian share is projected to increase to approximately 9 percent from its current 5.1 percent. Non-Hispanic whites, 63 percent of the current population, will decrease to half or slightly less than half of the population by 2050. In addition, the Republican Party lost youth and women voters in 2012. It is imperative that we reverse this troubling trend, as women represent the majority of voters and youth are future voters for decades to come.

The pervasive mentality of writing off blocks of states or demographic votes for the Republican Party must be completely forgotten. The Republican Party must compete on every playing field. Throughout our discussions with various Hispanic groups, they told us this: Message matters. Too often Republican elected officials spoke about issues important to the Hispanic community using a tone that undermined the GOP brand within Hispanic communities. Repairing that relationship will require both a tone that “welcomes in” as well as substantial time spent in the community demonstrating a commitment to addressing its unique concerns. As one participant in a regional listening session noted, “The key problem is that the Republican Party’s message offends too many people unnecessarily. We win the economic message, which is the most important to voters, but we then lose them when we discuss other issues.”

President George W. Bush used to say, “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande … and a hungry mother is going to try to feed her child.” This tone, coupled with the longstanding relationship with Hispanics he built as governor, demonstrated to the Hispanic community that Republicans cared equally about all Americans. Because his tone was inclusive and his effort to build a relationship was long-term, Hispanic Americans were willing to listen to his principles and policies on education, jobs, spending and other issues.

In 2012, Mitt Romney did not have any of the George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaign “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande, and a hungry mother is going to feed her child.”

UTAustin_logoTo win someone’s vote, you need to be friendly to them and those they identify with. Romney’s campaign had not cultural connection with Hispanic voters, or those Hispanics identify with; so he he got only 27% of the Hispanic vote. George W. Bush’s words about family values were very Texan, down to the reference to the Rio Grande.

And this is one of the strategies by Jeb Bush. He is appealing to Mexican-Americans not only as politicians who want to use rhetorical speeches, or policy discussion, he is connecting with Mexican-Americans at a personal level that transcends party identification. So Jeb Bush’s video does connect with “values,” or cultural affinities, that the RNC reports recommends.

Cinco de Mayo is not political identity. It is historical fact where Mexican-Americans in Texas and the U.S., celebrate a recognition to their bravery in defense of Mexico against invading European armies. And Jeb Bush gets it, the power of the “Rio Grande family values” message is luring for many Tejanos and later generations Mexican-Americans. Cinco de Mayo is not a Mexican holiday, but rather an American Holiday with Mexican roots. That, that is why he was the only GOP candidate who unapologetically wished millions of Mexican-American a Feliz Cinco de Mayo. Coincidentally, George P. Bush was one o the few Texas GOP politicians wishing everyone Happy Cinco de Mayo.

It was surprising to see that Gov. Perry who has strong ties with the Mexican-American business community, and the Mexican-American political class from both parties, did not say anything about Cinco de Mayo. On matters of trade between Texas and Mexico, Perry was a free-trade visionary. Days before the 9-11 attacks, Perry presented a plan to the Texas Legislature about bi-national health insurance coverage for both U.S. and Mexican border residents.

Jeb CincoOn March of 2007, leading a large delegation of Texas executives trying to drum up business in Mexico, Gov. Rick Perry criticized the U.S. Congress for failing to pass an immigration bill that would legalize millions of workers. He stated that “We need those individuals to continue to grow our economy,” he said of Texas’ undocumented workers, most of whom hail from Mexico. “The vast, vast majority of those individuals want to come and work and take care of their families.”

Perry was also a big supporter of NAFTA. In a speech in 2007, he told a delegation of Mexicans businessmen that the NAFTA agreement not only signaled a new era of economic possibility, but a new era of bi-national cooperation. That is why it is wrong, and inherently detrimental to our relationship with Mexico for the U.S. Congress to pursue a protectionist policy that forbids Mexican trucks from U.S. roadways.

It was also odd that Marco Rubio, who will need big support from Mexican-Americans in the Southwest – outside his Cuban base in Florida — did not say anything about it. If Marco Rubio wants to connect with the Millions of Mexican-Americans voters,  he needs to  start taking to Latino voters in the Southwest in a more personal level, other than the “My American Dream.”

It could be that Jeb Bush knows that he will not be able to please immigration hardliners in Iowa and South Carolina in the GOP primary due to his views on education and immigration because he is not going to change his views on these two very important issues for Latino voters. Jeb Bush is going  to stick to his guns on Immigration by focusing on the economic benefits immigrants bring and family unity based on his Christian faith.

Instead, in the GOP primary, Bush’s campaign will be focusing the big states like Texas and California –states with the largest GOP primary delegates- courting Mexican-Americans; and Colorado and Nevada, toss-up states for 2016.

I have argued that  what makes you a Hispanic candidate, your policy views is what will woo Latino voters. if you are not genetically Hispanic and you  do not  have an Hispanic surname, Then you must be engaged in the issues important to particular groups you seek to represent. Or in this case represent the interests important to Hispanics such education. So Jeb Bush is becoming more Hispanic and  he was the Republican, unchallenged, Cinco de Mayo candidate.

 

MeAlex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote. Comments: vote@latinosreadytovote.com

 

 

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