By Alex Gonzalez
When conservative Latinos talk about power in political terms, they often have a problem explaining what it means. They look around to see how many Republican elected officials are at the state and national level. Latinos believe that this will help to measure their power. But this measurement is often a superficial representation because the Republican elected officials may come from districts where 90% of voters or residents are non-Hispanic; thus, they may not have interests on issues to constituents to other voters outside his/her district( Latinos). In effect, those Latino elected officials may not have vested interests in representing the interest of the Latinos in other districts. But Latinos can change that and get political power by learning how to play the game of Party bureaucracy.
In his classic book Who Governs, political scientist, Robert Dahl argues that political power and its distribution, is mainly concentrated in who runs the city bureaucracy, or political machinery. Dahl’s book is widely considered one of the great works of empirical political science to measure community power in the cities. Following in Dahl’s advise, those Latinos wanting power, or aspiring to lead the Republicans (but cannot run for office) should take control of the local Party bureaucracy. Essentially, Latinos in Texas need learn to play the bureaucratic game if they really want to share political power within the Republican Party, they need to become Party delegates and attend Party Conventions.
According the Texas Secretary of State, there are a total of 13 million registered voters in Texas. Also, in Texas, there are about 4,500,000 Latino eligible voters but only 2.3 million are registered to vote and only 1.8 million voted in 2012. It is difficult to fathom that a population of 4,500,000 eligible Latino voters in Texas cannot do anything to make the Republican Party platform friendlier to issues that are important to Latinos throughout the state. Moreover, how is it that a Convection of 6,000 delegates—of which 70% are mainly seniors–can have more power than 4,500,000 potentially voters? The answer is very simple: civic engagement and Plural Democracy–competition for power. Seniors are very involved in the party bureaucratic process at the local level.
For example, the 2012 Republican Convention in Fort Worth was filled with about 6,000 delegates who voted in various committees, sub-committees, and finally in the Convention Floor in the main General Session via popular vote. The Convection arena for the General Session was filled with about 4,000 delegates when the Party Platform passed. One may presume that one or two votes does not really have a significant impact on in a crowd of 4,000, the General Session where the Party Platform is voted on. So a Latino voter wanting to be a delegate to change things may be discourage if he/she thinks that my vote won’t really matter in crowd of 4,000; and for the most part this would true.
Typically, The General Session is a demonstration of a popular-democracy because it is carried out and conducted as a Parliamentary system in which the popular majority wins. However, the official Party Platform is adopted from broad proposals submitted to the Party by independent committees controlled by different “factions.” Thus, The Republican Party Convection platform essentially adopts what is given to it by the Committee Chairmen for all the independent committees. And, here is where Latino delegates–even if they are not the majority–can really have say if they can trade-off (caucus) with other delegates who may need votes for other proposals.
Furthermore, by Party rule, each committee must be open to any delegate wishing to voice their support or opposition to any proposal. As a result, a committee of 40 delegates will have to persuade at least 21 members to get a proposal to the full floor. But even a more crucial key for power is that anyone can become a delegate since the Party rules require that you only register as delegate in your state Senate District (SD) with you County Precinct Chairman. Too, there is no limit as to how many delegates a SD can send to representing their interest at the Convention. So let’s say those counties or SDs in South Texas, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio that have Hispanic majority can send as many delegates as they want to voice their concerns in the minds of Latinos. What would happen?
In effect, the power structure of the Party Platform is based on an assembly of small group committees that with a 21-majorty delegate votes, can insert any proposal which most likely will be favorably voted on during the main General Session Platform. In fact, most delegates are concerned with having their proposal in the platform rather than opposing somebody else’s proposal. For instance, the Texas Solution for Immigration was adopted with collaboration between delegates led by Art Martinez and “Temo” Muniz ( Federation of Hispanic Republicans) who were representing the interests of Republican Hispanic Community, whereas Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson represented the interests of farmers in Texas wanting a guest-worker bill. Thanks to that collaboration, the immigration plank passed with a 17 to 13 vote, and the section passed unanimously in the committee. When the Texas Solution to immigration was mentioned during the full floor Session, those delegates opposing it or suggesting amendments were the same delegates who also had opposed it during committee deliberations. And according to Art Martinez the vote on the floor was about 5 to 1.
The reality is that by the time the Immigration Texas Proposal reached the full floor inserted in main 2012 Platform the debate was over. The real battle had already occurred in the committee. The 4,000 delegates present, then, were ready to favorably vote for it. Additionally, by the time the entire 2012 Party Platform was put forward for a vote in full floor, most people were ready go home. Therefore, Latinos who want to have their voice heard need to understand that the tools are there for them to partake in the allocation of power within the state Republican machinery. They just need to show up and play the game.
If you are a young-adult Hispanic/Latino who is complaining that you don’t have any power and that the GOP does not offer opportunities to formulate their policies, let’s be honest and recognize that it is easy to get the same level of power that “Anglo” seniors. They consistently vote and attend the Republican Conventions. Political power requires cultivation and consistency. And, Latinos need to learn to cultivate power if they want power within the Republican bureaucracy.
Currently, there are about 4.5 million native Latino Texans who are eligible voters but have not even bothered register to vote. Moreover, of the 2.3 actual registered to only about 1.8 of these Latino Voters in Texas come out to vote. While young Latinos may complain that the Republican Party discriminates against them, well, they need to blame democracy too for their discontent because it is by democratic rules by which “Anglo” seniors change and control policies whiting the GOP. It is a beautiful and fair process because it is about competition for power, which leads to a better civically informed population, and it limits the power of the elites.
For example, according to Robert Dahl’s theory of Pluralism: “elite political groups exist, but they aren’t very powerful. Instead, they balance each other out by leaving politicians (and thus their voters) firmly in control of the bureaucracy.” So the Party bosses need to delegate power to others who can control it. Thus, according to Robert Dahl’s division of power, no single elite dominates power entirely across issues. Hence, power needs to be divided so under Plural Democracy Pluralism means competition for power, and this is typically how the GOP conducts it Party bureaucracy by letting different groups fight for power. So Latinos in Texas first, need to play the game and learn to manage the political apparatus, or party bureaucracy like committees because by necessity the party Bosses need to delegate their power to committees like it was the case with Texas Solution. So the Texas Solution is the result of power delegated to Latinos delegates who wanted to craft a proposal that truly reflected the concerns of the Latino communities In Texas. And they did it.
As a result, unless Latinos learn to play the committee game, they will not influence policy or the Party Platform. Conversely, if they can use their numbers to attend the Conventions, and become part of Party machinery/Bureaucracy, they can easily formulate policies important to Latinos. Therefore, by controlling the Party bureaucracies in counties where Latinos are up 60% of residents eligible to vote, Latinos can send as many delegates as they want. Those Latino delegates will make sure that each county will have a voice in the Convection. About 52% of Latinos in Texas self-identify as Conservative. This means that the Republican Party and Latinos have overlapping issues so Republicans need Latinos as much as Latinos need Republicans. If Latinos can manage to get their act together, they can manage the Republican bureaucratic Machinery, mano-a-mano with senior “Anglos” who need fresh blood infusion to maintain a conservative majority in the states. The time is now for Latinos to appreciate democracy more and learn to play its game.Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote! He received a Bachelors Degree and a Masters’ Degree, with emphasis in American politics, from San Francisco State University. comments to firstname.lastname@example.org