The RNC “Autopsy” Report on Latinos: Texas Edition

By Alex Gonzalez & Linda Vega

The Republican National Committee (RNC) released its 2012 “autopsy” Report on the Hispanic vote. 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 California and Texas–where 45% of Latinos live–are very different states. Therefore, they require focus on certain issues.  So while we were pondering on the new Growth and Opportunity Project by the RNC we read conservative Historian Michael Barone’s article underlining the historical and cultural realities in states like Texas and California, cultural and generational hindrances that still permeate Party politics across the Southwest. As a result, while it would be problematic to pretend that the 17 recommendations by the RNC on Hispanic voters can work equally in every single state, there are plenty from which each state can pick to develop their state Party apparatus to train their activists or grassroots to revamp the image of Republican Party in Latino/Hispanic communities, and to make “old stuffy white guys” see that Latinos and Republicans have mutual interests. But this is arduous  Plan that Party activists and Party Bosses alike may object to initially.

The truth is that politics is all about persuading voters.  Therefore, any “Project” must be a top-to-bottom and  must also include a grassroots effort because there is pervasive mentality, in every state, among Party activists–precinct chairmen and Party delegates–who object to go to Hispanic communities and simply write off blocks of Latino votes as “Latino vote Democrats. Also, other pervasive mentality, within the Party apparatus, is that it does reach out to Latinos, but most Latinos activist are delegated to small roles as Party soldiers while the older “Anglos” tend to become the “Generals.”   And this is nothing new.

For example, a study by Columbia University titled “A Lot of Soldiers, but Not a Lot of Generals,” Latinos hold little political legacy from which an efficient and independent political organization can arise.” Consequently, in his argument, the lack of Latino political power come from the fact that the Party machine has only developed a patronage system in which “Mexicans” still rely on elder white “Anglos” for party representation via white “Generals.”   As a result, and despite their large numbers, Mexicans continue to be represented by ethnically white elder men in the GOP who control the state and county bureaucracies, and thereby, create a Latino community with no leadership skills, or leaders to become “Generals.”

Furthermore, the same pervasive mentality that exists among Party activists, occurs among Hispanic Republican organizations and their leaders who refuse to reach out to Young Latinos because they presume that all young Latinos must be “socialists” just because Latinos want to talk about education. Therefore, the RNC Project news to for non-Hispanic as much it should be for Republican Hispanic activist.

Among the main objective of the project are: Education, W. Bush message, and Voter Registration.

Texas GOP Autopsy on Latinos

Texas is the only state with a significant Latino share of state voting population (VAP) in a state that is very Republican. For example, the state has an estimated 4.2 million of Hispanic eligible to vote, but only about 2.3 are registered to vote. Moreover, with a 55% of Latino turnout (about 1. 6 million) of Latinos who actually voted in 2012, Latino voters still look like a sluggish “giant.” Conversely, for the last 10 years, the RPT has won elections with only 4.5 million of voters, and the actual voter registration in the state has remained stagnant at 13 million while the VAP is almost 19 million (see graph). As a result, the RPT benefits from low Latino registration and low turnout because it helps the Party keep control of the Legislature with few very active 4.5 million mostly “Anglo” seniors( Texas ranks 47 on turnout nationally).

And unlike Arizona and California where bad immigration bills like Prop 187 and SB1070 encouraged Latinos to register and vote, Texas has avoided this extreme measures, and thereby,  keeping Latinos as passive spectators who assume that the GOP is doing OK in managing the state. Moreover, the Republican Legislature strategically passed good education policies for Latinos and thus avoided bad immigration legislation for Latinos.  This strategy managed to  perpetuate this passivity among Latinos in the state.

For example, in 1994, before the 187 law became popular, Latinos were only 11% of the total share of state turnout.  By 1998, the share of the Latino vote increase to 18% and now is 22% of the total turnout.  In Arizona, before SB1070, Latinos were only 11% share state turnout. But in 2012, Latinos represented 18% share of the state vote. So in only 2 ½  years, the Latino turnout increased about 60% in Arizona thanks to SB1070.  Hence, the RPT learned that by avoiding bad immigration bills they enjoy the benefits of keeping “Sleeping Giant” napping, namely the Latino vote.

Conversely, the RPT does not promote any voter registration or civic engagement.  Similarly, the Hispanic Republican organizations do not promote voter registration since they complain that Party does not provide funding for it.  This, coincidentally, reflects the same strategy of the Party in the apathy when it comes to encouraging Latinos to vote.

All of this is true for the most part; but we, LRTV, has constantly invited candidates and elected officials to partake in naturalization events and Immigration debates, as one of RNC recommendations suggests, but Republicans refused to show up.  Also, one of the chief goals of the RNC is to train candidates and strategists to convey a more welcoming message on issues important to Latinos.  But we tried for that idea last summer, but nobody wanted to participate much less contact us to talk about the issues, this includes the RPT and Latino Republican organizations.  But neither wanted to partake in an event where candidates could be trained on how to talk about policies and issues important to Latinos in a sensible manner.  We termed it the Pocket Strategy where we wanted to talk about the issues specific to each county.  Here is an edited copy of plan we submitted to RPT and Latino Republican organizations last summer—a mini Growth and Opportunity Project.

Thus we must emphasize during candidate trainings, retreats, etc., the importance of a welcoming, inclusive message in particular when discussing issues that relate directly to a minority group–Growth and Opportunity Project

Additionally, the RNC Project argues that we need to share all possible data. However, Texas is the only state where no exit polls were gathered, and nobody wants to find out how Latino voted in 2012. We can say this, with 100% certitude because we have asked Party officials and Conservative organizations to hire pollsters to find detailed data analysis on how Latinos voted last year–our own Texas “autopsy” on the latino vote–but nobody wants to know exactly what happened. This is expected because The RPT fears that the Latino vote went below the 30% after the issues of voter ID and Sanctuary Bill (immigration) margin that will sound emergency sirens because Republican traditionally  get about 40% of the Latino vote. Right now we still do not know how Latinos voted in Texas.

Therefore, while one of main goals of the RNC is to register Latino voters in swing states, in Texas this goal may run counter to the interest of the RPT since the Party still relies heavily and few “Anglo” seniors, and thus making the RPT plan unworkable; the strategy in Texas is to keep winning elections with the same 4.5 million for as long as possible, and promote Education policies favorable to Latinos in college (Top Ten Percent, $10,000 BA Degree, In-state tuition for undocumented students) to continue the state of passivity among Latinos voters while “Anglos” in the RPT keep control of the Party apparatus and the Legislature.  So as long as Latino don’t get angry and come out to vote as they did in Arizona due to SB1070 or in California after 187,  the RNC Project can only be done half way in Texas.  And though Michael Barone argues that  Texas Mexican-Americans and “Anglos” in Texas have lived together for 200 years, the RPT’s activists still may fear that Latinos will turn the party “too brown,” and thus, the Party Bosses, delegates, Latino organizations, and candidates are appointed only to surrogate positions, also known as  foot soldier roles.

Further, Texas is the only state that has many official “Auxiliaries” Hispanic/Latino Republican organizations, but if you talk to their respective leaders you can see their frustration because the RPT, while granting them official titles, never really funds voter registration events or training for candidates.  As a result, there is pervasive idle attitude within these organization.  But having  low Latino turnout is also detrimental to these  organization because they do not have successes to show to the Party, while other organization who do promote voter registration and voter turnout get most the attention and funding from the Party.  Moreover, poor Latino turnout among Latinos voters diminishes the leverage of these organization within the Party and other Republican organizations.

One outside group that has been particularly successful at engaging its community and increasing its Republican support is the Republican Jewish Coalition. We should incorporate some of its tactics in our efforts–Growth and Opportunity Project

But there are things in the RNC Project that are plausible. For example, Texas is a very religious state and the RNC recommends that the Party build is relationship with Latinos communities similar to that those of the Republican Jewish-American Coalition whose main platform is linking the interests of state of Israel to the GOP. And there many overlapping cultural and religious interests between the GOP and Latino Catholics about abortion and gay marriage. Moreover, nationally, the Catholicization of the GOP and Latinos soon will become 70% of American Catholic Church. Thus, attending religious events gives a chance to Republicans to talk about conservative values to plan the conservative seed without having voter registration drives. And we too have suggested to Republican activists about the need of bringing Latinos into the GOP the same way the GOP has done with religious Jewish-American groups.

In addition, Texas is home to George W. Bush Rio Grande Family Value Message that RNC recommends to adopt at the national level.  Which is also that we proudly and actively promote, and most Mexican-Americans in would agree with this idea. However, because of the Tea Party wave in 2010, and the fact the RPT did not provide any funding for most Latino candidates in 2012 in Texas, some Latino Republican candidates are still unhappy with the RPT and they are opting for a A la Cruz (anti-establishment) message; they see more benefits and a quicker path to the top rather than  promoting an establishment message. So in Texas, this mutiny among these Latinos Republican candidates can be a challenge for the W. Bush message planed by the RNC.

Consequently, the RPT’s most challenging hurdle to the RNC Project in the state will be how to revamp its image with disheartened Latino organizations– due to lack of funding–and Tea Party disgruntled candidates in South Texas who did not receive any funding from the Party in 2012 and now see the Cruz anti-establishment path as the only option.

Therefore, as we look into the implementation of this Plan we see achievable goals and unworkable ideas for the RPT.  But for us, we are happy to see that before there was a Growth & Opportunity Project Report, there was a LRTV! and our POCKET STRATEGY.

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.
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.
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