Will Conservative Latinos Take the “Heat” in Defense of Families?

By Alex Gonzalez

A Political Party which bills itself as the “party of the family,” needed to adopt policies that avoid breaking up families “who have been here a quarter century…I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families—Newt Gingrich

.,As expected, immediately after the statements regarding immigration by Newt Gingrich during the Republican debate, conservative bloggers and newspapers were claiming that Gingrich had caused his downfall.  This was, many said, the same downfall that Governor Perry had caused  as a result of his comments on In-State tuition for undocumented immigrants.   Most articles underlined one single point: this is the end of Gingrich because voters in Iowa think that immigration is a matter of national security.  Therefore, voters will punish Gingrich.  However, these views are merely being spread by bloggers and radio personalities in Iowa many who neither reflect the view of the Republican Party nationally,  nor do their opinions matter to the rest of voters outside Iowa. These bloggers and radio personalities deliberately exaggerate the demise of Gingrich to enhance their influence in Iowa,  when in reality Iowa has a modest effect, at best, in the selection of a Republican candidate for the general election.

More importantly, for Latinos who claim that Republicans Leaders do not address their issues, Newt Gingrich could be their new leader.  He may be risking Iowa, but he may in fact capitalize in other states where Latinos can easily giving a big boost to garner enough Republican delegates, that is after the initial Iowa caucuses and primaries in South Carolina.  It will take, however, the will for conservative Latinos to speak up and “take the heat” the same way Gingrich and Perry have done as Confident Republicans.

According an article in Politico,  Gingrich “may have created a full-blown Iowa problem for his campaign.”  But these opinions come from the tired voices of  Rep. Steve King of Iowa and Radio Iowa blogger Kay Henderson claiming that  “It is a form of amnesty.” The other opinions in the conservative website RealClearPolitics  approached it by pointing out that “the Iowa caucus electorate is representative of the most conservative branch of the GOP. A near-majority of the participants consider themselves “very conservative.”  Thus, concluding that Gingrich will suffer the same way the Rick Perry since as voters in Iowa see “illegal immigration” as a big concern. Yet, the conclusions reached by both articles is the same illusive argument and feedback from bloggers and activists.  It simply does not reflect the views of the GOP nationally, or in other states.   Moreover, those Iowa bloggers and radio personalities do not have a real influence outside Iowa since historically Iowa never helps to predict winners for the general election.  It also has only 29 primary delegates who can easily be overpowered on this  harsh view on immigration.  For instance, other states with big blocs of Latino voters, who have more delegates,  may want to aid Newt and Perry because of their reasonable position on families and immigration.

In 2008, the Iowa Caucuses elected Huckabee, but McCain won the nomination eventually.  In 2000, W. Bush won with 40% but was closely followed by Steve Forbes with 35%, and Alan Keyes with 14%.  Also, since 1980, only in 2000 and 1996, has the Iowa Caucuses  elected the eventual Republican nominee to the general election.  Essentially, most of hype about Iowa is a media creation that is promulgated by bloggers and radio personalities.  There are also the Party bosses and ultra-conservative who want to advance their agenda by claiming an obscure Iowa influence in selecting the nominee.

Nevertheless, perception matters in politics.  As a result, we now have cater to bloggers and radio ‘talkers” who claim that “Gingrich’s campaign is dead” because he did not listen to them.  Yet, for the purpose of selecting the Republican nominee, does Iowa really matter?   And if so, if conservative Latinos voters come out in defense of Newt and Perry, are those states with a large registered Latino bloc, 5 times more important than Iowa?

For example, in Iowa there are only 29 Caucus delegates and only 7 Electoral College votes.  Similarly, the stringent views on social issues in Iowa are the same as in the rest of the nation.  The stringent social views of Iowan voter do not reflect the values Latinos since the ultra conservatism is too stringent for the southwest where a libertarian and “constitutional conservatism” is more tolerant of religious views and social values: “The Iowa caucus electorate is representative of the most conservative branch of the GOP.  A near-majority of the participants consider themselves “very conservative.” Therefore, Latinos have more moderate views on immigration is similar to the views of Gingrich and the nation on immigration.  This view may not make Iowa voters happy, but it may lure Latino to the polls to give Newt or Perry a boost. But this will only happen if Latinos, just like Gingrich stated,” are ready to take the heat” and speak up in defense of “families.”   Moreover, Republican candidates seeking to protect those families under a conservative agenda need to stand their ground in defense of this point of view. If they don’t, then candidates like Bachmann and Romney will use the issue of immigration to appeal to “restrictions”, as Conservative scholar Michael Barone argues.

Barone argues that Mitt Romney’s position on immigration makes no sense, and his numbers are not factual.  Moreover,  these views only appeal to “restrictionists”—nativists.  He further states:

“What infuriates me is that this is a debate over water that has already fallen over the dam.  Romney mimicked immigration restrictionists’ arguments that in-state tuition and Selective-Service-type amnesty would be “magnets” for further illegal immigration… As for Mitt Romney, aside from what I (but perhaps not many Republican primary voters) consider his shameful attempt to demagogue the immigration issue, he did very well .“

Barone’s point is important because according to him, we now have the leading Republican candidate promoting nativist policies that support the separation of families and demagoguery against a class of people (let’s face it, when those people in Iowa talk about immigration, they mean Latino and they shut the border they mean the Mexican border). As a result, the silence from conservatives Latino Republicans in defense of Gingrich or Perry merely allows those Iowa activist to freely attack Newt Gingrich.  By being quiet they are complacent and are allowing the break-up of families.  If they refuse to step up and “take the heat”, they are acquiescing and thereby abandoning Latinos-friendly candidates.   Latinos are as much to blame  for abandoning candidates when they speak up sensibly about immigration.

And is not that conservative Latinos are powerless victims of the political structure, but rather it is their lack of unity, carelessness, and apathy about this issue that makes them victims of the “loud minority” activists.  But this can be remedied.  For example, because of the winner-take-all structure of the Republican Primaries, Latinos can easily sway the primaries elections in big states with plenty of Republican delegates. In states like California (22% share of registered voters), Nevada (16%), New Mexico (44%), Florida (14%) and Texas (25%) where Latinos have the say of the swing vote and can effectively decide the primaries—since there is no democrat primary,  all those voters can even registered as democrat and vote during the the republican primaries.

Therefore,  while Latinos might not be as well funded as other ultra-conservative activist groups, Latinos can wield THE POWER  of the vote as a bloc during the Republican primaries and push back against those candidates—Romney and Bachmann—who according to Mr. Barone,  are promoting “demagoguery”.  But Latinos need to be tough and ready to take the “heat” and demand respect when it comes to families,  They must support those Latino-friendly Republican candidates.  By taking the “heat”,  Latinos easily can make the argument that, in the process of wanting to appease a few ultra-conservative to win 29 primaries delegates, Romney and Bachmann are jeopardizing the presidency in the Southwest where 150 Electoral College votes can easily be decided by the Latino swing vote.

Is not even that Latinos favor illegality over legal immigration.  Latinos across party lines and generations favor a reasonable tone and solutions that resembles the reality of the 11 million of undocumented workers here in the US.  For instance, the Pew Latino study shows that, across generations, 57% of Latinos believe that illegal immigrants “should pay a fine, but be deported”; 28% believe that illegals should not be punished, and only 13% believe that illegals should be deported.  Moreover, the issues that more important  to Latinos are:  1.  Jobs, 2. Education,  and 3. immigration.

So if Iowa does not matter in the electoral Map for both the primaries and the general election, why do we, Latinos, allow those few Iowan ultra conservative activists to target Latino-friendly Republican candidates like Perry and Gingrich. In fact, conservative Latinos should find a level of patriotism in speaking up to protect families and against ‘demagoguery”.  Thomas Jefferson, believed that individual citizens have an alienable right to speak up when authority, or a Party, has moved too far to one extreme.  Also,  “Confident” Latino Republicans are those who, like Thomas Jefferson, believe that when an individual questions the motives of the government, or Party, towards citizens, that person is acting in a purest form of love for this nation—patriotism. So speaking up against “demagogues” too can be a form of patriotism.

 Indeed, with so redistricting setting the stage for the next  elections, there is so much to gain for Latinos who have the courage to “take the heat” and speak up to protect families, as Gingrich said.  However, if we do find that courage and “confidence” to speak in defense of Latino-friendly Republican candidates, we allow the negative agenda speak against our community. Moreover,  we let down those republican candidates who  do have a genuine interest in creating a long-term bond between Latinos and the GOP.

More importantly, a large united conservative Latino voice speaking up in defense and support for Gingrich and Perry, in effect, will silence all those ultra-conservative bloggers and radio personalities from Iowa and other places that have taken ownership of the immigrating issues and use it as a weapon of fear.  So yes, we will have to “take the heat”,  but until we learn how to “take the heat”, that “heat” will continue to be used against us and it will hinder our advancement within the Republican Party.

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent–Thomas Jefferson


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