By State Rep. Raul Torres
Looking back to the early 70’s I can remember that my when it came to politics my family supported the Democrat Party. I can remember the first time I voted in 1974, I voted for all Democrats except for the office of President. I remember I voted for Richard Nixon. With the Vietnam War still ragging on, I felt he was most qualified to lead the nation at that time. Of course soon thereafter, Watergate became the story of the day and Mr. Nixon resigned in August of 1974.
As a young adult I wasn’t very passionate about the whole idea of voting or about the issues the Democratic Party supported such as: abortion, entitlement programs, bigger government, higher taxes, a disregard to have religion in the public arena, etc. All I knew was that my mother had told me that the Democratic Party cared more about us than the Republican Party because the Democrats were for the poor and the Republicans were for the rich. However, during the next six years I came to realized that the family values that my mother had taught us (God, family, hard work, and love of country) as we were growing up were not the same values espoused by the Democrat Party. I felt disenfranchised and soon began looking for a new political home.
All this began to change in 1979 during the Reagan – Carter Presidential race. I listened intently as both men spoke about their vision for the future of our country. There was one thing I clearly understood and that was that our country was in deep economic trouble. His vision for America was more in line with the values my mother had taught us. Because of Ronald Reagan I found that new home in the Republican Party. He understood that the values closely held by Hispanics were very similar to the values held by the Republican Party and all he had to do was say over and over again. In 1980, as he was preparing to run for president, Ronald Reagan asked Lionel Sosa, an advertising executive from San Antonio, to lead his outreach to the Hispanic community. Reagan told Sosa his job would be easy: “Latinos are Republican. They just don’t know it yet.”
Mr. Reagan was right on target. Being a Republican came naturally to me. Because the Hispanic community in America appreciates God, families, freedom, free enterprise and small business opportunities. The Republican Party was just a natural fit. Most Hispanics are pro-family, pro-life, pro-education, and a strong work ethic. They represent the best values of our Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Today, our nation faces many dangers domestically and overseas. America’s war on terror and Washington’s continuous deficit spending have many people very concerned about our nation’s future. Throw in the national recession, high unemployment, millions of home foreclosures, the potential cost of Obama Care and our nation’s many failing school systems and what we have is the most important election in our lifetime.
At the end that is what elections are all about, they’re not popularity contests, but about choices. The choices we make will play a big role in the future outcomes that impact our lives. The 2012 election results will determine what role the Republican Party will play in Texas for the next 10 years.
Perhaps the number one factor that will determine the 2012 General Election is who will win over the Hispanic vote? The party that can attract the Hispanic/Latino vote will not only swing this election to their favor, but will set the stage to dominate Texas politics for many years to come. This said I now wish to examine three reasons why Republicans and Hispanics need each other.
I wish to share with you three main reasons why I believe that Republicans and Hispanics need each other more than they may think. Let’s begin with the most fundamental issue that confronts both groups. During the past 20 years immigration has been one of the top political issues confronting America and our state of Texas. But, regardless of how you may feel about immigration, amnesty, guest workers or border security, the truth is that Hispanics are here either as native born citizens or as legal or illegal immigrants and their numbers are growing so rapidly they will be the voters who decide future elections. This is a clearly well documented fact. Neither party will stop this progression and this growth. The wave is just beginning and in short time the Latino population will be the dominate voting bloc in America.
Many Republicans fear that the growing Hispanic population will make them an insignificant minority group. This is an utterly false assumption. Rather, the Republican Party and its members should embrace the opportunity that lies before us and welcome the Hispanics into the political party and its leadership. Not only is the Hispanic vote within the GOP’s grasp, but due to decades of neglect and abuse by the Democrat Party there growing numbers of Hispanics that are looking for a new political home just as I was back in 1980. Let me share with you a good example of what I am talking about. I received an email on my Facebook account a couple of weeks ago from a local Hispanic Democrat. I will refer to him as Mike. In his email Mike wrote this message:
“You know Raul I have deeply considered joining the Republican Party. As you know already, being self-employed helps individuals stray away from the Democratic Party since we are faulted with for our success when it comes to taxes. I can honestly say I have kept a good eye on how you have been treated by your fellow Republican peers when it comes to redistricting. I strongly feel at the end of the day, it comes down to the color of your skin…..The Democratic Party has been hurtful and the Republican Party just leaves us out to dry, at least the ones in Texas. You have no idea how many times I think about pouring money into establishing a conservative Latino party. Maybe then our people will not be left out to dry…… I apologize if I sound disrespectful, but this is the way I feel and I feel you have been shafted. There is no way I can join a party that shafts Hispanics. Good Luck with everything.”
I believe that Mike represents millions of Hispanics in Texas today. They are looking for a political home. It’s very clear to see that the party that demonstrates progress and inclusion with Hispanics will reap the political benefits that come with them. The Hispanic vote is not a vote the Republicans can afford to discard or ignore.
The Hispanic vote is not a vote the Republicans can afford to discard or ignore. The Latinos will find a home. The only question is will it be with the Republican Party or will they by default revert back to the Democrat Party?
Leslie Sanchez, author of “Los Repbulicanos,” cites in her book a October 2006 survey, that revealed that 34% of Latinos considered themselves “conservatives” a number similar to the white population. In that same survey, Latinos were 54% pro-life, more conservative than the population at large and 59% strongly support traditional marriage. When given choices and asked, “What do you think is the best strategy o begin to growing the economy again?” 56% of Hispanics said, Cut taxes.” If you ask me Hispanics that responded to that survey sound a lot like current day Republicans.
Now to point number two. Most Latinos consider education as the number one issue confronting their families. Yet, the policies of the Democratic leadership over the past 40 years have failed the Latino community. Today, Latino families face three major problems in education. According to an article that appeared in the New York Times on August 5, 2011 titled, “The Decade of Lost Children” the author says this about the state of education,
“A majority of children in all racial groups and 79 percent or more of black and Hispanic children in public schools cannot read or do math at grade level in the fourth, eighth or 12th grades.”
This issue is very prevalent in Texas where many of our Hispanic K-12 students are stuck in a system that does not teach them the basic skills such as reading and math that they need to succeed academically. According to the Excelencia in Education organization 48% of all student in Texas K-12 in 2010 were Hispanic students. These two factors added together represent a very troubling situation for Latino parents and educators throughout Texas.
The second problem is the minority dropout rate in Texas.
According to an article written in the San Antonio Express News on June 23, 2010, the author states, “Some tag the Texas high school dropout rate as high as 33 percent with speculation that the rate may be higher than 50 percent for Hispanic students.”
In another report issued by The Intercultural Development Research Association in 2010, the data showed that Hispanic students are about two times more likely to leave school without graduating with a diploma than White students.
The story is sobering. Nearly 50% of the K-12 Latino students drop out of high school for one reason or another. This is very troubling to the families and to the state of Texas. Once again Hispanics are left behind the pack.
Finally, in a report put out by the American Legislative Exchange Council titled, “Unacceptable Outcomes: A Call To Action” we learn of a third major problem. According that the report the students who do graduate from high school do so unprepared to handle the most basic college work such as reading and math. Instead students are forced to take remedial courses. This results in close to 50% of those who enter college never graduate with any type of degree or certificate plus they are forced to add thousands of dollars to their education cost with nothing to show for it at the end.
To prove this all we have to do is look at the graduation rates for Texas. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 American Community Survey, 33% of Texas adults (ages 25-64) obtained at least an associate’s degree compared to a national average of 38%, yet sadly only 16 % of Hispanics in the same age group earned an associate degree or higher. This is truly a deep concern for the Hispanic community and for the future prosperity of the state of Texas.
The final reason why Republican and Hispanics need each other is because both groups are so much alike in their values and beliefs. Despite these similarities there are many Republicans who choose to reject their allies, people like me, either because we look differently or because we come from different backgrounds. When you see a Hispanic what you are seeing is a Republican on the inside. Yet, the immigration issue will be the one issue that the Democrats will use to divide both groups and the truly sad part of this is that the Republicans have allowed this to happen for the past 40 years. Both the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Texas have failed over the years to properly communicate a strong message that gives Hispanics hope they are welcomed into the party. Rather, the Democrat Party has won the message battle and today seems to influence millions of Latinos all over America.
How much longer will the Republican Party allow this to take place? Why do Republicans insist on handling their Hispanic outreach efforts the same old way its been done for 40 years and expect a different outcome? Albert Einstein had a word for this type of behavior. He called it “insanity.”
In conclusion, Latinos are looking for a home where their votes will not be taken for granted. Where they will be welcomed and allow to fully participate in the political process. They want to their children to have a world class education and an equal opportunity to succeed. They work hard, believe in individual freedom, they want to freely worship God, they believe in traditional marriage and in the sanctity of life. All they want is what you and I want: to provide a good quality of life for their families and a safe community for their children and grandchildren to live in.
Like most Americans, Hispanics are optimistic about their own future and that of America. I think back when I first heard Ronald Reagan. At that time, I was unemployed, I was the father of two children, and I was concerned about our family’s future. But, somehow I remember hearing him speak. His words and his enthusiasm for life gave me a renewed sense of hope. He allowed me to believe that better days were on their way and the possibility of achieving the American dream was within my grasp. President Reagan was right. Within three years, my wife and I purchased our very first home at 13% interest (that was a bargain rate at that time), but we were happy and two years later I started my very first business.
President Reagan reminded me of how great America could be if we, the people, could once again believe in ourselves. He talked about God as if he was sitting right next to me at our church service and he reminded us all of the duty we had to each other especially to those less fortunate than ourselves.
Looking forward there are two paths for Hispanics in America. One that is the path that begins with the words I have often heard from fellow Democrat friends who say to me, “Why are you a Republican? You belong with us. The Republicans are only for whites and they will only use you.” But, that path leads to nowhere. All we have to do is look back into our history books. The Democratic Party has taken the Latino vote for granted for too long and has failed to deliver on all their promises: on education, on freedom, on life, on our family values, on religious freedom, and on small business opportunities. Hispanics are fully aware now that they have been sold a box full of empty promises. It has led to a place where the only answer to our problems is to blame others for them. Millions of Latinos have for too long accepted as fact that that somehow we are victims and we are disadvantage because others hate us. All this does is enslaving us to our own fears and eventually causing us to be politically control by others rather than be free thinkers and able to choose our own destiny and standard of living in our in life.
Millions of hard working Latinos are slowly learning that the other path leads to a more hopeful and prosperous future for their families and for other Latinos in America. It gives us to the freedom to embrace and exercise those values that are deeply embedded into our culture and in our minds. It leads us to the freedom to seek the best opportunities available to us in both education and career path. The only limit we find is within ourselves and prosperity is a only a hard day’s away from being a reality.
The Republican Party should learn a good lesson that the Democratic Party has given them. Do not take for granted the Hispanic vote. Times are changing quickly and failure to embrace the Hispanic vote and find a softer tone regarding the immigration issue will produce dreadful results in the political landscape. God willing the Republican leadership will make the right decisions in 2012.
I wish to conclude by updating what Ronald Reagan said many years ago. “Latinos are Republican and they are just starting to realize it.”
You can read the original Op-ed by Rep. Torres on his website
- Raul Torres is the State Representative for District 33 located in Corpus Christi, Texas. He was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in November, 2010.