The GOP Embracing Latinos

I had the privilege of addressing the Republican Party’s Growth and Opportunity Project these past few weeks on how the party can better connect with Hispanic voters. Whether well meaning or otherwise, the Republican Party has been gravely ineffectual in the past in adequately engaging and capitalizing on the vitality and strength of the Latino communities.

Many of us active within the Republican Party have long been frustrated by this. Many a brave Republican leader have now stepped up to help repair the damage of the past and to help guide us forward to a vital and integrated American future that includes the full strength of our Latino communities. Praise goes to Sean Hannity, John Boehner, Marco Rubio, John McCain, Jeff Flake, among others.

Despite public perceptions, the majority of Republicans embrace Hispanic communities. Nevertheless, we must be vigilant to ensure that the Party’s conviction to include Latinos is successful and does not degenerate into empty public relations tactics and tokenism.

Republicans do believe that Hispanics should be treated decently and fairly. For example, a FOX News poll of January 15-17 found that 56 percent of Republicans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants while only 22 percent support full deportation.

On the other side, in a Latino Decisions poll taken February 15-26, 44 percent of Latino voters said that they would be more likely to vote GOP if the Republican Party took a leadership role in passing comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. If the GOP took a leadership role in blocking it, 33 percent of Latino Republicans said that they would be less likely to vote for the party.

It is the time to resolve immigration issues and strengthen America now and for the future by focusing instead on economic and educational development and better heath care for the Hispanic communities.

The tail of my Party has for too long wagged the entire dog. Republicans leaders are now saying that we must focus on the inclusion and engagement of Hispanics within our ranks and at the ballot box. To do this, we must first and foremost respect and value the Latino communities.

Latinos were a part of the broad national coalition that reelected President Obama and extended the Democrats’ control of the U.S. Senate. This coalition was overwhelmingly comprised of ethnic minority support and 39% of white voters. Mitt Romney held Obama to the lowest share of the white vote since Walter Mondale in Ronald Reagan’s historic landslide reelection in 1984 and the Democrat still won the presidency in 2012.

National Republican Chairman Reince Preibus has appropriately noted that Republicans need more votes from communities that normally have not supported Republicans, especially from the Latino communities, which is the largest ethnic minority group.

The opportunities for the GOP have been there and were widely and conscientiously ignored. The Republican Party has not nurtured Hispanics enough to bear significant fruit.

GOP pollster Whit Ayres found that substantial Latino voters in Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada - four states with significant Latino populations - consider themselves conservative (44%, 38%, 47% and 40%, respectively). Nevertheless, only 39%, 23%, 29% and 25%, respectively, voted for Romney over Obama. That is an average depreciation of 13 points per state! This doesn’t take into account moderate voters who could have chosen to vote for the Republican nominee.

Note that the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that the Latino vote will double by 2030 to comprise 20% of the electorate.

At stake for the Latino community is a foothold in both major political parties where the community’s voice can effectively influence issues that impact Latinos.

At stake for Republicans is robust diversity that can invigorate our ranks and help propel government that is appropriately limited, strong on defense and public safety, which helps strengthen families, and allows our nation’s prodigious economic machine the liberty to continue to power our greatness.

In order to accomplish this, the Republican Party must invest more towards persuading Latino voters to support the GOP and its candidates and learn how to better connect with Latino voters.

How does the GOP do this?

One sterling model is the work of the Conservative Party of Canada. They turned five years of inclusion/outreach into a majority government in 2011, after two successive minority governments. They did so through aggressive ethnic minority outreach, specifically micro-targeting in 30 political districts, winning two-thirds of those races.

The crux of the outreach program was participating in ethnic minority community events, breaking bread with these communities, and working with them to address their specific issues.

At election time, the Conservatives capitalized on the generated goodwill through bilingual campaign ads showcased in ethnic media. The Conservatives have been so successful that, in some areas, the majority of the campaign volunteers have been ethnic minorities.

There is a lot at stake in the coming years. Latinos and Republicans both have significant interest in ensuring that our great nation is as prosperous and safe as it has always been.

The Latino communities now find themselves with ever increasing political clout. Republicans need to leverage that in order to survive as a Party and promote the common good.

Manual A. Rosales is the National Chairman of the Latino National Republican Coalition. He is a business and political consultant in the Washington, DC area and the Associate Administrator (2001 - 2007) of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade.

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