The battle for Latinos in California must be joined- immediately. Without a concerted, well planned, well funded fight, the California Republican Party will become politically irrelevant as it shrinks from 30% registration.
An imploding CRP will not just mean an ”immigrant-friendly” multicultural and social welfare agenda with higher taxes pushed by the far left. Worse, “moderate-Democrats” will be the only quasi-conservative response. Whatever sanity survives in Sacramento, the entire game will be played within the Democratic Party. Assembly and Senate Republicans might as well go home.
Unless Republicans fight hard for Latino votes and reverse current trends.
Three things are needed: First, recognition of the scope of the problem and a commitment to change, second, new poltical ideas and third, resources.
The Chicano Movement, past its glory days of the 1960s-70s still successfully promotes a political culture of victimization with lasting subterranean appeal. Although the CRP must disaggregate, social statistics for Hispanics (employment, education, wealth) are far below the CA mean, creating fertile ground. Chicano Studies Departments from Stanford and UCB on down promote a history of oppression arguably distorted, but true enough to get the electoral job done for Democrats.
Blind to the reality of anti-Latino racism (1930s forced repatriations, 1954s Operation Wetback, etc.), Republicans remain the plump target for historical enmity drummed up by the radical academic left. Political scientists say that once an immigrant group votes in several elections, their party identity is fixed. It is critical that Republicans fight for the hearts and minds of Latino immigrants.
Republicans are the party of Lincoln, with a proud history of moral conscience. Republicans must reject immigrant bashing, pistol-packing demagogues and reach beyond the comfort zone of suburban demographics to embrace Hispanics. Easy enough to embrace a Marco Rubio, but that’s not the fat part of the electoral bell curve.
Latinos are in roughly the same position as the “unassimilatable” Irish were in 1900s Tammany New York. The mass of CA Hispanics are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. The CRP must appeal to educated, middle class and business-owning Hispanics, but that’s not enough. To cede the Latino masses to Democrat political machines is to insure decades of electoral irrelevance.
The Democrat-progressive strategy for the Latino base is twofold; generous, taxpayer-funded handouts and perverse multiculturalism. The handouts feed the immigrant social body while multiculturalism— an inverted flattery of fawning “respect” for historical victim status— feeds (and poisons) the Latino soul. Republicans can do better.
Republicans must offer what the social body of immigrants need; good schools, good infrastructure, economic opportunity, efficient government with a robust social safety net but not a cradle-to-grave welfare state. And Republicans must be willing to pay the freight, without fiscal dodges. But while Republicans should offer fewer goodies, they can offer far more nourishing food for the Hispanic soul. Here, smart messaging and a deep understanding of Latin American history and immigrant aspirations is crucial. Some potential messaging points, undeveloped for lack of space:
1) Republicans must fight fawning left-multiculturalism as a form of poisonous paternalistic racism, substituting the strong worth ethic and family values inherent in Latino culture.
2) Republicans must argue against corrupt socialist-elitist hybrid regimes from which immigrants fled, asking, “Where will your grandchildren flee when America is a socialist-crony-capitalist?”
3) Republicans—as the CA education party—have a huge advantage over Democrats in bed with teacher unions. Latinos go to the worst schools in CA; an education plan with charter schools, cutbacks to unions and modestly increased funding will create a groundswell of support and put the Ds on the defensive. If Rs don’t fix schools with modest funding, Ds will “fix” schools, raise taxes drastically and pay off the unions.
4) Republicans need a nuanced immigration policy. Border chaos and recurring amnesty are not necessary. A new well-paid ag-construction Bracero Program with a managed border encouraging return for temp-worker wealth holders is one answer. A military-public-service path to citizenship is another. Both could be part of a compromise insuring legality with assimilation for Latinos who chose full naturalization. But an honest debate about immigration will take place only when Republicans begin to win substantial Latino votes. Democrats will think twice about mass, recurring amnesties that don’t necessarily benefit their party. And, with swelling rolls, Republicans may say, “Yes, let the Latinos in.”
Caution! What Republicans must NOT do is offer Hispanics bland nostrums no longer compelling to independents, libertarians or even the party faithful. Most current outreach attempts lack insight, passion and specificity. Post-election debacle, Romney/Ryan free market platitudes make persuadable CA Latinos yawn… or laugh, embarrassed that Republicans are so obtuse.
The Grand Old Party can do better.
Republicans must craft a New Latino-American Dream that makes sense, that lays out a path for struggling immigrants to the middle through work, family, education and sane government but that is also visionary and welcoming. When Latinos discover that Republicans fully understand them, fully embrace them and have policies both practical and visionary to offer, they will abandon the party of the free lunch and victim status and join the GOP, first by the dozens and then by the droves.