Strolling through the Hyatt Regency after dinner Friday at the CRP convention, I heard the sound of the Latino Republican Revolution, the rhythmic, infectious and joyous music of a mariachi band on the second floor bridge leading to the Orange County Lincoln Club party.
Upstairs the band was in full mariachi mode. Dressed in subdued tan uniforms with spangled pants and enormous, identical rhinestone-studded bow ties, three violinists, a trumpeter, a bass guitar and a vihuela rhythm guitarist played. The advance man had done his homework. This band was good. Foot tapping good.
I asked them to play Malagueña Salerosa the classic Mexican love song covered by the band Chingon for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Vol. Two. The song is dear to me, I played it endlessly at my father’s funeral in the tiny, rural pueblo in Mexico where he died. Two versions of the song tell the story of the rise of Latinos in America and the great promise of a conservative Latino Republican future in America.
The classic version of Malagueña I grew up with is plaintive and romantic. A poor young man is in love with a beautiful girl from Malaga, Spain. He has nothing to offer by his heart, pure and good and his hands, willing to work. In Kill Bill a wild, rocking Americanized version so excited Tarantino that he developed a credit sequence based on it. Malagueña is an example of assimilation writ large.
And GROW Elect— a political startup that elected 30 Latino Republicans in the disastrous 2012 cycle in CA—is the political equivalent of the Malagueña phenomena.
GROW Elect is a very big deal in California, and perhaps nationally.
Inside the OC Lincoln Club suite, I met several GROW Elect candidates. One had won the mayor’s race in Hollister with a $1,500 GROW Elect contribution that allowed a last mailing that tipped the balance. The Hon. Ignacio Velasquez, MBA is a Latino Republican to keep your eye on.
Two City of Lynwood officials, newly elected Treasurer Edwin Hernandez and planning commissioner Marvin Aceves are also newcomers.
Another candidate to watch is Cecelia “Ceci” Iglesias, Santa Ana School Board member who has been annoying—and frightening—Democrats since she threw down against Loretta Sanchez in 2009. Democrat bloggers called her “a Republican tool”, incensed that a Latina broke from left-progressive race politics and ran as an independent conservative. Ceci is a smart, focused lady to watch.
Rocky Chávez, (R, Oceanside) our newly elected assemblyman from AD76 spoke at the public GROW Elect event on Saturday and at a small gathering of Bay Area delegates later. At the public forum he painted a picture of waves of plucky immigrants crossing the Atlantic for freedom and opportunity, and a parallel wave crossing America’s southern border. In the more intimate setting Rocky spoke of standing on the shoulders of giants like Abel Maldonado and of being “just a soldier following the point men.”
Rocky’s humility notwithstanding, he is an important addition to the CA GOP team. You don’t become a 28-year Marine Corps Colonel and Chief of Staff for the 4th Marine Division without serious leadership skills. Rocky echoed Maldonado’s quip about feeling like a leprechaun as a Latino Republican, “You’ve heard they exist but have never met one.” On that laugh line, Rocky asked Abel to say a few words.
Abel Maldonado recently trial-ballooned a run for governor. The responses are not in yet but a Latino Republican against Brown or Newsom is a watershed event. Of course, GOP primaries would have to clear the field of Neanderthals first. But this primary battle would invigorate the party. My sense is that like the Dhillon vs Stanhope fight, it would be a decisive 80/20 win against anti-immigrant and coded anti-Latino impulses.
Other Fox & Hounds writers have spoken of a split amongst Latino Republicans on the thorny immigration issues. The OC Lincoln Club three point program is an excellent first step; secure borders, guest worker program, smart card IDs. Republicans should unite around these goals.
But the really tough issue of 2.5 million illegals currently in California will have to be addressed—by Latino Republican’s themselves. There is no way funders, consultants, pollsters or the political class can decide this critical issue for a community that must be fully integrated into the GOP for the party to survive.
As a half-Latino I’ll offer some trial balloons. The GOP should say no to citizenship for serious convicted felons and those taking gross advantage of our welfare state. A pre-condition for citizenship might be an above-ground job subject to withholding taxes for a period of time. Or a tax-paying small business. Or, paying back the drawdown of welfare state benefits through a formula.
But the bulk of the hard-working, solid-citizen “illegals” must be made full Americans, through legal channels, over time. Many blame the Democrats for the wave of “illegals” but this is a false charge. It’s all of us. We all like the cheap workers. None of us willingly do the low-status-low-pay work. Perot’s “gigantic sucking sound” has turned out to be the economic magnet that draws the courageous poor of Latin America towards us through a porous border neither Republicans nor Democrats have had the political will to control.
And it is morally indefensible to expect Latino immigrants to do this work without the possibility of assimilating and full citizenship.
They will assimilate. If we— the conservatives—welcome them fully. We need to fight hard against the multicultural leftists and the fringe “Reconquista Movement.” We need to fight hard against the Neanderthals in our own party. We need to remember that the high water mark (according to Karl Rove’s memoir) wasn’t 44% for GWB’s presidential run, it was 49% of Latinos for his last Texas governor’s race.
A 49% Latino gubernatorial goal is achievable in California. As we make room in the GOP for Latinos, they will move away from left Democrats and the welfare state handout. And the Democrats—who are cynical but not stupid— will work with us to control a border that no longer means automatic voters.
Just as Malagueña Salerosa has morphed from its crude origins in the pueblitos to the mariachi bands in gaudy costumes in Mexico’s cities and finally into the All American Kill Bill extravaganza by the Tex-Mex rock band Chingon, so too will this great wave of immigrants assimilate and become Americans.
We need to welcome these natural conservatives. And we need to get the hell out of their way.