At the recent CAGOP convention, GrowElect– the new Republican political action committee to elect GOP Latinos– held a successful panel discussion workshop featuring GOP Latino electeds from all over the state.

As former Congressman Ernie Konnyu describes it in the San Jose Mercury News:

“Sitting around a quadrangle set of tables in a Hispanic leadership session were 32 elected Latino California Republicans, including two members of the state Assembly and a slew of mayors and city council members. The first question each answered was why they were Republicans.”

Some of the more notable answers were by Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velasquez and San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos.  Velasquez described growing up in the Los Angeles “barrio” where everyone waited till the first of the month for the government checks to arrive; from an early age he wanted to escape the dead end of dependence.  Ramos’ immigrant arc was similar.  A sociology degree, a law degree and public service as a school board member, probation officer then election as DA.

But when questions came in from the audience, the scripted show and tell looked momentarily like it might go off kilter.  One interlocutor asked, “What about the immigration bill?”  And suddenly, a lull as the 32 electeds took a breath as if wondering collectively, “Who’s gonna touch that one?”

Then, one of the 32 took the bait.  And punted.  He said– to paraphrase, “Polling shows that Latinos aren’t that interested in immigration.  They are much more focused on jobs and economic growth.”  True enough, if you’re reading only one outdated poll.

In the real world, immigration reform is a necessary but not sufficient issue for the broad Latino demographic.  If CA Democrats successfully target CA Republicans as the anti-immigration (and by inference anti-Latino) party, the CAGOP may not recover in our lifetime.

In fact, a comprehensive recent review of polling by Latino Decisions argues that a Pete Wilson era “Prop 187 Effect” was the beginning of a long electoral slide for CA Republicans.  The academics  argue– with a cornucopia of data– that the decline of the CA GOP began with energized Latino voters who turned against the GOP after the Prop 187 debacle.

The “Prop 187 Effect” was clearly the nail in Meg Whitman’s coffin.  2010 tracking polls show Whitman and Brown  neck in neck till the Aldridge-managed Latino houskeeper controversy erupted.  The tight race widened and Brown won handily.  Behind the curtain, polling shows that Pete Wilson as co-chair of Whitman’s campaign was poison for CA Latinos.

Recent national polling (slides 15-17) shows that Latinos will blame the GOP by a 69% margin if comprehensive immigration fails, with 65% of Latinos having an undocumented friend or family member.  The conclusion: A “Prop 187 Effect” may be the death knell of the national GOP.

The Coming Attack on CAGOP Anti-immigration Incumbents

The LA Times published an article on the Democrats targeting Miller, here, handicapping potential rivals.

Recently, MoveOn released a push poll showing Miller  “vulnerable.”  While MoveOn’s “poll” is of questionable merit, it was linked to fund-raising to oust Miller and  telegraphs a concerted attack on CAGOP anti-immigration incumbents.  Miller is merely low hanging fruit.

The Latino Decisions report is a game plan for targeting Denham, Miller, and McKeon (slides 13-14) as well as Morell, Nestande, Gorell, Linder and Nielsen (slides 21-22).

In a district skewed towards a 49% Latino demographic Miller is not an ideal CAGOP candidate: he makes it especially difficult for himself because he has taken a hard line on immigration in the past.

Absent a courageous and vocal makeover on CIR (comprehensive immigration reform) which might include joining a CA congressional caucus with other pro-CIR Republicans, Miller should pull out of the 2014 race in favor of a GrowElect candidate.  That way, the CAGOP has a shot at winning the seat for a Latino Republican.

A Tough Question

The racial-ethnic politics Democrat’s have mastered has a long history.  But waves of immigrants have always first elected representatives from the national tribe, then,  maturing politically, each wave has broken out of ethnicity into the American mainstream.  CA Republicans should not play the Democrats racial-ethnic game.  Our DNA is assimilation.  Still, pragmatism should prevail.

Political scientists tell us that partisan identity among immigrant groups is formed over a cycle of several elections, and that once formed, the identity is unalterable for generations.

If Democrats replace vulnerable incumbents like Miller with left wing redistibutionists, it will be difficult to dislodge them.  Especially if the rest of the Republican Party either supports the dinosaurs or stands down.

The tough question everyone was too polite ask of the 32 GrowElect candidates at the convention was one I’ve heard asked privately.  When is a GrowElect candidate going to grow a set of “cojones de bronce” and go on a dinosaur hunt?  Not to play redistributionist ethnic-racial politics on a field constructed by Democrats, but by offering a seat at the table where American values, American prosperity and American social opportunities exist for all.

An Existential Necessity?

If the future of the CAGOP really is at stake and Latino voters an existential necessity, waiting patiently for a farm team to mature and move up from water boards, school boards, city councils and mayoral positions in small cities may be waiting till the party no longer exists.

Ted Cruz and Tea Party anti-immigrant activists have “cojones de bronce.”  Will a GrowElect candidate grow a pair before it’s too late and go after both the racial-ethnic politics of the Democrats and the soon-to-be-dispatched dinosaurs like Miller?