Just a few days before the Republican Convention in Tampa starts, let me give my GOP brethren some insight to the Hispanic electorate and advice on how to appeal to the Hispanic voter.
The prevailing mood of the country is for lower taxes, efficient government, delivery of services, entitlement reform, and of course, national security. Currently, the party pushing for these issues is the GOP. These are the issues that gave the Republican Party their big wins in November 2010.
Hispanics are as varied as the population at large; they are hardly all disadvantaged victims and illegal immigrants. Hispanics are urban, rural, exurban, rich, middle class, Catholic, Protestant, straight, gay, single, married, legal, and speak English as their principal language. Many of them don't even know Spanish. And yes, many are young, many aren't citizens, and many don't vote.
Latinos may be 16 to 17 percent of the population but barely make up 9 percent of the electorate and have the lowest turnout of any major voting bloc. And though they may have major voting potential in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Albuquerque, N.M.; El Paso, Texas; and New York, their votes affect very little in Elyria, Ohio; Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio; Hinesville, Ga; or Waterloo, Iowa.
With a few exceptions, the so-called monolithic Latino vote is a paper tiger. Depending on an individual Latino's circumstances, immigration may and may not be an issue. I know as many Latino voters who are for amnesty as against it and probably more against it.
The growth of the Republican Latino electorate has come from the ranks of the college graduate, the entrepreneur, the military, and the religious faithful. The Republican message needs to be a consistent one across the board, not one to appeal to whites, another for blacks and another for Hispanics.
Republicans have to remember that Americans are basically conservative, thus the Republican message needs to be an articulate, conservative one above all. Republicans need to promote the importance of education and support the use of vouchers. They must insist on an immigration policy that enforces the law and rejects an amnesty for both illegal immigrants and employers who hire them.
Furthermore, Republicans must never lose sight of the war on America and the west that was brought to our shore on 9/11 and how we must oppose those who want to annihilate us. Withdrawal and isolation is not a solution.
The tsunami election of 2010 gave rise to a future generation of Hispanic Republican office holders including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Govs. Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval of Nevada.
Additionally, six Republican Hispanic House members from Texas, Washington, and Idaho were also elected in 2010. Cuban-American Texan Ted Cruz is likely to be another elected to the Senate this November. In the 2010 election, the GOP earned 37 percent of the Hispanic vote versus 63 percent for Democrats.
What the Latino elites perceive as a "Republican hard line" on immigration is actually more in line with the average American's view. Outside of urban areas and sanctuary cities, most American voters oppose amnesty.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan need to remind the Hispanic electorate that President Obama and his administration, not Republicans, are the ones behind the record numbers of deportations of mostly Mexican undocumented persons and the splintering of families. Obama and his party are the ones who failed to enact immigration reform when they had the chance to do so beginning in 2009 and through the present.
The Republican platform on immigration should be as follows: The status quo problem of 11 million undocumented persons took years to create and will take years to resolve. Rather than concoct a divisive, hasty, and unworkable policy, we will take time to develop a new immigration system fair to all who wish to immigrate legally to the U.S. We will not grant amnesty to 11 million people here illegally now, nor will we proceed to deport all 11 million here illegally. But unlike Obama and his party, we will solve the problem over the course of the next few years.
Obama's reelection hinges on the economy, "Obamacare," tax and entitlement reform, not on immigration, Wall Street, trade agreements, gay marriage, amnesty, etc. Like most Americans, Latinos will vote with their pocketbooks. Unemployment among Latinos is 14 percent, higher than the 8.3 percent currently for the rest of the country and not likely to improve dramatically by next November.
If you specifically ask Hispanics the rhetorical question, "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" I think I know what most would answer. Perhaps the better question would be, "How's that hope and change working for you?"
David Arredondo is the vice chairman of the Lorain County, Ohio, Republican Party. From 1973 to 1975 he was a Mexican government fellow and did postgraduate studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.
Opinions and other statements expressed by Perspectives contributors are theirs alone, not of National Journal's. Content created by third-party contributors is their sole responsibility and its accuracy is not endorsed or guaranteed.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.