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God and Family: Rubio, Republicans and the Latino Vote

edbell | 30 June, 2012 11:34

The Pew Hispanic Center highlights some serious issues for Republicans in November's elections regarding the perceptions and voting tendencies of Latinos.  A recent ImpreMedia poll shows that Latino citizens will vote overwhelmingly for President Obama in 2012, barring an unforeseen event or truly damning statements between spring of 2012 and the November Election.  70% of Latino voters say they approve of Obama with 55% either certain to, or probably will vote for the President.  Gil Dominguez writing in the American Thinker opines, that voting Democrat is a deeply emotional response passed down over generations. He states, "More than once I have heard a Latino declare that he or she is "a Catholic and a Democrat" -- an incongruous marrying of the sacred and the profane. The implication is that they are no more likely to change religion than party affiliation."  The GOP must develop a workable plan to address the political imbalance now–by 2020 more than one in five children will be of Hispanic/Latino origin.

Latinos naturally share what most citizens consider conservative qualities; devotion to family, religion and a strong work ethic.  Yet, these same qualities may slow changes in political perceptions and affiliation.  A deep respect for parents in predominantly paternalistic Latino families suggests that children (even through adulthood) internalize their parents political views, even if they aren't always substantiated with facts.  Non-Latino Americans tend to overlook the powerful emotional component of family influence on political views.  According to author
Rebecca Cuevas De Caissie "As a young Hispanic, we do not look forward to the life ahead of us with thoughts of ourselves outside the family. We are not independant of the family unit. To the contrary, what are you without your family?"  As conservatives, how can any of us argue with a culture that affirms the connection to family?  Many of America's problems are traced directly to broken homes without an intact family structure.  It is uncertain if the GOP has picked up on the proper message.  Alexandra Franceschi of the RNC explains, "The Republican message is economic security, small businesses and lower taxes — things that are really going to resonate in the Latino community." Both political parties have ambitious outreach efforts in prominent Hispanic swing states, yet President Obama has a distinct advantage, his operatives have been in Latino communities for months while campaign offices in western swing states offer posters of Obama speaking at a podium with the iconic halo infused logo placed below the word "Esperanza."  It's noteworthy that "change" has been dropped from the slogan for this election–an acknowledgement that the change has not been positive.  But hope springs eternal from the glowing Obama orb, right?  

Religion is the other pillar of family life in Latino communities, the Catholic religion plays a prominent role.  Religion may also influence political views as the Catholic church embraces the social justice movement, a development not only relevant to Latinos, but to all Americans who share a strong faith.  Social justice allows government programs to supplant or supplement the benevolent works of Christians through their church. Government eschews the appeal to spiritual values and personal responsibility that makes faith-based organizations successful.  This church/state alignment could one day be a significant hurdle to those working toward limited government.  As related background to this topic, David Gayvert penned an exceptional article, Social Justice: Catholic Virtue or Trap, detailing the many instances where the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) were advocating for expansion of federal government social policies and new programs, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that propel socialist goals.  Mandates on birth control, sterilization and contraception are a wake-up call to the bishops. They suddenly see that expanded government control of health care administration willpermit said government to make the rules regarding how that health care is dispensed.  Hopefully, this controversy may influence some Latino pro-life voters as they hear the concerns on these mandates voiced by their parish priest. 

A third variable relating to Latino political perception is immigration.  The Democrat party has always considered immigration a perfect wedge issue, in essence, the third rail for Republican politicians, but that appears to be fading.  A Fox News Poll of 1200 Latinos conclude, "Nearly 50 percent said jobs and the economy were the top issues for them – a markedly smaller group, 12 percent, consider immigration a top issue when choosing the President."  This poll, in conjunction with the actual number of voters gives a better indication of how the Latino vote will influence the November election.  According to Investor's Business Daily (4/24/12), "A Pew study in 2011 found that while the number of Latino voters had grown, they still lagged far behind whites and blacks in numbers and turnout. While 16% of the population is Latino, they are only 10% of eligible voters and 7% of actual voters." A surprisingly small percentage of actual voters consider immigration the main issue, although GOP messaging and "get out the vote" is still critical as Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the United States. 

Even though the stats mentioned above appear hopeful for the GOP candidate, most politicians will avoid any legislation or discussion of immigration, if possible in 2012.  One exception is Marco Rubio.  He has been working on immigration legislation with both sides of the aisle and every organization that takes a public stance, including NumbersUSA, Heritage, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, America's Voice and the National Immigration Forum–a diverse group by any measure.  The final product will definitely offer something to anger everyone.  One item he mentions is a "light" version of the DREAM Act that would "grant them  (children of illegal aliens) "non-immigrant" visas, allowing them to stay in the country and access the existing immigration system though which they could eventually become green card holders or naturalied citizens."  Rubio is walking the high-wire on this issue and only a genuine concern for solving the problem would drive someone to place a promising future at risk.  Of course, bringing any coalition together from both parties would be a groundbreaking achievement, even after November's election.

Realistically, no legislation proposed by Republicans on immigration will pass this year, precisely because immigration will be used as a tool to keep President Obama in office.  But it's critical for Republicans, ideally Senator Rubio, to get positive national exposure for a credible plan and prove that obstruction on immigration reform is not coming from the right. 

Beyond immigration, the challenge is melding two contrasting views of life and the world.  Most conservatives look at empowering the individual and promoting self-sufficient individualism and success while promoting respect for God and country.  Latino families look to advance prospects for the family–both immediate and extended, moreso than the individual.  The operative phrase may be "for God and family." 

Republicans have an opportunity and responsibility to reach every generation of the Hispanic family this year.  On some level, each generation has had their perception poisoned over the decades by demagogues on the left and poor messaging/policies by the GOP.  The truth about Obama's economy and unemployment is a record of failure that the Republican candidate, presumably Romney, can honestly claim affects every household across every culture.  Republicans must bridge the chasm and lead on the issues that create a barrier between the party and millions of Latino families who live as Conservatives, but vote for Liberals.

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