In recent months, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has been the primary focus of Hispanic ire. But before Brewer signed Arizona's controversial immigration bill, her popularity among likely voters in her own party was waning as well.
In mid April, Brewer had a mere 26% approval rating among likely GOP voters. This was attributed to the fact that she advocated a state sales tax increase, a position that didn't sit too well with those in her own party. But after Brewer signed Arizona's immigration bill (SB1070), her approval ratings went through the roof and have remained there ever since.
On CNN, Governor Brewer met with Anchor John King to discuss Arizona's law and the possible fallout that may occur with the Hispanic community. King asked Governor Brewer the following question:
"You're right, the majority of the people in your state, the majority of the people nationally said they support this new law, but if you look at polling, the standing of Republicans among young Latino voters, and that population is growing dramatically especially in your state; we asked in the MBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 'who do you want to control Congress after the election?'
Democrats have a 35 point advantage over Republicans among Latino voters. Other numbers have shown the Republican Party suffering among them. Do you worry about that as a Republican politician, that in the short term this might help you, but that your party is digging a ditch?"
Governor Brewer responded that she wanted Latinos to know that Republicans embrace them and their ways. However, the reality is that Arizona's actions in the past month cast real doubt on the sincerity of the GOP embrace.
On April 24th, Jan Brewer signed an immigration law that makes illegal immigration a state crime. This caused a crazy controversy in the Hispanic community for weeks. And before the dust could settle, Brewer was at work signing a bill that prohibits the teaching of ethnicity classes that aren't open to students of all races. As an aside, opening ethnic classes to all races became a serious issue for Republicans ever since Dolores Huerta, a Hispanic civil rights teacher, told Hispanic students that "Republicans hate Latinos".
And not to be outdone by the Governor Brewer, the Arizona Department of Education recently told school districts that teachers who spoke English ungrammatically or with heavy accents would be removed from their classes until they could demonstrate proficiency. As expected, this didn't go over so well either.
While in their own right, each of these issues could be legitimately argued by reasonable people, the idea to propose all of them within a two-month window leaves the eerie impression that the Hispanic community has a big target on their back. If this is what Governor Brewer means by the warm GOP embrace, I would hate to see their cold shoulder.
During the 2008 presidential election, 57% of Hispanic voters registered as Democrats while only 23% registered as Republicans. Doing the math, if twice as many Latinos are registered as Democrats than Republicans, then it stands to reason the greater the increase in the Hispanics population, the greater the increase in the Democrat party. Well, this is exactly what's happening.
Between 2000 and 2006, Hispanics accounted for half of the nation's overall growth, and it tripled the rate of the U.S. population as a whole. Based upon current trends, U.S. Census Bureau has also estimated that Hispanics will make up nearly 20% of the entire U.S. population by 2020. This is a serious problem for the GOP unless they can learn how to reach out to the Hispanic community in a more sensible way.
Texas has been a red state since the late 70s. Republicans have relied on the Lone Star State to provide them a weighty 34 electoral votes (triple the amount of Wisconsin) during recent presidential elections. But as the demographics in Texas begin to change, the Lone Star State may no longer be a guarantee for the GOP.
In Texas, Latinos make up 36% of the population. The Census Bureau predicts that by 2020, Hispanics will become the majority population in Texas. Couple this with the fact that in the 2008 election, all of the counties in Texas with a Hispanic population density above 70% went to Barack Obama (with the single exception of Hudspeth County), and we seem to have a problem. As the Hispanic population in Texas continues to grow, it will eventually become a blue state.
If the GOP fails in their fight for the soul of the Hispanic community, it will be one of the biggest political blunders in American politics. As Governor Brewer touched upon earlier, the philosophy of the Hispanic community is centered around Roman Catholicism, conservative social values, and a devotion to a traditional family structure. The soul of our community already lies in the bed of conservatism, but Democrats have been more successful at selling the idea that the GOP is a party more interested in wealthy white men than poor minorities. And sad to say, the rhetoric surrounding the immigration debate only reinforces this viewpoint.
Most people agree, with the exception of perhaps Christina Neumann-Ortiz, that we need to secure our borders. As someone wisely said, "A nation without borders is like a house without walls." And just as you protect your home with durable doors and powerful padlocks, we need to protect our country with effective borders. The point is, if immigrants can slip through a porous border by the millions, then so can terrorist networks like Al Qaeda or the Taliban. This presents a serious systemic risk to our national security.
A more divisive issue, of course, is what to do with illegal immigrants that are already here contributing to the agricultural and dairy sectors of the U.S. economy? Since many of them have entered the country illegally to join families who are established as legal residents, there is a component of human compassion that shouldn't be overlooked when considering viable solutions.
At this juncture is where the GOP starts nipping at the hand that feeds. The more conservative voices of the GOP loudly oppose amnesty, but they often misappropriate the term when criticizing legislative proposals. Amnesty is a blanket-pardon free from all penalties or retribution, but Republicans have used it to apply to anything involving a pathway to citizenship. For instance, legislative attempts like the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007" put conditions on a pathways to citizenship like learning English, having no criminal history, paying back taxes, and paying a $2,000 fine. But according to the hard right, this proposal was dubbed as amnesty even though it clearly contained punitive components.
It is my fear that by the time the GOP finally understands that short-term gains of inciting their base are not worth the long-term setbacks of making the Hispanic community a permanent foe, it might be too late. The GOP has an excellent opportunity to reach out to the Hispanic community even as we speak. In the state of New Mexico, the Republican nominees for governor and lieutenant governor, Susana Martinez and John Sanchez respectively, are both Hispanic. The fact they've survived the primary election on a GOP ticket speaks volumes about the conservative voters in New Mexico. And if this Latino duo beats their Democrat opponents, they can demonstrate loudly that the GOP's tent is large enough to house the Hispanic community. But until then, the GOP shouldn't bite the Hispanic hand that will feed it for generations to come.