Yesterday, the Pew Hispanic Center released a polling data indicating that two-thirds, or 65 percent, of Latino registered voters say they plan to support the Democratic candidate in their local congressional district. Meanwhile a couple of articles have appeared in recent weeks authored by conservative pundits attempting to convince Latino voters that they should “rethink” their party loyalty.
The first one appeared in Politico. Joel Kotkin accused Latino Democrats of “mindlessly following” Democratic leaders, suggested that Latino Democratic politicians have no “independent thoughts,” and called Latino Democratic politics “dysfunctional.” After belittling the Latino electorate and the Latino lawmakers that represent it, Kotkin suggested that the solution might be to start embracing “growth-oriented Democrats and enlightened Republicans”:
As Latinos become a critical part of our emerging economy, they need to develop a policy agenda that focuses less on old-style, machine ethnic politics and more on the critical issue of upward mobility.
Latino voters might also consider avoiding the African-American one-party model by embracing both growth-oriented Democrats and enlightened Republicans. This is most likely to increase their political leverage, while creating a politics that supports their most fundamental interests.
The second article appeared today in the National Review. The author, Dennis Prager, had two messages — one for Latinos illegally living in the U.S. and another for “legal” ones. “If America opened its borders to all those who wish to live here, hundreds of millions of people would come in. That would, of course, mean the end of the United States economically and culturally,” explained Prager to undocumented Latinos. Prager later asserted, “Democrats will act as your defenders, telling you that opposition to your presence here is race-based. There is no truth to that…you have come to the least racist place on earth.”
Prager’s second message to Latinos who are legally living in the U.S. was two-fold: “First, while many of you understandably sympathize with the plight of fellow Latinos who are here illegally, you surely must understand that America cannot afford unlimited illegal immigration. […] For your sake as well as America’s, please do not succumb to the politics of victimization.” Prager also told Latino voters, “by voting for Democratic candidates, you are voting for a type of government more like the ones most Latinos fled.”
Kotkin at least acknowledges that the GOP has contributed to its own isolation, lamenting the “party’s increasing embrace of its noisy nativist right.” Nonetheless, rather than recommending the Republican Party adopt a more welcoming immigration policy, Kotkin argues that Latinos should consider embracing the GOP in spite of its immigration platform and Prager seems to suggest they should go as far as embracing the party’s platform itself. Kotkin assures Latinos it will improve their economic situation. Prager simply warns that “a vote for the Democratic party is a vote to undo the great American achievement of uniting the children of immigrants from all over the world as Americans.” Neither claim is very convincing.
The reality is that the hostile and obstructionist approach that many, if not most, Republicans have adopted towards immigrants has touched every corner of the Latino community. It has promoted the separation of Latino families through increased enforcement measures. It has pushed relatives in Latin America who want to be reunited with their loved-ones in the U.S. to the back of an endless visa line or through a perilous journey across the border. It has lowered the wages and working conditions of all Latinos who work side-by-side undocumented workers. It has led to the widespread demonization of the Latino population as a whole. And, with the passage of SB-1070, it threatens to further expose Latinos to racial and ethnic profiling.
The majority of Democrats support comprehensive immigration reform as way to remedy this problem. Not a single Republican has jumped on board. Instead, they have blocked legislation at the federal level while pushing enforcement-only bills on the local level that will make life even harder for all Latinos. Simply put, Latinos have turned their back on the GOP with good reason. However, that doesn’t mean that Democrats should assume the Latino vote is in the bag. The Pew survey also found that among Latino registered voters, Republicans may be more likely to turn out and vote.