The Koch brothers are sinking big money into an expanding effort to win over Latino voters in the 2016 cycle with a simple message: Don’t go with the party that will make you reliant on government. Vote Republican instead.
Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s intended to make a broader point that I hope to illustrate below.
Ashley Parker of the New York Times reports that the conservative billionaire Kochs are helping to bankroll a multi-million-dollar effort to reach out to Latino voters, called the Libre Initiative, that is meant to fill a vacuum left by the Republican Party, which the group thinks has failed miserably in this outreach mission. The Times sums up the group’s message this way: “economic freedom and smaller-government principles will yield opportunity and prosperity.”
The Libre Initiative, which is wooing Latino voters in part by giving them Thanksgiving turkeys and an array of community services, seems to be evolving into a substantial presence. The Times reports that it has as many as 70 employees in nine swing states, is funded in part by an organization of Koch network donors, and is expected to spend over $9 million in this cycle.
The group supports comprehensive immigration reform, putting it at odds with the overall posture of the Republican Party, not to mention the GOP presidential candidates, who have lurched so far to the right on immigration that the RNC’s 2012 autopsy counseling a more welcoming posture towards Latinos is nothing but a dim, distant memory. However, suggests the Times, support for immigration reform might not be enough to win over Latinos, who could be alienated by the group’s — and the GOP’s — position on the Affordable Care Act and other issues:
The group has also drawn the ire of some Hispanic and immigration advocacy groups by raising concerns about some of President Obama’s more sweeping executive actions on immigration, and by pouring money into House races to help defeat two Hispanic lawmakers — Pete P. Gallego of Texas and Joe Garcia of Florida, both Democrats — because they supported the president’s health care plan, among other issues Libre opposes.
But the group, in providing services to Latinos, hopes to get them to abandon their support for the Democratic Party by persuading them to embrace a limited government vision instead:
These community services speak to what the group says is its core mission — to provide Hispanics with the tools to lift themselves toward the American dream of economic freedom and success, while also showing them that they do not need to rely on the government to succeed.
“At the end of the day, we want Hispanics to prosper, to be self-reliant, to achieve their full potential,” said Ivette Fernandez, national director of the Libre Institute, which is running a pilot program to help people study for and pass G.E.D. exams. “So we felt it was very important to be able to educate them on those principles the country is based on.”
The trouble with all this is that Latinos tend to support the overall Democratic governing vision — and not the Republican one — when it comes to economic issues and health care, too.
— 56 percent of Hispanics polled said the Democratic Party is more in line with their views on economic policy and job creation. Only 22 percent said that of the GOP.
— 64 percent of Hispanics polled viewed Obama favorably, and 59 percent said they were satisfied with his presidency.
— Only 36 percent of Hispanics polled viewed the GOP favorably. By contrast, 68 percent viewed the Democratic Party favorably.
What’s more, the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll has consistently found that a majority of Hispanics view the Affordable Care Act favorably. While there may be a downswing right now in favorable Latino views of the ACA, previous downswings have been regularly followed by subsequent upswings. The point is that Latinos have consistently viewed the health law more favorably than the overall American public has — for years now.
This has historically proven frustrating for Republicans. After the 2012 election, Mitt Romney complained that Barack Obama had beaten him in part with “free” government giveaways to core constituencies, including “free health care” to Hispanics in the form of Obamacare, as if Dem policies are little more than dependence-fostering government handouts designed to buy voter loyalty. Romney had used similar “free stuff” rhetoric during the campaign, and ended up performing abysmally among Latino voters.
If the Koch-funded group’s core message is that Democratic economic and health care policies produce an over-reliance on government — whereas scaling back government and unleashing the power of free enterprise are the only true solutions to maximizing opportunity and self-realization for Latinos — it would not be surprising if many of them end up rejecting its fundamental animating principles this time around, too.