Resurgent Republic and the Hispanic Leadership Network are out with a post-election survey of Hispanics in four swing states — Florida, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. The results are not pretty for the Republican Party:
The results make clear the size of the hole Republicans have dug among Hispanic voters over the past eight years. At a time of growing Hispanic influence in the electorate, Mitt Romney received the lowest percentage of the Hispanic vote of any Republican presidential nominee in a two-candidate election since Watergate. . . . 2012 white voters made up 72 percent of the national electorate and non-white voters constituted 28 percent, the highest in history. In 2012 Hispanics constituted 10 percent of the national electorate, up from 9 percent in 2008. That is a sign of things to come.
And right now the signs point to great antipathy toward GOP candidates. (“Hispanic voters say the Republican Party does not respect the values and concerns of the Hispanic community by 51 to 44 percent in Florida, 54 to 40 percent in New Mexico, 59 to 35 percent in Nevada, and 63 to 30 percent in Colorado.”)
The bad news is that Hispanics dislike GOP positions on immigration and its other views. (“Democrats lead not only in traditionally Democratic areas like education, women’s rights, and social issues, but also on traditionally Republican issues like deficit reduction, the economy, and helping small businesses. Democrats also hold wide advantages on supporting legal immigration, and caring about the middle class, while Republicans have a wide lead on caring primarily about helping the rich.”)
There is a ray of light, however: “Winning at least 40 percent of the Hispanic vote can make the difference between winning and losing these four states, all of which Obama carried. In a close election, winning battleground states with large and growing Hispanic populations make the difference between winning and losing the Presidency.” There are also large pluralities of Hispanics who share conservative views on taxes, the debt, government spending, regulations and fairness (preferring government to promote “opportunity” rather than narrow the gap between rich and poor). Moreover, conservative leaders such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) (53 percent favorable to 35 unfavorable) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) (49 percent favorable to 37 percent unfavorable) have high favorable ratings among their home-state constituents who presumably know them best.
The temptation for Republicans is to throw up their hands, declare they can’t win Hispanic voters even if they change rhetoric or position on immigration, and continue on their appeal (primarily to rich, white voters). This would be conceding the demise of the GOP. (“Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters. For the fifth time in the past six presidential elections, Republicans lost the popular vote. Trying to win a national election by gaining a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate is a losing political proposition.”)
Moreover, that attitude ignores two factors: 1) The rhetoric and positioning on immigration may well color the entire view of the GOP for not only Hispanics but other ethnic minorities and prevent serious consideration of other Republican policy positions. (Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), among others, shares this view) and 2) The same problems that hamper Republicans with Hispanics (“cares about people like me”) hinders appeal to voters at all economic levels and ethnic backgrounds.
I’ve written a number of times on immigration, so let me focus on the second of these for now. On caring about people, Republicans in this regard may be missing a large chunk of the electorate both because of policy stances (support for big business, support for lower tax rates for the “rich”) and because too many Republicans talk at a theoretical level, using economic buzzwords. They fail to express empathy for and design programs and positions that illustrate the salience of conservative values and vision for those who are not at the top of the economic ladder. President George W. Bush was very effective in this regard.
School choice, for example, is not simply about “breaking the grip of the teachers union” or “ending the monopoly of public schools.” It is not merely a matter of putting free-market principles to work in the education field. It is about giving every child opportunity so that, as Condi Rice put it, your zip code doesn’t determine your education and your future. It is about valuing every citizen and improving the lives of poor kids, mostly minorities trapped in rotten schools. A conservative thinker put it this way: “The Democrats are standing in the school room door refusing to let minority kids out.”
Until Republicans learn to apply conservative values to policies that benefit people and don’t simply line up with ideological stances, they will continue to lose elections. They personally must be candidates whom average voters can relate to in some aspect (immigrant story, self-made person, overcoming adversity) and offer policies relevant to voters’ lives. And with Hispanic voters, it would be good to stop using language that is offensive and characterizes human beings (many of whom have been our neighbors, friends and co-workers for years and years) as chattel to be herded out of the country. No wonder Republicans are losing national elections.