The conservative Hispanic Leadership Network, whose most prominent figure is former Florida governor Jeb Bush, is meeting in Florida today. Politico reports, “One strategist involved in the session called it a preliminary ‘gathering of the minds’ focused on ‘the importance of Hispanics, looking forward to 2014 and beyond.’ ” Free advice may be worth what you pay for it, but here are 10 suggestions:
1. Stop having meetings among yourselves. The GOP has been discussing its Hispanic problem for years, but meetings and high-profile conferences get news coverage but are largely unhelpful.
2. Work with the well-regarded Republican State Leadership Committee. The RSLC has already launched a project to recruit Hispanic Republicans for state and local governments. This is critical not only in building the Republican National Committee’s bench but in bringing politically savvy young Hispanics with their political teams and community know-how into the party.
3. Put something on paper. If not detailed legislation, jump-start immigration reform by laying out common-sense principles on which a majority of Republicans can agree. This will encourage boldness, one would hope.
4. Provide some hard, reliable polling data. Why are Hispanics averse to the GOP? What do Republican voters (not talk show hosts and bloggers) think about issues like “a pathway to citizenship”?
5. Get some heavy hitters on board. You need high-profile conservatives to champion immigration reform. Unless some prominent elected leaders are willing to move ahead on immigration reform and in presenting the wider conservative agenda to Hispanic voters, it just isn’t going to get traction. More to the point, the effort needs some leaders whose conservative credentials are impeccable to provide cover for those going out on a limb. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)? Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)?
6. Enlist a respected think tank. Pro-immigration conservatives are badly in need of research and ideological ammunition to explain why immigration reform is a conservative issue and how law and order is advanced by immigration reform. Amity Shlaes and others are already at work on the “Four Percent Growth” project that aims to make the economic argument for increased immigration.
7. Sit down with Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates. They could use some counsel and guidance before they go out on the campaign trail. As we get closer to 2016, get all the serious presidential contenders in a room and see if they can agree not to bait one another from the right on immigration. If nothing else, try to impress upon them the importance of tone and word choice. Remarkably, some well-meaning candidates don’t understand, for example, how “self-deportation” sounds to Hispanic Americans.
8. Encourage and assist conservatives in gaining access to Hispanic media. Getting names and faces into Hispanic communities may seem elementary, but it just hasn’t been done.
9. Make the message to Hispanic voters match the message to all voters who’ve been turned off by the GOP: This is not the party of the rich but the party to allow you to find your own way to prosperity. It values upward mobility, strong families and communities, school choice, and solving today’s debt problem so future generations don’t start off life with the weight of debt and a barrier to achieving a better standard of living than their parents.
10. Stop having meetings among yourselves. I say this twice because it is critical. Hire some young, new, media-savvy political operatives and get to work. Go recruit five or 10 prominent conservatives (include governors who are generally better liked and more in touch with the impact of both legal and illegal immigration) committed to introducing immigration reform, not just talking about it. Really, how many elections will the GOP have to lose before it gets its act together?