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Mi Partido Es Tu Partido

November 9, 2010

One of the best results of the midterm election is the number of elected Republicans belonging to ethnic minorities. Allen West, Tim Scott, Marco Rubio, Susan Martinez, to name just a few, are proof of what everyone who gave it honest thought already knew: the GOP is not the party that secretly wishes a return to pre-Civil Rights Act times or — to quote President Obama — have “antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment”. What unites conservatives of all stripes — from the libertarians to the evangelical right — is a suspicion towards government activities that go beyond ensuring Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The only role that race plays in this is that it doesn’t play any role. It’s the political left that’s obsessed with race, not the right.

Now, of course, the French Cowboy has to justify why it’s noteworthy how many ethnic minority members have been elected if that is, in theory, not important. The reasons are 1) although the silliest accusations of racism won’t ever stop, some might be dampened by having a good number of Hispanics and African Americans on your team and 2) — this is the more important reason — potential GOP voters among the ethnic minorities might give the party a closer look than they would were there no Messrs Rubio or Steele. And 3) unfortunately it’s true that the Republicans can come across, if not as blatantly racist, at least as anti-immigrant, even while they’re neither. It will help the party to have more members who know what it’s like to live as part of a minority within the US. They can speak more convincingly on the subject and also help some of their more insensitive colleagues to communicate their standpoints more effectively.

It’s interesting to note that, while immigration wasn’t the top issue this midterm election season, it appears to have been a crucial subject nonetheless. The large majority of voters agreed on the economy: time for a change from “Change”. But in California, Colorado and Nevada, for instance, it seems that Hispanic voters gave the Democrats’ candidate the edge — and presumably not because of preferences concerning economic policy, but because of the appearance that the Republicans were the anti-immigration, ie the anti-Hispanic, party.

As the above-linked story by John Fund says, this is not a uniform result. Republicans had strong gains among Hispanic voters in Texas and Florida. And there seems to be a political divide between middle- and upper income households on the one side and lower income families on the other among Hispanics.

The French Cowboy believes that it’s high time for the GOP to learn how to win voters among Latinos. A star like Marco Rubio will help, but won’t guarantee Hispanic voters to flock to the Republicans. Two simple and rather small things should go a long way: they are to 1) get rid of the anti-immigration image by insisting on the crucial line between being anti-immigration and being anti-illegal immigration. The GOP has to show itself to be pro-legal immigration and anti-illegal immigration — a position that any Latino voter can get behind. And 2) be ready to compromise on amnesty. It’s one of the rare political questions were a real compromise, ie one that is not a capitulation with a moratorium, is possible. The key is, of course, to secure the borders to the best extent possible.

Legal and illegal immigration are topics that haven’t been official priority issues but that turned out to be decisive for election results. Republicans shouldn’t shy away from the subject, but before entering into an active discussion of it agree on a serious pro-immigration, anti-illegal immigration platform. Otherwise the GOP will simply look like the xenophobic caricature painted by the Democrats.

The new generation of Republicans that have come to the fore over the last two years will be good messengers that have the potential to appeal to minorities and women — constituencies that tend to vote for Democrats. This includes Marco Rubio and Tim Scott as much as Sarah Palin and Nikki Haley. Notwithstanding their many other qualities, a Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee — not so much.

Sure, there’ll be a lot on Republicans’ plate for the next two years and the focus will be on economic policy and health care. But other issues, as last Tuesday’s results have shown, don’t simply become irrelevant. Conservatives need to be pro-active and take control of their message on immigration before the Left succeeds in misrepresenting them yet again. The same is true about social values where minorities actually tend to agree more with the conservative view than with the liberals’.

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