Republicans have made it almost impossible for Latinos to take them seriously.
In an election year where many Latinos have been disappointed by the increased deportations of undocumented immigrants by the Obama administration, Republicans have not only failed to take advantage of this opening, they’ve pushed Latinos further away.
The Republican presidential debates have featured the over-the-top pronouncements of Herman Cain, who suggested the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border be electrified, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who wanted to “deal with anchor babies legislatively” by initiating revised birthright citizenship legislation.
Newt Gingrich — hoping that no one would remember that in 2007 he called Spanish “the language of the ghetto” — struck a fairly positive tone by suggesting that undocumented senior citizens and children should probably not be deported. But Mitt Romney remembered, and not long after he confronted Gingrich about this, he came up with a new idea, calling for “self-deportation” of undocumented immigrants.
Unfortunately for Romney, he was repeating a phrase coined by Lalo Alcaraz, a satirical cartoonist from Los Angeles who put out a phony press release in 1994 calling for conservative Hispanics to deport themselves out of loyalty to their own cause.
Then, at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference last week, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., widely regarded as the rising Latino star of the Republican Party, made a rambling and shallow speech. In it, he attacked President Obama for dividing the country with “class warfare,” while offering nothing substantial in policy reforms and falling back on cliches like President Reagan’s “shining city on the hill.” The only direct reference he made to Latinos was telling the story of his parents’ immigration from Cuba, a tale he has been criticized for embellishing by implying, on his official Senate website, that they were fleeing Fidel Castro’s regime, when they had actually left years before he rose to power.
And it was only at the last minute in this week’s payroll-tax extension negotiations that House Republicans agreed to remove language forcing low-income people to produce Social Security IDs before they could claim the children’s tax credit. Many Latinos perceived this Republican provision as an attack on the children of undocumented immigrants.
All of this almost makes one pine away for the days of George Bush Sr.’s remark about his “little brown” grandchildren.
Heads up, Jon Stewart: You could do a whole episode poking fun at Republican attempts to court the Latino vote this election season.
Ed Morales is a contributor to the New York Times and Newsday and is the author of “Living in Spanglish.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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