GOP candidates ignore Latino leaders
By RAUL REYES Hispanic Link Friday, July 06, 2007
From Cesar Chavez's 1960s boycotts to the immigrants rights movements of today, Si se puede has long been a stock phrase in Hispanic politics. While it translates as "Yes, we can," the real message has always been greater. Si se puede means we'll fight the good fight, we'll persevere, we'll never give up.
These three words are routinely invoked everywhere from high school assemblies to presidential campaigns. It's the Latino call to action.
Yet lately I'm wondering if the GOP has decided on a strategy of No se puede —No, we can't — when it comes to Hispanic voters.
At the June 28-30 convention of the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials, Republicans opted out of the forum for presidential candidates. All of the GOPers except for Rep. Duncan Hunter of California sent their regrets to the nonpartisan group, and the forum was canceled. In contrast, all of the major Democratic hopefuls appeared at a separate forum at the event.
The GOP no-shows are surprising considering Florida is home to the USA's most conservative Hispanics. The state's three Hispanic House members are Republican, as is Sen. Mel Martinez, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Some state leaders did not even try to put a positive spin on the lack of interest from their candidates.
"Republicans have blown off the state of Florida," said Republican State Rep. Juan Zapata. "Turning their back on this event is kind of shameful."
Coming in the wake of the harsh rhetoric from conservatives who contributed to the collapse of the Senate's immigration proposal, does this mean that Republicans are giving up on Latinos?
If so, they have a lot to lose. Until recently, the GOP had been making inroads among the Hispanic electorate, which traditionally has leaned Democratic. George W. Bush made a concerted outreach to Latinos and in 2004 drew a record 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.
The Republicans have a lot to lose if they ignore their base. If the biggest panderer to the Hispanic vote in Republican history can't get more than 40 percent of that minuscule vote, which in political terms is a landslide the other way, then further pandering is not likely to help.
Perhaps the GOP should concentrate on winning back the non-Hispanic voters who cost them the House and Senate. That would make a lot more demographic sense.