“The Latino vote is going to sink the Republican Party…. Forever.” It’s not true, but repetition of the lie has made it part of the politically correct conventional wisdom. It’s a game called Identity Politics.
The lie is broadcast daily in the mass media and shared as gospel among political consultants who can’t or won’t do some basic research on the matter. But anyone who delves into the history and character of voting patterns by citizens of Hispanic background will come to a very different conclusion.
Two facts jump out at you when you take time to look below the surface of Hispanic voting — and beyond the clichés spouted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. First, the “Hispanic vote” is far from monolithic, and second, immigration is not the most important political issue for a large majority of Hispanic voters.
Take, for example, Hispanic voters’ response to the Trump campaign, which has been an eye opener for many pollsters and pundits. Despite his making illegal immigration his top campaign issue, Trump has widespread support among Hispanics. But this is shocking only to people who have swallowed the big lie about Hispanics, a big lie that serves the progressive agenda.
When you look deeper, it turns out there is a political reason why the liberal media promotes the politically correct theme that Hispanics are a single issue voting bloc. That view serves the Democrat Party by forcing Republican strategy into a blind alley: Appealing to the Hispanic vote by playing identity politics is a losing strategy for Republican candidates because it follows the Democrats’ playbook.
As on so many issues, real political wisdom on the “Hispanic vote” begins with the realization that the truth is the exact opposite of the conventional wisdom in Washington, DC. Republicans who follow political correctness in their appeals to Hispanic voters are not only wasting their time and money, they are advancing the progressive agenda.
Despite all the evidence that Hispanics are NOT single issue voters, Republican candidates are told that if they say harsh things about sanctuary cities, American jobs lost to illegal labor, or scandalous border security, Latino voters will punish them by voting Democrat. That is the view and the advice offered Republican candidates by Republican campaign consultants – people being paid Nordstrom salaries for a flea market product.
Beginning in the 2008 presidential election and continuing through 2012 and 2014, every professional poll of Hispanic likely voters – as distinct from the entire Hispanic population — from Gallup and Pew to Rasmussen and PPP, has shown that the immigration issue is ranked fourth or fifth in importance —always behind jobs, the economy, health care, and education. In other words, it is ranked behind the same issues that are important to all Americans.
Now, here’s the amazing fact about Republican candidates who pay attention to that elementary fact. Republican candidates who talk to Hispanic voters about those issues instead of treating them as single issue voters win a substantial percentage of Hispanic votes. What is most amazing is that people are surprised by that.
The opposite is also true: candidates who ape the Democrats by trying to out-promise Democrats on amnesty or making welfare services available to illegal aliens do not prosper.
Here’s one famous example of the constant myth-making about the so-called Hispanic vote. We are told over and over that if Republican candidates will only follow the example of President Bush’s pro-amnesty immigration policies, they too can win 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, as he did in 2004 instead of the 23 percent Romney won in 2012. Lets’ look behind the curtain and see what really happened in 2004.
First, Bush won only 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, not 44 percent as first reported in exit polls (see the Pew Center’s archives). But more importantly, the myth-makers fail to tell you that in 2004, immigration was never used by the Bush-Cheney campaign in talking to Hispanic voters. A New York Times report revealed that not one dollar was spent talking about immigration in the Spanish-language radio and TV ads sponsored by the Bush-Cheney campaign. What did those political ads talk about? You guessed it: jobs, education, and entrepreneurship, health care and national security.
And here’s one dirty little secret. Hispanic citizens know that illegal labor is taking jobs from their children and their legal immigrant friends. Moreover, recently published U.S. Census data reveal that since the 2008 recession, employment growth among immigrant workers is higher than for native-born Americans. Hispanic citizens – meaning Hispanic voters—are victims of illegal labor just as much as other citizens.
So, by all means, Republicans should follow the Bush ’04 example by talking to Hispanic voters – let’s talk about jobs, about education, about health care, and also about national security and terrorism. And let’s talk to all voters about sanctuary cities, open borders and jobs taken from American workers by illegal labor.
Like on any other issue, on the “Hispanic vote,” yielding the field to political correctness has deadly consequences. But self-censorship is the most foolish mistake of all.
Tom Tancredo is the founder of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and founder and co-chairman of Team America PAC.
Tom represented Colorado’s sixth congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009, and he is a former presidential candidate.
He is the author of In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security.