Why the GOP should be courting Hispanics
Republicans are missing a golden opportunity to widen their base of support and secure a longstanding ruling majority. In recent months, Hispanics have attracted national attention mostly due to illegal immigration. However, Hispanics should be of interest regardless of this hot-button topic. They must be courted on a variety of issues — or ignored at the peril of the future of the GOP and the conservative movement.
Hispanics are the largest minority group and are expanding at a faster rate than any other segment of America. Latinos currently comprise 14 percent of the population, or 43 million people. About eight million of these are believed to be illegal. Moreover, the Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, the Hispanic population will triple. This will be further compounded by the flow of illegal immigration across the southern border, which continues unabated.
In contrast, by 2050, the nonHispanic white population will increase by only 7.4 percent.
Thus, even if the border is miraculously and immediately shut down, American demographics have been irrevocably altered. Hispanics are here to stay; and they will be increasingly influential in our society.
The question now remains: Will Hispanics mirror the voting pat- terns of African-Americans and largely forsake the GOP, or will they become stalwart allies and help the party to secure repeated electoral victories? We stand at a rare moment in a nation’s history when a few actions will determine the fate of two major groups — Republicans and Hispanics — and consequently alter American politics.
Both Republicans and Hispanics will greatly benefit by forging an alliance. This is the com- pelling argument in Leslie Sanchez’s recent book, “Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other.” Ms. Sanchez, the founder of IMPACTO Group LLC and a former member of the Republican team for Hispanic outreach, argues that most Hispanics have conservative beliefs. Yet, the vast majority do not identify themselves as such. Thus, Republicans need to reveal to Latinos how the party’s ideals are in harmony with cardinal Hispanic values. On the other hand, Hispanics must realize that embracing the conservative message will be more to their advantage than accepting the Democrats’ prevailing destructive ideology of dependence and victimology.
Ms. Sanchez’s extensive research reveals that Latinos are natural conservatives. The vast majority support traditional values. Hispanics are more spiritual than the rest of the American population; a majority are pro-life on abortion and oppose same-sex “marriage.” They are stalwart defenders of family and community; they are generally patriotic and law-abiding. Many Hispanics are entrepreneurial: They are starting their own businesses at three times the rate of the rest of the U.S. population. Hispanics are proud and self-reliant: They dislike big government and tax-andspend policies; in fact, only a small percentage rely on government programs. In essence, Hispanics strive to improve their lot by their own efforts. Thus, regarding both social and fiscal issues, most Latinos live according to conservative principles.
Yet Hispanics nonetheless vote 10 to 15 points more for Democrats than Republicans. This is likely to change due to three major factors that are increasingly compelling this minority group to gravitate toward the GOP: a rising class of young professionals who are drawn to policies of fiscal restraint; a growing, activist group of evangelical Hispanics who are passionate and vocal on social issues; and a large and growing population in southern states, especially in the suburbs, that is adopting the conservatism of the region. These factors, along with the population’s traditional heritage, make them ripe Republican recruits.
The Hispanic vote therefore remains up for grabs. The relationship between Republicans and Hispanics has been badly damaged as a result of the recent failed immigration bill. However, Republicans need to remember that, in most surveys, immigration ranks fourth or even as low as seventh among issues Hispanics hold most dear. They have been temporarily alienated, not because the bill failed, but due to the overall tone and language used by many Republican opponents of the bill and their obvious complete lack of understanding, sympathy and education about the Hispanic community.
Many Hispanics want to join the GOP, but they often do not feel welcome. And Republicans desperately need the Hispanic vote; yet they remain uncomfortable courting this group for fear they must abandon their principles or will lose their base of support in the process. Both must recognize that these barriers can be easily surmounted.
It is time both sides extend a warm embrace. Republicans and Hispanics are brothers: By working together they can transform American politics for generations to come.
Grace Vuoto is executive director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal. The views expressed in this op-ed are her own.