Republican strategists believe a Hispanic running mate and preferably, Florida’s Republican Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio – – – “a symbol of youth and outreach” – – – will help presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney bridge the chasm he’s created with restive Latino voters.
But is naming Marco Rubio, whose latest policy offering is a Castrato‘s version of the ‘Dream Act ‘Without the Dream,’ the siren song that soothes the “Latino problem” concerning Republican policy on immigration?
More substantively, this week a “Wall Street Journal” front-page article, “GOP Tries to Woo Hispanics,” describes the tack being taken, which is to seek new and purportedly palatable policy proposals on legal immigration.
As reported by Laura Meckler, the GOP believes “Immigration policy is just one part of winning over Hispanic voters, who made up about 9% of voters in the 2008 presidential race, according to national exit polls, and are important to both parties. Many Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), argue that if the party could get past the immigration issue, it would be the natural home for many more Latino voters, who are often socially conservative and value entrepreneurship.”
But there are several problems with that viewpoint. It’s based on false assumptions. The first is that Latinos (a.k.a. Hispanics) are monolithic. They’re not. And Latinos don’t all look alike either.
U.S. Latinos come in a multitude of flavors and are quite diverse not just in viewpoint but in national origin.
At almost 32 million, for example, by country of origin, Mexicans make up some three-fourths of the 15.2 million increase in the total Hispanic population between 2000 and 2010. More specifically, they represent “the largest Hispanic group in 40 states, with more than half of these states in the South and West regions of the country, along with two states in the Northeast and all 12 states in the Midwest.” See “Newsroom: 2010 Census: 2010 Census Shows Nation’s Hispanic Grew Four Times Faster than Total U.S. Population.”
And unfortunately, Hispanics don’t always play well together. This constitutes the second false assumption that undercuts the selection of Cuban-American Marco Rubio as the means to mend fences with U.S. Latino voters. It ignores the reality of what’s called “Intragroup Discrimination,” which most commonly rears its ugly head in the workplace.
It’s a frequently understated and often misunderstood problem. In his cogent analysis a few years ago, Enrique Schaerer explored its contours while advocating the Case for “Race Plus” in Title VII employment discrimination litigation where too often, “the law loses sight of discrimination simply because parties belong to the same race or gender.”
Schaerer invoked an assimilation-based model in describing how “intragroup discrimination arises between members of the same group” and how it can be based on both conduct and color (“colorism”).
And with respect to immigration, Schaerer further explained that, “Immigration incites a fair amount of assimilated-on-unassimilated discrimination within the Hispanic community. The unequal distribution of legal rights” across the Hispanic community—caused by low naturalization rates—exacerbates this conflict. Many Hispanics favor a more restrictive immigration policy, and accuse their immigrant counterparts both of being too poor and of damaging the schools attended by non-Spanish-speaking children.” [internal citations omitted]
There are Latinos and then there are Latinos.
In a bit of unintentional wry understatement, ABC News’s Matthew Jaffe at “The Note,” writes, “Latinos in Florida are not like Latinos in the rest of the country.” Said another way, unlike Americans of Mexican descent, “Cuban-Americans don’t see immigration as a defining issue in the election.” And no wonder, thanks to the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act, they don’t jump the same cacti or quite literally navigate the same waters like immigrants from Mexico or the rest of Latin America for that matter.
And anecdotally and personally, I’ve also seen first-hand the ignorance of nationalistic chauvinism. I remember a Mexican-American community leader who coldly rejected my referral when I recommended that his organization consult with a well-respected Latino colleague, “Oh, him. He’s not Mexican. He’s Cuban.”
So if by an overwhelming number, Mexico remains far and away, the leading U.S. Hispanic country of origin, where’s the assured payoff from giving the V.P. nod to a Cuban-American not to mention the ‘Tea party’ baggage he’d also be carrying?
And last, the third false assumption is that Republican Latino outreach will deliver Latino voters to the party because they “are social conservatives akin to white evangelicals” and therefore predisposed to supporting so-called GOP values over Godless Democrat ones. But a new poll questions the existence of “Latino conservatives” by suggesting that GOP hopes are misplaced, indeed, “simply off-base.” A November Univision-Latino Decisions poll revealed that 43% of Latino voters supported gay marriage and 38% were pro-choice.
So what does it all mean in the end? Just that besides what Ellen DeGeneres once said about an ass and that “You should never assume. . . .” – – – that the rest simply amounts to a continued slow ride out-of-town atop a sadly predictable cultural discombobulation.
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