19 September 2006

Latino defection from GOP

Latinos are a socially conservative lot. Thanks to them, Los Angeles is decidedly more anti-choice and anti-gay than San Francisco, for example. And more Republican - thanks to W's wooing of the Latino vote. I saw plenty of "VIVA BUSH" bumper stickers in 2004, and still see them today.

That may be changing, however, thanks to the Republican immigration legislations which have incensed the community. Loyal Republicans in the Latino community feel betrayed, and are going independent or Democratic. This is exactly what happened a decade ago here in California, when then-governor Pete Wilson turned xenophobia into a potent weapon to get himself re-elected. What was, until then, a solidly red state (one that gave Reagan and Nixon to the nation), suddenly turned blue, and stayed that way, until W started wooing the Latinos on cultural issues.

That hard-won Republican victory in the Latino community may be getting lost again, not only in California but nationwide, since the immigration debate in the party is being dominated by the xenophobes who speak of Latinos as criminals, disease carriers, or even worse. Colorado's Congressman Tim Tancredo is running for the presidency on blocking further Latino immigration alone. If this keeps up, and Latinos feel let down by both the W wing and the Tancredo wing of the Republican Party, then the Republicans will lose their control of national politics the way they lost California politics a decade ago.

Democrats and progressives should not rejoice, however. Latinos have continued to vote for socially conservative legislations, like the teen abortion ban and the gay marriage ban, in California, even as they voted for Democratic initiatives otherwise. A get-out-the-vote campaign, and an attempt to re-educate the Latino community on social issues, are still sorely needed. And these campaigns need to be packaged in ways that resonate with the average Latino voter (family values context), not just with clueless white liberals.

I also want to see how this debate extends to other conservative ethnic communities, such as the Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese communities (the latter two being solid Republican blocs). However, just as the Cuban community is being pampered by the Republicans on just about every issue - illegal immigration is a non-issue for them since they have automatic asylum - the same may apply to the Korean community, at least (thank you, Reverend Moon, John Yoo, and Michelle Park Steele). However, the Republicans must remember that they pamper the vocal Cuban minority at the expense of the rest of the Latino community, and the Korean community at the expense of the rest of the Asian community.

MSNBC/National Journal