Michael Barone received some harsh criticism from the comments section of his column, “Right and Left of the Hispanic Vote,” for saying that that vote is “up for grabs.” But his critics are wrong in their assertions that the Latino vote is not winnable. A full 55 percent of Hispanics have voted for a Republican at one point in their life — proof that they are willing to vote for whoever they think cares and can improve their lives and the lives of their children. Obama’s recent and precipitous 23 percent drop in support from Hispanics also points to the fact that they are not part of a permanent liberal majority, in the way, for example, that African-Americans and pro-choice women are.
The GOP’s dismal showing with Hispanics in recent elections is the culmination of decades of conservative neglect. The Left is currently reaping the fruits of millions of dollars of investment on the part of progressive community organizations who have been using a combination of corporate and government dollars to embed themselves in Hispanic communities. For decades, groups like La Raza and Chicanos por la Causa have been operating unopposed in Hispanic neighborhoods. Over time, they have patiently been building relationships and trust, while selling their message of big government and entitlement-programs that ultimately erode the self-initiative, work ethic, and family unit that have always been Hispanics’ cultural strengths.
Barone is also right that social issues are not as effective with Hispanics as conservatives would like to believe. This is due in large part to the breakdown of the Hispanic family. The percentage of Hispanic single-parent households now hovers at around 50 percent. When fathers are not present, government becomes the “baby daddy” and conservative social values are harder to pass on to the next generation.
Finally, Barone is spot on in pointing out that Obamacares’ failures and the other unfulfilled promises of Democrats have created a potential window of opportunity for conservatives. Since 2008, Hispanic unemployment remains in double digits, 2.5 million more Hispanics are living in poverty, and Hispanic family income has dropped by $2,500. The question is whether conservatives know how to take advantage of the opportunity Obama’s mismanagement and failed liberal policies have wrought.
Today on the homepage, I write that, while most Americans today are gloomy about the prospects of future generations, Hispanic-Americans are decidedly bullish on the American dream. Understanding this important fact is the first step for conservatives. The second is to learn to avoid the negative attitudes displayed by many of Barone’s critics. Conservatives need to demonstrate in word and deed that we genuinely care about Hispanics and want them to join us.