Politics & Policy

The GOP’s Hispanic Opportunity

We are losing the messaging battle to the Left.

The Republican establishment, consultants, and talking heads should all just take a deep breath. 

Yes, we have a serious problem with Hispanics. It’s a problem conservative Hispanics have been trying to tell the GOP leadership about for many years with little or no response or action. But the quick-fix immigration solutions now being offered by the likes of Charles Krauthammer and other establishment-elites figures are an over-correction, do not actually address the root of the problem, and, frankly, may even accelerate our losses in the crucial Hispanic demographic. Here’s Krauthammer’s analysis: “It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty.” 

Not so fast. 

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First, let’s start with the facts. Hispanics rank immigration fourth in their list of concerns, behind the economy, education, and health care. Obama has actually deported more Hispanics than any other president. Hispanics simply perceive him as caring more about them, and this is more an issue of style than of substance.

Hispanics start businesses at twice the rate of the general population. They are entrepreneurial and naturally averse to governments that breed economic stagnation, which stands in the way of the upward mobility they seek. They’ve experienced centralized, dysfunctional, crony government in their countries of origin, and they know it doesn’t lift anyone out of poverty.

Second, the Obama economy has been terrible for minorities, including Hispanics. There are 2 million more Hispanics living in poverty than when Obama took office. The children of the working poor that make up a large segment of the Hispanic population are the ones most hurt by our failed public-school system — a failure perpetuated by teachers’ unions, a powerful Democratic-party constituency that stubbornly stands in the way of real reform and a reversal of our embarrassing international rankings in math, science, and reading. President Obama has the “audacity” to send his own girls to elite private schools, while killing scholarship programs for less privileged minorities to do the same. Governor Mitt Romney, on the other hand, was committed to real reform and school choice and promised to make the D.C. voucher program Obama squashed a model for the entire nation. 

Third, Hispanics are social conservatives. They are family-oriented, pro-life, and pro-traditional marriage.

So, if the party of secularists and liberalism and “abortion on demand” — and its leader, Obama — are so bad for Hispanics, why did more than 70 percent of them vote for him? The answers and solutions are not as simple, quick, or cheap as GOP and superPAC operatives would like them to be. 

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Hispanics come to America for the American Dream. They are “trabajadores,” and you would be hard pressed to find an American farmer, contractor, or restaurant owner who would not testify to their work ethic. Unfortunately, the communities in which they live and work are teeming with liberal activists: farm and service-industry labor unions, well-intentioned community-based social services providers and more radical and racially motivated Latino groups such as La Raza, LULAC, and Mecha. In addition, the curricula their kids encounter in public schools are either hostile or silent on the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and ideas that are the foundation of conservative thinking. All of these activist groups and institutions have a common ideology and an affinity for big and centralized government, and of course, entitlements. They go out of their way to sign folks up and to begin the cycle of government dependency. Once hooked to the IV of government handouts, a steady drip of ideology, and a heavy dose of raunchy pop culture, the once vibrant American Dreams and traditional family values of Hispanics drift into a slow, deep coma.

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The sad fact is that these activists operate unimpeded. The voices of economic freedom, personal responsibility, and self-determination are virtually nonexistent in Hispanic communities and media. The Catholic Church, a potential counter to these secular and socialist ideas, tends to place its most liberal priests in these communities. Thus, the “social justice” mantra so effectively co-opted by the Left in the Obama/Soros era is often reinforced in the churches Latinos attend.

Meanwhile, since Republicans and conservatives prefer D.C. think tanks and expensive ad buys to the long, hard, dowdy work of community organizing, we’ve effectively ceded these communities and the culture that surrounds them to the Left. We simply aren’t playing. And we’re either too lazy, or enamored with quick fixes, or overwhelmed by the task, to begin the work.

On Election Day, the Left won more than the presidency and the Senate. It won the battle of ideas through dogged persistence and a long-term financial commitment to community organizing. The Left managed to convince a mind-boggling number of Hispanics that the American Dream is not for them. On November 6, Hispanics voted for diminished dreams in favor of the security of a government check and Obamacare. 

The irony of the now trendy quick-fix solutions of immigration and amnesty among GOP and conservative elites is that these short-term solutions may actually worsen our problem with Hispanics. Sure, we should be leading the way with a sensible worker-visa program and a solution to address the children of illegals, but without conservatives on the ground, educating and organizing on behalf of our values, we’ll just be helping the Left increase its numbers. We need permanent outreach that’s on the ground helping Hispanic parents fight for the changes they need — measures that will deliver the opportunities they or their parents or grandparents came to America looking for. This includes school choice and vouchers, economic-empowerment zones, and policies that encourage start-ups and small business growth.

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In the long term, education on American history, economic freedom, and the principles behind conservatism must be a part of the playbook if we want to make lasting inroads. The Libre Initiative, a new organization dedicated to educating Hispanics on the benefits of free-markets and limited constitutional government, has begun the work. Likewise, Hillsdale’s highly successful (and free) online Constitution courses are an excellent model of how we can do it in a cost-effective manner. Soon, over a million people will have taken Hillsdale’s courses.

At the same time, in our zeal to promote the economic advantages of our principles, we must not shy away from the social issues. When we highlight our position on abortion and traditional marriage, we spotlight the secular and radical social agenda of the Left, an agenda that is foreign and antithetical to Hispanics’ values. 

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This is not easy work. Educating children and their parents on the universal messages of free enterprise and self-determination takes money. So does grooming political talent within the community and training and hiring Latino surrogates to bring the message to Spanish- and English-speaking media. Building community coalitions with pro-life groups and pro-business groups takes time. It also takes time to earn the trust of Hispanics and to see the fruits of our work in the dreams of their children. But make no mistake — we can do this.

Ronald Reagan said it best when he reminded us that our values and our freedom are not passed on through the bloodstream. They must be fought for, protected, and handed on to the next generation. 

I am a Mexican-American wife and mother of six. You can take my word for it, or more advice from well-paid Beltway insiders. On Tuesday, November 6 we saw what that got us.

— Rachel Campos-Duffy is a mother of six, author, pundit, and wife of Congressman Sean Duffy. She has a column in the November issue of the American Spectator about her own family’s journey from union Democrats to Reagan conservatives.

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