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Fernando Espuelas Headshot

GOP to Latinos: Drop Dead

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Breakups are rough -- regrets, pain and bitter memories. As Republicans in the House block immigration reform time after time, American Latinos get the message: It's over, don't call me. Have a nice life.

Incapable of producing even one GOP vote in favor of the Democrats' last-ditch gamble at forcing an open vote of the House, the message to Latinos is crystalline. Whatever goodwill the clutch of pro-immigration reform House Republicans won in the last year since the Senate passed its bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill has now evaporated.

What remains are the weekly flip-flops by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the yelps of "amnesty" coming from a seemingly frightened Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the tiny fig leaf provided by Rep. Bob Goodlatte's (R-Va.) seven bills he's been talking about for a year and the shameful action to deport all Dreamers through the recently unanimous vote of the House Republican caucus's fantasy bill, the Enforce Act.

Some 15 months after former Gov. Mitt Romney's (R-Mass.) "self-deportation" turkey handed the Latino vote (not to mention the Asian-American electorate) to the Democrats, Republicans are still incapable of effectively dealing with an issue that commands big majorities of Americans -- including Republicans.

Great analyses have been written by Greg Sargent, Charlie Cook, and Juan Williams, among others, about the "paranoia" inherent in the Republican Party's refusal put forward a coherent immigration reform policy. Setting the political calculus aside, most Republicans on Capitol Hill seem to have no clue about what immigration reform actually represents to Latino voters.

As I've written previously, immigration reform is not a policy debate for Hispanics. It stands as a proxy for societal respect -- even though most Latinos are either American-born, naturalized citizens or have a green card and will not benefit from any reform. While it's not fair to judge the GOP based on people like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and his anti-immigrant logorrhea, he and other anti-immigrant Republicans have become the effective spokespeople of the GOP on this issue.

Whatever good intentions may exist in the GOP House to move forward with a bill, the lack of any action by Boehner (not to mention right-wing extremists' wholesale rejection of a reasonable compromise) is now officially the Republican position.

This is what Latinos think.

On my radio show every day, and on social media 24/7, I am part of a conversation where responsibility for both the failure of comprehensive reform, and the acrid discourse surrounding it, is laid at the feet of Republicans exclusively.

New to American politics, organic groups of American Latinos have formed online with the express purpose of increasing Latino turnout in November and dealing the GOP a blow. No longer tied to the traditional activist organizations, still espousing 1960s tactics and attitudes, these new groups are savvy Facebookers and tweeters that can spread a political message across the country with the click of the mouse -- reaching tens of thousands of people in an instant, hundreds of thousands per day.

This political battle is now personal. Just like the tea party fervor of 2010, driven by a single-minded focus to oppose President Obama, these online Latino groups share a similar obsession with throwing Republicans out of office.

One such group, organized primarily through the hashtag #TNTweeters, has attracted thousands of active social media "warriors" that engage in a robust political debate -- principally calling for a GOP defeat in November.

Will this new kind of political activists succeed in altering the electoral math in the midterms? No one can say, of course. Latinos have historically sat out non-presidential elections. But history is not always prologue. The level of frustration, even anger, now focused on the GOP, combined with the frictionless power of social media, represents a fundamentally new political dynamic in American politics.

Come this November 4, Republicans may just wake up to the ugly reality that breaking up with American Latinos over immigration was an easily avoidable and ultimately very costly divorce.

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