THE BLOG

GOP Hispanic Conference Highlights Deep Denial on Immigration

01/14/2011 06:05 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Today, in Miami, the Republican-backed Hispanic Leadership Network hosted a conference to “provide a unique opportunity for center-right leaders to speak with—and more importantly listen to—the Hispanic community,” according to conference co-chair Jeb Bush.

Early in the day, Bush stated:

It would be incredibly stupid [for the Republican Party] to ignore the burgeoning Hispanic vote.

Given the anti-immigrant rhetoric that emanates from so many GOP leaders these days, however, it won’t be a simple matter to win these voters back.

As a new America’s Voice memo makes clear, Republican leadership is stuck in a deep rut of denial and inflexibility when it comes to Latino outreach and their party’s position on immigration.  They seem to think that taking up kinder, gentler “rhetoric” and reaching out on “common values”—instead of revisiting their party’s extreme immigration policies—will do the trick.

One panelist at the conference, conservative syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, made this very point quite passionately at this afternoon’s panel on media and messaging. From a live blog of the conference:

Update - 2:55 PM:  Navarrette: "If you come away thinking that this is all about language and tone, you will miss the point... You are always going to be number 2... The problem is not the tone. It is the message itself—it is offensive, racist. You’ve got to fix the product.”  […]

Commentator Alex Castellanos, Sr. disagrees. He appears to believe that a majority of Latinos agree with the Republican Party on immigration policy.

Helen Aguirre disagrees with Castellanos: "Jeb Bush is the only one who challenged Tom Tancredo. If the [majority of the] Republican Party disagrees but keeps quiet…"

Ruben Navarrette argued that the GOP has a track record on immigration that:

  1. Deals with immigration dishonestly
  2. Caters to that ugly element of racism -- "nativism/racism is in the bloodstream"
  3. Offers "solutions" that ignore the problem.

Navarrette cites the fight to repeal the 14th Amendment and Arizona's SB1070 as two examples of false solutions on immigration.  We couldn’t agree more.

The Republican Party cannot be the party of Proposition 187, the Sensenbrenner bill, Arizona’s ‘papers, please’ immigration law, Sharron Angle’s anti-Latino campaign ads, Steve King’s electric fence, Lamar Smith’s ‘deport 'em with a smile’ proposals, and the defeat of the DREAM Act and still win a respectable share of Latino votes in 2012.

Over the last three elections, Latino voters have been loud and clear in their message to the GOP. They voted increasingly Democratic in large part because the Republican Party embraced an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino agenda.  With new Census figures showing that Latino political power is still on the rise, it’s hard to imagine the Republican Party winning the presidency or a number of House and Senate races in 2012 without their votes. 

As NPR summarizes:

“…that is the cold, hard math of the GOP's problem. In 2012, they need to find a way to win more than 40 percent of that vote — and not just in Florida but in other swing states, like Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.”

Jeb Bush is trying to create a way forward for Republicans with Latino voters, but that path may be permanently blocked by the anti-immigration hysteria being fomented by Senator Jeff Sessions, Representative Steve King, Representative Lamar Smith, Representative Elton Gallegly, and the entire Republican "nativist lobby."

Letting our immigration debate spiral even further away from real solutions would be a disaster, not just for the Republican Party, but for our nation.