At the top of the home page of Colorado Hispanic Republicans' website sits this quote by President Ronald Reagan: "Latinos are Republicans. They just don't know it yet."
It's not a quote that I'd slap across the top of my website if I were trying to make friends with Hispanics, but I have to admit I'm not a Republican.
But what would you do if you were a Republican, and it was your job to convince Democratic Hispanics to vote for your people in November?
It's a good question, and a group of Republicans tried to answer it in an honest and illuminating discussion on KLZ's Grassroots Radio Colorado April 11.
Radio host Ken Clark didn't sugarcoat the GOP's problem in his first question to Pauline Olvera, a board member of Colorado Hispanic Republicans, whose website features the Reagan quote above.
"So the biggest problem I've seen in the Hispanic community and the black community is that they share our values; they just hate the Republican Party," said Clark. "So what are you doing about that?"
Olvera gave a big broad answer, as she's done before on the radio, practically bereft of specifics, saying her organization is trying "to connect with those communities' values of 'faith, family, and freedom.'" (Olvera is also a vice chair of the Denver Republican Party.)
Then Solomon Martinez, the Northern Colorado Chapter Chair for Colorado Hispanic Republicans, explained how Hispanics mindlessly cling to the Democratic Party because that's the way they've always been. He cited his own parents.
How does he deal with these stubborn Hispanic Democrats?
"I tell people, 'Take the test.' There's websites you can go onto. You know, it's Republican-Democrat Test. Take the test. If it still shows that you're a Democrat, then stay the Democrat Party. But you're going to find that you'll probably be a Republican, in most cases." [Listen to Martinez suggest that Hispanics take Republican-Democrat test here.]
So now you see how the Reagan quote fits in.
It may sound condescending for Martinez to say that Colorado's Hispanics are so clueless about politics that they don't know the difference between Democrats and Republicans. But just take the Republican-Democrat test anyway. It's about being open-minded. Hispanics will probably find their inner Democrat and forget any possible condescension involved in getting them there.
Another angle for the Colorado Hispanic Republicans, and the radio segment gives you the sense that this is the core strategy, is to encourage Hispanic Democrats to vote for Republicans without leaving the Democratic Party.
Forget the online Democrat-Republican test if you must, there's no need to be a Democrat to vote Republican.
Martinez: We're saying, 'Come and join us! Come and talk to us! I'm not going to try and switch you over to Republican. Come and talk. Hear our values, hear our views. If you align with that, join us!'
This would be done by somehow identifying disaffected Hispanic Democrats, and connecting with them.
Everyone on the Grassroots Radio Colorado radio show was happy to discuss their own periods of disaffection with the Republican Party, and therefore show how they can relate to Hispanics who might be alienated by the Democratic Party. They seemed to be saying to Hispanics that it's okay not to love your political party. We haven't always loved ours, but we stuck to our party (though you should abandon yours), and our Republican Party has changed!
Olvera: I know I woke up when we had McCain, and I thought that here is a man that is going to sign that TARP bill, this is a man who is for amnesty -- blanket amnesty, and I thought, "Is this what the Republican party is giving us?" There really wasn't that much difference. So it could have been something on that line that had people disenfranchised from the Republican Party. But now we stand a firm line in the sand, as to where we stand as a Republican Party. We have to stand firm on those principles, and get in there and do the right thing. [On Grassroots Radio Colorado, Republicans Discuss Complacency of GOP toward Hispanics 4-11-12]
Some conservative radio hosts might have let this go, without bringing up the name of Mitt Romney, whose name almost no one would think of when Olvera said that Republicans are now "firm line in the sand" when it comes to where they "stand as a Republican Party."
But to his credit, Clark said later in the interview: "I don't know what's going to happen when we throw Romney up there. I really don't. I mean we had some real conservative choices, and the only thing that I would say to people is that Obama is so much worse."
Olvera said previously that the Colorado Hispanic Republicans will be at Cinco De Mayo in Denver with a big banner, trying to put their tactics into action. This radio interview made me want to go see how they're received.
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