In a Republican presidential primary full of strange twists and turns, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is right up there in the bizzaro world of political hypocrisy.
Romney, although proudly proclaiming that his father was born in Mexico, is in fact a bold-faced panderer and cheerleader for nativist anti-Mexican sentiment.
To understand the curious lineage of "Paisano Mitt", we need to turn back to July 8, 1907 to the Mormon colonies near the Sierra Madre Mountains in Northern Mexico. On that date -- in these secluded havens for "plural marriages" (aka polygamy) -- George W. Romney, the father of Mitt Romney -- a future governor of Michigan, and failed 1968 Republican presidential
candidate -- was born.
In 1912 George Romney, together with his family, fled the upheaval of the Mexican revolution and traveled across the American border to work in Idaho agriculture. (In this regard "Paisano Mitt" ironically shares a common heritage with millions of Mexican families who traveled to El Norte
to seek a better life.)
However, wedge politics, being what they are, often require shedding inconvenient baggage that does not comport with the extreme right wing narrative. On the one hand, "Paisano Mitt" conveniently trots out his Mexican origins when pandering to Latino Republican audiences. But on
the other hand, "Paisano Mitt" never fails to reaffirm his right wing so-called anti-amnesty credentials when wooing Tea Party Republican voters.
Sometimes a press release from a pandering presidential candidate is more reflective of the truth. To wit: "Paisano Mitt" has enthusiastically welcomed the endorsement of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, author of the Arizona and Alabama's anti-Latino immigrant laws. In the release Romney credits Arizona, home of SB 1070, for "stepping forward" to address the "problem" of illegal immigration, which "Paisano Mitt" refers to as a "problem that has plagued our country for
Kobach does "Paisano Mitt" one better in the release by praising Romney as "...the candidate who will finally secure the borders and put a stop to the magnets, like in-state tuition, that encourage illegal aliens to remain in our country unlawfully."
Latino voters nationwide are well aware that "Paisano Romney" has vowed to "veto the DREAM Act", which if enacted would help legalize proven innocent undocumented immigrant students who want to contribute to building a better America.
Clearly, "Paisano Romney" believes that such nativist pandering will help secure him the Republican nomination. (Early in the debating season, Romney endorsed the border fence with Mexico, and has opposed any path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented Mexicans living and working in the United States.)
Republican political experts and pundits say,former Governor Mitt Romney may try to mollify Latino voters by choosing Cuban-American U.S. Senator Marco Rubio as his running mate. However, this superficial tactic if chosen is doomed from the start. (Note: 85% of Latino voters in the U.S. are of Mexican origin.)
Unlike Mexican immigrants who are pursued and hounded as part of an "illegal alien plague," Cuban Americans are praised by Republicans as anti-Castro refugees, who are often welcomed to the United States by the so-called "dry feet" policy. (That policy welcomes Cubans who can make
it to American soil and are granted one year to attempt to perfect their immigration status.)
If anything, the Rubio running mate scenario would merely highlight the hypocrisy of many in the Republican business community who have for years clandestinely profited by employing Mexican undocumented immigrants for cheap labor; and then have encouraged the anti-immigration bashing that is the mainstay of Tea Party Republican politics.
What "Paisano Mitt" and his Tea Party Republicans may fail to calculate is the growing clout and sophistication of the nation's 10 million Latino voters. Latino voters (especially Mexican-Americans) are playing a decisive role in at least 8 battleground states.
The most recent example is the 2010 Nevada U.S. Senate race which pitted Majority Leader Harry Reid against nativist challenger Sharron Angle. It was not lost on Nevada's Mexican-American voters when Sharron Angle, speaking before a high school class of Las Vegas Latinos marveled at their perspicacity on issues by saying "You know, I don't know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me." Informed of Ms. Angle's take on their children, Nevada Latinos (mostly Mexican-Americans) voted 90% to re-elect Senator Reid.
In the General Election "Paisano Mitt" will very likely face the same level of criticism and ridicule that shamed Sharron Angle to a landslide defeat --built largely upon a large and intensely motivated Latino/Mexican American turnout.
Over the next few months, "Paisano Mitt" will be understood in the Latino community, not merely as a stiff, wooden flip-flopper, but as a real threat to the hopes and aspirations of Mexican-Americans and Latino families striving to be free of social and economic discrimination.
Romney's bizarre hypocrisy may convince anti-immigrant voters to make him the Republican Nominee for President of the United States; but that victory will be of little use for the fake "Paisano Mitt" as he attempts to garner wise Latino voters in battleground states. These voters will surely distinguish between a friend and a foe in a possible occupant of the White House. Mitt Romney may brag about being technically a Mexican paisano, but Romney should realize that he and his public record will never really be trusted-especially by Latino voters.