With his now infamous "gifts" blunder, Mitt Romney proved yet again last week that Republicans couldn't be more out of touch with Latino voters on the issues that matter.
Portraying President Barack Obama as a modern-day Santa Claus, Romney told large donors that Obama had won simply by handing out the gift of "amnesty" to undocumented Latino youth, free birth control to women, and partial loan forgiveness to struggling college students. But with President Obama back in the White House for another four years, the GOP is getting a rough wake-up call: American voters didn't want gift-wrapped handouts this holiday season -- they wanted long-term solutions to the biggest problems facing our communities and our economy.
Latinos were a huge factor in deciding the fate of the 2012 election, and we voted with our conscience -- deciding based on the future of the economy, on our changing climate and healthcare system, and on immigration policy. Latinos made up a full 10 percent of voters this year, with 71 percent casting their vote for President Obama. And perhaps to some politicians' chagrin, Latinos aren't going anywhere. We're only growing as a key voting bloc, with Presente.org estimating that each month, some 50,000 Latinos turn 18 and become eligible to vote.
So it wasn't just shiny, ribbon-wrapped "gifts" that mobilized millions of Latinos to get out to the polls. It was the threat of our nation choosing a party that was clearly so out of step with our country's needs.
While the GOP stood arm-in-arm with the backers of the most extreme anti-immigration laws in the country, President Obama proposed finding a long-term path for immigrants to gain an education and work legally in the country. Similarly, the president's healthcare plan was nothing close to a gift -- but an effort to fix our broken healthcare system by extending coverage to millions of Americans, so families no longer have to choose between taking their children to the emergency room and putting food on the table.
While the GOP relied on polluters buying up airtime to promote their policies, President Obama took historic steps to reduce harmful mercury and carbon pollution in our air and water and established new fuel efficiency standards so we'll pay less at the pump.
To voters, all of these proved that President Obama will work to protect the long-term health of our families, our communities, and the planet.
Those are the results that matter to Latinos. As poll after poll has shown, Latino voters in swing states and nationwide favor candidates who make protecting our clean air, clean water, and the health of our children a priority. Nearly 90 percent of Latino voters nationwide want to see more clean energy development in our country, rather than polluting fossil fuels. And as communities still reel from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, Latinos once again expressed that they are deeply concerned about worsening weather events due to our changing climate.
With election rhetoric now behind us,it's time for our leaders in Washington to turn their attention to working together for the first time in months. Latinos and American voters as a whole will be looking to President Obama and Congress to start to move us forward with real, sustainable progress on the issues that matter most.
When it comes to politics, let's leave the gifts behind this holiday season, and focus on bipartisan solutions that benefit all voters.