THE BLOG
10/31/2011 02:43 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2011

Republicans Must Expand Their Spanish Vocabulary

In a recent piece about how the GOP seems to be intent on blowing off the Latino vote, Shaun Mullen sees the Latino answer to the GOP as being "¡Muéranse!" or drop dead.

I believe that the GOP begets -- deserves -- such a reaction because the GOP has, for years, been telling Latinos exactly the same.

According to the New York Times, seven Republican presidential candidates are telling Latinos "Gracias, pero no gracias."

This in answer to an invitation to participate in a debate on Univision tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29, just before the Florida Republican primary. Instead, the candidates are expected to debate in December on NBC's Telemundo, which has less than a third of Univision's typical evening audience, the Times reports.

Now, those who understand Spanish immediately realize that "Gracias, pero no gracias" may semantically be more polite than "¡Muéranse!" However, in the context of politics, both mean the same and roughly translate to "Screw you, Latinos, we don't need your vote -- in the primaries."

But why would seven Republican presidential candidates be so insensitive to Latino sensitivities?

Or, as the Times puts it:

There are almost 12 million potential Hispanic voters in the United States. And both parties say they are eager to court their votes. So one has to wonder why the Republican presidential contenders would miss the chance to debate before the largest possible audience of Spanish-language television viewers.

According to the Times, the move is in response to a plea by allies of Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, to boycott the Univision debate because of a feud Rubio has with the network "over a report it did last summer about his brother-in-law, who was convicted of drug trafficking in 1989."

Although Univision denies it, Rubio's staff claims that Univision has tried to use the report to pressure Rubio into agreeing to go on its Sunday news program and that Univision offered to drop the story in exchange for the interview.

Perry and Bachmann, according to the Times, are keeping their options to participate open pending Univision's "correction" or "resolution" of this matter.

The Times, however, suggests that there may be other reasons for the candidates wanting to "keep Mr. Rubio happy." One of them may be that "Florida is a must-win state, and [Rubio] is a political comer and a darling of the Tea Party." Another may be that on Univision the candidates would be questioned about GOP immigration policies by Jorge Ramos, "a Mexican-American anchor who has been harshly critical of policies to crack down on undocumented immigrants and openly supports a path to legalization."

On Telemundo, on the other hand, they would face a "less hard-charging host, Jose Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-American who is the brother of two powerful Florida Republicans, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and former Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart."

However, keeping Mr. Rubio "happy," may turn out to be another slap in the face of the majority of the Latino population in the U.S. Another "¡Muéranse!" to the millions of Latinos who -- including this writer -- immigrated to the United States of America because it was -- and still is -- the land of opportunity; because of the promise of a better life, in addition to more justice and freedom.

You see, Mr. Rubio, who has claimed that he is the son of Cuban exiles who came to this country to flee political oppression, and who opposes amnesty and supports the GOP's immigration policies, turns out to be the son of two immigrants just like 90 percent of the other Latino immigrants from Mexico, from the rest of Central America and from South America who came to this country looking for economic opportunity.

Latinos are not looking kindly upon Mr. Rubio's immigration theatrics and embellishments for political gain, nor do they like his políticas sobre la inmigración.

Instead of saying gracias, pero no gracias, the GOP may well want to expand its Spanish vocabulary to include the word "Bienvenidos" to welcome a U.S. Latino population of more than 50 million, a population that includes more than 12 million potential voters, or votantes.