The GOP lost momentum in its effort to claim the Presidential nomination in November - as a result of Mitt Romney's speech at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), 2012 Convention. At the most opportune moment, when Romney could have started anew to earn trust from the Hispanic community and made the job easier for Latino elected and appointed officials to support his voice - he made everyone's job a lot harder. Unfortunately for Hispanics, Romney further weakened his position with the community, one that has already been damaged during the 2012 election process.
Romney is an extremely intelligent, well-spoken and successful individual. However, his ignorance and unwillingness to admit that he has no genuine interest in the Hispanic community became quite clear in his approach and comments at the NALEO convention. In summary, Romney spoke at the Hispanic community - not with them. He wasn't engaging and was obviously trying to "scare" the community into voting for him. In fact, he didn't mention the word Hispanic or Latino until 2 minutes into his speech and his first key statistics regarding Hispanics in America were the following:
- 11% of Hispanics are unemployed
- 2 million Hispanics are living in poverty
Note: here is the audio of his speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgeYQ-pMqRA
Right off the bat, Romney wanted to inflict a great sense of uncertainty within the Hispanic community and wanted them to feel that if they were to vote for Obama, these numbers would rise.
While these statistics may be true and are important - he missed the opportunity to propose and discuss the responsibilities that should be bestowed upon our community, so that we can be accountable for helping turn these numbers around. Equally, Romney should have offered a set of solutions and policies to help enable the Hispanic community to head in the right direction for America.
Romney should know that Hispanics are a naturally hopeful and optimistic community that seeks leadership and concrete direction. Instead he complicated matters by marginalizing the community rather than instilling some form of belief that Hispanics in America are able to serve and contribute to the economic recovery plan. Romney made it appear that Hispanics were part of the economic problem rather than the solution.
His discussion topics focused on the need for immigration reform, strengthening the middle-class and providing low-income families a chance for their children to go to school. Also, he discussed ways to reward those who served in the military. Again, all admirable and necessary things - but he spoke down to the Hispanic community by trying to connect with its lowest common dominator. He gave reason for Hispanics to believe that we are not a valued and respected community.
Romney spent most of his time talking about why Obama is not an option by repeatedly outlining scare tactics based on what he claims Obama failed to do for Hispanics and the economy in general. Again, politically speaking - I understand this approach. However, if you are trying to build a relationship and earn trust with a community that you are failing to authentically connect with - Romney crushed his hopes of building any momentum with Hispanics. If he tries to change his story - you simply need to remind him of his NALEO speech.
When he tried to be authentic, he shared a story (starts at 14:50 in the clip noted above) about his father, born in Mexico and not educated, and his grandfather, selling paint to get ahead in America. Nice try Mr. Romney, but you badly missed the mark with this story, assuming all Hispanics would relate to being poor and uneducated. It was an insult (though I know it wasn't intended to be).
Finally, Romney tried to inspire the crowd by saying, "most of you are here (in the U.S.) to benefit from the land of opportunity." He made himself sound as if he was doing all of us a favor by allowing Hispanics to live in the United States.
I respect Mr. Romney and certainly am not trying to harm his efforts to be the President of the United States. To the contrary, I am trying to share some wisdom and expertise to help him learn what to say and what not to say to the Hispanic community as we look for leadership that will represent our voice and help create opportunities for advancement.
Since you won't hear anyone in the national news talk about this issue, I wanted to remind our Presidential candidates to be more mindful of how they represent Hispanics in America. Get to know who we are, what we stand for and what defines us as people, leaders and tax-paying citizens.
Romney has the tendency to speak about Hispanics as if we were all undocumented and irresponsible people. Hispanics will represent 30% of America in less than 40 years (if not sooner). We must strengthen the voice that will influence America's future. If not, we are all in trouble.
Mr. Romney, I highly recommend that you and all politicians make the commitment to learn more about the Hispanic community so that you can provide better leadership.
Mr. Romney, I don't know the last time you really reached out to the Hispanic community. I recommend that you declare your ignorance and start over in your outreach and relationship efforts. The community would respect you more for admitting this fact rather than pretending otherwise.