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Thursday, March 30, 2006

The great miscalculation

Blame Tancredo

G.O.P. Risking Hispanic Votes on Immigration

WASHINGTON, March 29 — The battle among Republicans over immigration policy and border security is threatening to undercut a decade-long effort by President Bush and his party to court Hispanic voters, just as both parties are gearing up for the 2006 elections.

"I believe the Republican Party has hurt itself already," said the Rev. Luis Cortes, a Philadelphia pastor close to President Bush and the leader of a national organization of Hispanic Protestant clergy members, saying he delivered that message to the president last week in a meeting at the White House.


In a lunch meeting of Senate Republicans this week, Senator Mel Martinez of Florida, the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate, gave his colleagues a stern warning. "This is the first issue that, in my mind, has absolutely galvanized the Latino community in America like no other," Mr. Martinez said he told them.


Show Hispanics who their real friends are," as Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, put it.

But the issue is a delicate matter for Democrats as well. Polls show large majorities of the public both support tighter borders as a matter of national security, and oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants. Many working-class Democrats resent what they see as a continuing influx of cheap labor.

The stakes are enormous because Hispanics now account for one of every eight United States residents, and for about half the recent growth in the country's population. Although Hispanics cast just 6 percent of the votes in the 2004 elections, birth rates promise an imminent explosion in the number of eligible voters.


Mr. Kyl, for his part, accused Democrats of race-baiting by painting all Republicans as anti-Hispanic, a practice he said most Hispanics resent. But the senator also acknowledged some fears that the immigration debate could repel Hispanic voters. He added, "I would hope that some of our colleagues who don't have much of a Hispanic population in their states would at least defer to those of us who do."


Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Republican Party, said it had pushed ahead on recruitment of Hispanic candidates and voters. He noted that Mr. Mehlman had appeared frequently at events with Hispanic groups, hitting classic Republican themes about lower taxes and traditional values. A particular focus has been Hispanic churchgoers and pastors like Mr. Cortes, who receives money from Mr. Bush's religion-based social services initiative.

Democrats say that Mr. Bush's success with Hispanics has not gone unnoticed. Democratic leaders in Congress have expanded their Spanish-language communications, and after 2004 the Democratic Party vowed to stop relying on payments to Hispanic groups and organizations to help turn out Hispanic voters.

"How can you spend your money on get-out-the-vote when you are beginning to lose your market share?" Mr. Bendixen said. "But Democrats had no experience in campaigning for the hearts and minds of Hispanic voters. They treated them like black voters who they just needed to get out to the polls."

Still, both sides say it is the tenor and ultimate outcome of the immigration debate that may give the Democrats their best opportunity to attract Hispanic voters.

Senator Martinez, a Cuban immigrant who delivered part of a Senate speech in Spanish a few months ago, alluded to the nervousness among Hispanics when he was asked whether he would do the same again in the debate on immigration. "I am about to be sent back as it is," he said, joking. "I better be careful."

No, Senator Kyl, you let Tom Tancredo, a man so racist he wanted to deport a high school student and his family after years of residence in the US, to the horror of the Denver community, define the debate. He's the one who talked about invasion and changing America as if Latinos hadn't lived here since 1542.

When you let the fanatics set the issue, you reduce the debate.

Instead of talking about drug gangs, extreme violence on the border spilling north from Northern Mexico, and sexual slavery, all byproducts of illegal immigration, we're debating race. Why? Because Sensenbrenner and Tancredo were allowed to define the debate instead of Bush, who ran from it from 2001, it is now being used as a weapon against the GOP.

I mean, you have Jim Gilchrist and Tancredo standing side by side, which is insane. One of the original founders of the Minutemen quit because of the creeping white supremacist tone to their protests. Anyone who lives on the border has a real, ongoing reason to worry about security, but this debate became about families. Tancredo even proposed eliminiating the birthright of American citizenship to alien babies.

What did the GOP think was going to happen? Mild upset among Latinos?

People are saying "Steve, why are you saying this is about race, not illegal immigration" Because the debate is about nothing real. If it was, we'de be talking about snakeheads and Asian and Eastern Europeans forced into sexual slavery and measures to curb that, better border security which didn't depend on a wall, you know like more sensors, predator aircraft, more border patrol with more resources, new resources to aid deportation. Not this moronically regressive idea of
turning our neighbors and their children into felons.

We'd also talk about streamlining the legalization process and making it easier for legal immigrants to gain citizenship.

But all that is lost when you get half-wits making policy.

Tancredo panders to racism without offering real solutions. A wall against the border of one of our largest trading partners, where we have invested billions? Come on, that's fantasy. Talk of an invasion? You mean the one that started before there was an America.

Latinos had been slightly more receptive to GOP pitches, but like Katrina with blacks, this is about family. This isn't some abstract debate, this is about cousins, friends, even kids. And when you do that, people take it personally. Blacks took Bush's failure in Katrina personally.

Latinos take this personally.

Once again, the GOP's base kills the GOP's future. The GOP needs some black voters. They need lots of Latino voters to keep any viability as a party. If Melhman didn't like Katrina, this has him puking. Because to two generation of young Latino voters, the GOP has said they are not welcome.

Well, the GOP is unwelcome among Latino voters.

How did the GOP miscalculate the response? Easy, they didn't listen to Spanish-language radio, which allowed the organizers to plan for a large response, and escape the notice of Anglo media. English primary schoolkids used Myspace and IM to communicate, again escaping the notice of the Anglo media.

But once again, the GOP has little way to gage the reaction of minority communities. They were suprised by the open hostility to Bush at the King funeral, and by the mass protests among the LA community.

The Democrats forgot that they had to make the case to Latinos on why they needed to vote democratic and paid for that. But once again, someone shits in the GOP punchbowl. You can bet gay marriage won't have any play for them. Thanks to Tom Tancredo.

This was the worst move possible at the worst possible time for an already struggling GOP. They need Latino voters to keep their seats. Now, they going to have angry Latinos voting to cause the GOP pain.

posted by Steve @ 12:49:00 AM

12:49:00 AM

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