A Convention For Forgetful Elephants

The Republican National Convention gave speaking slots to a token number of Latino figures, hoping they would serve as ambassadors, but these don’t erase reality.

Hurricane Isaac wasn't the only thing on Republicans’ minds as they congregated in Tampa last week for the Republican National Convention, which crowned Mitt Romney as the party’s candidate for President of the United States last Thursday.

What they should be worried about—very worried—is that their party has turned into a virtual monolith, where other ideas and groups aren’t exactly welcome. They should be worried about ignoring the demographic reality of this country, the importance of minority voters—particularly Hispanics—to their political survival.

They gave speaking slots to a token number of Latino figures, hoping they would serve as ambassadors, but these don’t erase reality. Their party’s platform--and the politicians who defend, promote or stay silent about it—tell the real story: the Republican Party is an island unto itself, sustained entirely on the support of its conservative base, and turning a hostile face toward the largest minority group in the country and the issues that concern us, like immigration. An island that allies itself with some of the leading anti-immigrant figures in the country. Let me give you an example.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of the toughest anti-immigrant laws in the nation (SB 1070 in Arizona and HB 56 in Alabama) and the “brains” of the anti-immigrant movement, is an advisor to the Romney campaign, and the force behind the hard-line immigration position soon to be enshrined in the Republican platform.

And while there’s always a debate over whether party platforms have any real importance, they do reflect a consensus among the party’s leaders—Romney among them—and interest groups about their vision of the issues. In this case, the platform proposes a guest-worker program as a sugar coating for a series of positions that confirm its hostility to immigrants: a border wall, mandatory E-Verify, opposition to “sanctuary cities,” and withdrawing Department of Justice lawsuits against states that have passed anti-immigrant laws, among others.

Republicans continue to answer the central question of immigration policy—what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country—as Romney did in the primaries: self-deportation, or, as the platform draft puts it, “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.”

There’s no mention of the deferred action policy which will allow almost 2 million undocumented youth, known as DREAMers, to obtain temporary protection from deportation and work permits. It doesn’t say—as Romney himself hasn’t said—what will happen to deferred action if Romney is elected president. Will he revoke it? Romney did promise to veto the DREAM Act, which would legalize these young people, and has said that he will offer a “permanent solution” but hasn’t clarified what that solution is.

In the midst of that uncertainty, a development Thursday was revealing: agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the group NumbersUSA, which advocates a moratorium on all immigration, sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ICE to stop deferred action from going into effect. And who is the lawyer representing the ICE agents and NumbersUSA? Why, Kris Kobach. As the saying goes, “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres”—tell me who you walk with, and I’ll tell you who you are.

And so Romney and the Republicans come to the event that will mark the starting gun of an obstacle course that ends on Tuesday, Nov. 6 with an obvious “Hispanic problem,” underlined by poll after poll showing Romney’s level of support among Latinos at less than 30 percent--and yet hoping to capitalize on the lack of enthusiasm many Latino voters currently feel.

His, and their, strategy isn’t to propose policies that might attract Latinos, but to erode Obama’s level of Latino support.

I thought elephants were supposed to have excellent memories.

This case appears to be the exception, because the elephants meeting in Tampa forgot and discarded, in their prejudice, the gains made by figures like George W. Bush who understood the importance of the Latino vote to their future as a party. And among those who have rejected that legacy include, regrettably, Republican Hispanic leaders who once stood shoulder to shoulder with Bush and now find themselves robotically defending a candidate who’s perpetuated Republicans’ anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic image.

Last week, Tampa hosted a convention for the forgetful elephants.

Maribel Hastings is a senior adviser to America’s Voice.

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Mike Calahan September 07, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Cathy, good point. Ha. I meant it to be directed at @Debra Janssen Martinez. Sorry if it came off as directed toward you.
Cathy P. September 07, 2012 at 07:42 PM
@Mike: no worries (I'm not paranoid or anything) - lol - welcome aboard!
Eye B. Tender September 08, 2012 at 07:25 AM
"Conservative policies and smaller government create more wealth for everyone." If only for the simple reason that private enterprise requires careful attention to making a profit by getting a real product out the door. Because, the presence of “real product” in the marketplace not only directly employs those who manufacture it, it generates spinoff profit – more jobs, more prosperity – for many others as it vends its way through society. “What a bunch of worthless drivel, please try again using facts instead of a rant that leads to nowhere.” Please be more specific.
Larry Cargnoni September 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Larry Cargnoni September 21, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I've observed that elected officials are motivated by loss aversion, not actually motivated to getting things done and using common sense. I observe that most pander to their bases (not constituents) and make decisions and champion/get behind poor causes because they have support of their base - so they can be re-elected. They need to do just enough to get a majority vote, but the key item is "never lose the base" else they are history....that's why we hear the democrats begging for 4 more years - it panders to the base...that they are dying/failing with honor, that the evil republicans stymie their efforts.....and they claim they've done just enough to claim a majority. the republicans do the same thing...if people would negotiate and really serve and serve the majority and not the extremists in their respective bases, we'd all be better off.


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