Standing on the precipice of the Republican Party's demise, deep in denial about the damage done with Latino voters, many right-wing analysts seek to brush away the GOP's serial attacks against American Latinos as minor matters with no political transcendence.
In the latest attempt at Photoshopping Latinos' deep and wide loathing of the Republican Party, National Review's Reihan Salam informs his readers that "Immigration Reform Is Not the Key to the Latino Vote."
Just a few weeks ago the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to deport all Dreamers and abolish the due process rights of the refugee kids at the border, while constraining the president's power to execute current immigration law in any other way than through the acceleration of deportations.
Salam would have his readers believe what they already hope to be true: Latinos are not actually preoccupied with immigration reform. Salam trots out the usual argument that in some polls, Latinos rank education and the economy as their top two issues of concern; Hispanic Americans act like, well, all Americans in prioritizing economic issues. This assumption of Latino priorities is the fact-free nadir of Salam's wishful thinking posing as thoughtful essay.
Then, after taking a shot at the respected polling firm Latino Decisions — which actually builds representative samples of the whole U.S. Hispanic citizenry, as opposed to other pollsters' methodologies of including a subset of Latinos in their national polls — Salam willy-nilly ignores the poll that found that Latinos feel passionately that Republicans are responsible for the immigration reform circus.
With the exception of Latino voters in a deep coma over the last 12 months, a majority of Hispanic voters blame Republicans for the failure of the House to pass a version of the Senate's comprehensive immigration-reform bill. And equally damaging, they hold the GOP responsible for passing three symbolic immigration bills — not to reform the system, but with the stated purpose of deporting the Dreamers — while demonizing migrant minors at the border.
Perhaps unconsciously influenced by President Reagan's supremely condescending comment that "Hispanics are conservatives, they just don't know it yet," Salam builds a torturous case that economic insecurity is driving the collapse in Hispanic support for Republicans. Perhaps writing for the National Review requires one to believe that all humans are economic units and that their behavior can be neatly explained by understanding what a "rational actor" in an economic system would do.
With no data to support his view, Salam dismisses the most pressing and emotional issue driving Hispanic politics in America today.
According to a May 2014 Politico poll, 90 percent of Latino voters support comprehensive immigration reform. Not surprisingly, deporting Dreamers is as popular as root canals. Anecdotally, I am quite confident that Latinos do not agree about anything else at a 90 percent level. Even whether to be called "Latinos" or "Hispanics" is a statistical toss-up.
Salam makes the classic mistake of extrapolating limited knowledge of a subject — American Hispanic politics — into a political theory that fits his deeply held ideological beliefs.
Republicans with real experience, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), are cognizant that whenever Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and his anti-Latino allies once again insult Latinos, the damage to the Republican Party measurably increases, and the chances of Latino voters electing Republicans to office diminish even further.
Worse, Salam's specious argument gives the "Deportation Republicans," as The Wall Street Journal recently called them, an imaginary lifesaving flotation device, while the GOP's fortunes with the fastest-growing voting block in America sink like the Titanic.
Salam would better serve his Republican readers by telling them the truth: Until the GOP's immigration position approximates their hero Reagan's policy, the chances of Latino voters looking at the GOP with anything other than disdain will only increase.
Espuelas, a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, is a political analyst on television, radio and in print. He is the host and managing editor of “The Fernando Espuelas Show,” a daily political talk show syndicated nationally by the Univision America Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and via Twitter @EspuelasVox.