With California’s Republican state convention recently behind us, a big GOP mover and shaker took me out for drinks and wanted to know what I thought of their party’s new effort to win over Latinos.
Not much, I said, much to his disappointment. Adding a GOP Latino candidate here and there wasn’t going to amount to much, I told him, so long as they continue to alienate Latinos, who make up more than a fifth of the state’s voters. They had the same dog, just with new spots.
At that rate, Republicans will never succeed in winning major statewide offices in California—no matter how many millions their candidates spend.
What Republicans need, I said, was a new dog. So I laid out this primer on how Republicans can change their fortunes in California and beyond.
To begin romancing the Latino vote, Republicans must first man up, as it were, and be secure of who they are.
They must stop preaching to the choir and stop overusing the C-word. Conservatives are going to vote Republican no matter what and don’t need to be won over with all the C-word mantras that GOP candidates love to use. Park the C-word outside the state borders.
Instead, the California GOP should start an early grass-roots program educating Republicans on how the party will have to expand its ranks in order to win.
Next, they must disassociate from former Gov. Pete Wilson and from 1994, which was the year Proposition 187 alienated Latinos from Republicans. Retire the former governor. He is too symbolic of the anti-Latino GOP stance of the past.
Along with Wilson, either sincerely embrace immigration reform or put criticism on the back burner. Don’t rant about it. When it’s brought up, turn it to the issue of jobs.
Then, Republicans need to change how they go after the ever-growing Latino vote.
For starters, they can borrow a page from the American Jewish Committee, the global organization that in recent years has been promoting ties to Hispanic evangelicals and for whom the growing presence and increasing political influence of Latino evangelicals is a treasure trove for securing the future of Israel.
Los Angeles County alone is home to more than 5,500 Latino Pentecostal congregations. Nationally, at least eight million Americans identify themselves as Latino evangelicals.
Politically, say experts, Latino evangelicals lean toward the C-word.
“They fell in love with this George Bush, man of God defending the family from the allegedly gay agenda, abortion and the additional hook of the faith-based initiatives,” says Jorge Garcia, professor of Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge.
And Bush historically did well among Latinos in his campaigns for governor in Texas and in his two presidential campaigns.