Latino leaders say they are cautiously optimistic about the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) recently announced plan to address the image problem the GOP has among many Latinos.
The RNC released on Monday a report, dubbed by some as the RNC autopsy report, that assesses what went wrong during the last election that led Latino voters to overwhelmingly side with Democratic candidates and presents a plan to address the issue. The RNC concluded in its 97-page report that Latinos were in large part turned away by the GOP because of the party’s harsh tone on immigration.
It also listed steps Republicans can take to make inroads with this vastly growing population that’s slated to make up 29 percent of the United States’ population by 2050. One of the first steps the RNC recommends Republicans to take is “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
“If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only,” the RNC stated in its report, adding that immigration is a gateway issue for many Latino voters.
The RNC also acknowledged in the report that it is “imperative” for Republicans to change how they engage with Latinos. It called on Republicans to spend “substantial time” in Latino communities in order to demonstrate that they do care about this voting bloc, which is essential to the party’s electoral future.
“If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence,” the RNC stated in its report. “It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”
Other steps the RNC plans to take to appeal to Latinos include: Craft a tone that is “inclusive” and “welcomes in” Latinos to the Republican Party, elevate Hispanic leaders within the GOP’s infrastructure, rebuild a list of Latino surrogates who can sell the party’s message to Latinos and invest financial resources in Hispanic media.
Latinos laud the RNC autopsy report and make recommendations
Several Latino leaders applauded the RNC autopsy report but said they will be closely watching to ensure Republicans follow through with their proposed Latino outreach efforts.
“More than anything else, I think their actions will speak louder than words,” Ben Monterroso, national executive director of Mi Familia Vota, told VOXXI. “They can say all they want, but the actions they take are going to show whether they really mean this.”
Eric Rodriguez, vice president for the office of research, advocacy and legislation at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), agreed with Monterroso. He said the RNC would have to take action by investing more money in Latino outreach efforts if the GOP truly wants to make inroads with this growing population.
Among the outreach efforts Rodriguez hopes the RNC will do include engaging directly with Latino voters at the local level and helping Latino Republicans get elected to national, local and state level public offices.
“Meaningful outreach and meaningful engagement entails something that is a lot more resource intensive than we’ve seen them do so far,” he said of Republicans.
Brent Wilkes, national executive director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said that while Latino outreach is important, a bigger challenge for the Republican Party is getting more of its party leaders to advocate for some of the same policies Latinos support.
“We have to make sure that they are addressing Latino issues just as they would seem to address the interests of business owners and other individuals,” he said of Republicans.
Matt Barreto, co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions, argued that Republicans would need to do more than just issue a report if they truly want to be successful in growing their base among Latinos. He recommended two components that could help Republicans achieve that, starting with having Republicans push for policies important to Latino voters like Wilkes suggested.
“Issuing a report with some idea is just the appetizer,” he said of the RNC autopsy report. “They have to follow through on that. They have to actually deliver and vote for these various policies Latinos support.”
Barreto, who is also a political science professor at the University of Washington, said the second component he recommends is having Republicans change the way they speak about diversity issues and do away with the “sort of nasty and anti-immigrant rhetoric” that some party leaders used during the last election.
“In every poll we did in 2012, there were more Latinos who thought the Republican Party was more hostile to Latinos than welcoming,” Barreto told VOXXI. “That comes about from the rhetoric not just of the presidential candidates but throughout the entire ranks of the party.”