The GOP’s Latino Gap


How deep a hole has the “whiter and brighter” Republican Party dug with Latinos?

As anybody with two brain cells to rub together is well aware, that’s the central question for the future of Texas politics—and judging from a survey conducted in July by the non-partisan Latino Policy Coalition, the GOP’s Latino gap is deeper than even the most optimistic of Democrats imagines. The poll wasn’t Texas-centric, and the sample was small: 1,000 Latinos in 23 states (Texas among them). But the results were resounding. Let us count the ways: Seventy-seven percent rated President Obama—whose struggles attracting Latino voters were much ballyhooed and overhyped in 2008—favorably, against just 17 percent unfavorable. Among leading Republicans, only Mitt Romney scored (slightly) higher favorables than unfavorables, though “no opinion” scored highest of all. Former President George W. Bush, whose performance with Latino voters was bracingly strong in 2004, was viewed favorably by only 26 percent—and unfavorably by 67 percent. Forty-nine percent rated Democrats “much better” for the Latino community; just 8 percent thought Republicans were “much better” for Latinos. When it came to issues, the GOP ratings were every bit as bleak. While 19 percent self-identified as Republicans, only 13 percent said the party would do a better job with the economy than the Dems. More than five times as many (65 percent) said they’d trust Obama with economic issues facing families more than Republicans in Congress (12 percent). If an election for Congress were held on the day they were surveyed, just 19 percent said they would vote Republican, and 55 percent Democratic. Similar margins pertained on immigration, health care, gas prices, education and the environment. As Marisa Trevino writes on her terrific Texas-based blog, Latina Lista, “If the Republican leadership was smart, they would use this survey as a blueprint to rebuilding a connection with the Latino community.” Big “if” there. Trevino helpfully suggests six ways for Republicans to recapture some Latino support (“5. Understand that a whole demographic can’t be continually defiled by party pundits without inflicting insult and injury.”). But Texas GOP leaders seem hell-bent on pandering to anti-immigrant whiteys and driving more and more Latinos away. Even the most powerful Republican who dares to talk publicly about such things as “inclusion,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, felt compelled to suck up to the wingnuts by casting a meaningless vote against Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation.

Texas Republicans are committing demographic hara-kiri. That much is clear. The only questions are whether they have to start losing statewide elections before they wake up—and whether it’ll be too late when they do.

Based on their wide-ranging views on politics and culture, and their very different history in America, it seems highly unlikely that Latinos will ever form a solid voting bloc to match the overwhelming support that African Americans have shown for Democrats since the civil-rights movement. But Republicans are doing their darndest to make it happen.