Republicans and The Latino Outreach Failure

If last week’s gaffes are any barometer of the Republicans’ Latino outreach campaign, the political party can expect even fewer votes from that demographic in the next presidential election.

After President Obama handily defeated Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, the losing party ran back to the drawing board. Several prominent members realized a strategy shift was necessary to broaden the voter base, and Republicans decided to begin a Latino outreach initiative. Obama captured 71 percent of the Latino vote, a demographic that represents America’s largest and fastest growing minority.”When you do the math, it’s a very narrow path to victory in a presidential year without significant improvement among Hispanics,” Republican pollster Glen Bolger said.

The party set forth a noble goal, but its outreach program has been an unmitigated disaster. Last week provided two salient examples of why the Hispanic community generally continues to resent the Republican party.

Thursday, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) described the workers his father employed to pick tomatoes as “wetb****,” a slur that has no place in society. By using the pejorative, Young demeaned the very group his party is trying to invite in. He not only alienated them but also conveyed an unwarranted view of superiority.

Young first tried to explain the situation, “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.” Inexcusable. When my mother’s side of the family worked the fields after coming to America in 1962, the w-word was a slur meant to dehumanize and degrade Mexican immigrants. Its harsh connotation has not changed, and any time it has ever been used has been in a disrespectful manner.

After some pressure, Young issued a full apology. Republican leaders quickly denounced the racially charged and insensitive comments. House Speaker Boehner characterized Young’s word choice as “offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds.” Senator John Cornyn said the language would “do nothing to elevate our party.”

Despite the quick retraction, the damage was done. Latinos saw this as yet another instance of overt racism. It conjured up memories of the backward thinking that led to the inequalities of the past such as my Mexican-American grandfather on my father’s side having to attend a segregated school in New Mexico.

Hispanics are so repelled by the outlandish racism that they close their ears and ignore any attempts by the Republican party to disseminate its ideology. Because the “discourse” on race and humanity is perverse, why should Hispanics believe that the policies are not inherently oppressive?

The mishaps did not end there. On Easter Sunday, Google incorporated a drawing of Cesar Chavez on its home page logo to mark the late civil rights leader’s birthday. The move sparked a sizable amount of outrage amongst members of the Republican Party, who were disturbed that the search giant did not celebrate Easter.

Dana Perino, a former press secretary for George W. Bush wondered if the Chavez doodle was an April Fools prank. Florida-based Republican strategist Rick Wilson lamented Google celebrating Easter with Cesar Chavez and announced he was switching to rival search engine Bing, which placed Easter eggs on its home page.

Google has not portrayed Easter in its logo since 2000, but this is the first time criticism has been targeted at the company for not depicting the holiday. It appears petty, misguided, and racially motivated that Perino and Wilson are upset because colored eggs or a bunny–two items with very loose connections to the resurrection of Jesus Christ–were missing from the drawing.

Instead, the company chose to honor a devout Catholic who fought tirelessly to improve the working conditions for one of the world’s most powerless groups. His inclusion on the home page does not infringe in any way upon the celebration of Easter. It observes the spirit of Jesus Christ and highlights a person who tried to follow His example. Marc Grossman, spokesman for the Chavez family, responded to the criticism, “We understand the concern that some people have, but for many there is no contradiction. Cesar lived the gospel according to Jesus Christ: he helped the poor and outcast.”

The door is open for Republicans to encroach on the dominant grasp Democrats hold over the Latino demographic. There is common ground between Republicans and Hispanics on a wide variety of economic issues. Furthermore, President Obama failed to deliver the immigration reform he promised would be completed by the end of his first term during interviews in 2008 with Univision.

However, Republicans will never truly gain the trust of Latinos if they continue to disparage and diminish the traditions and accomplishments of the Hispanic community. At the end of the day, Latinos would much rather vote for a candidate who takes them for granted and might not fulfill his promises than one whose supporters spew hateful, ignorant rhetoric. Can you blame them?