The Washington Post’s Mary Jordan reports today on the liberal pushback underway against Republican “Latino outreach” efforts ahead of the 2016 elections. As the GOP and allied major funders like the Koch brothers pour millions of dollars into bettering their performance among America’s fastest-growing demographic bloc of voters, the Latino activists the community has grown up with have a simple message:
“It’s not comfortable for us to do this, to call out members of our own community who don’t reflect our community values, but we have no choice,” said Cristóbal Alex, president of the Democratic-backed Latino Victory Project.
At a Monday gathering in Nevada of Democratic Hispanic leaders, ahead of tonight’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, photos of Cruz and Rubio were plastered alongside Trump’s picture, as all three were criticized as anti-Latino. A press release noted, “While Trump continues to grab headlines with his hateful anti-Latino, anti-immigrant language, the positions and records of the two Latino presidential candidates in the race are equally dangerous for Nevada communities.”
Dolores Huerta, an influential labor leader and civil rights activist, called Cruz and Rubio “sellouts” and “traitors” at the gathering and said the Hispanic candidates “are turning their backs on the Latino community.”
The latest nationwide polls show GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump with a commanding lead over the rest of the GOP field. With that once again noted for the record, a considerable segment of the GOP party activist class sees Marco Rubio and (to a less rational extent) Ted Cruz as the most electable candidates in the pack. A large part of that perception rests on their Cuban-American heritage–a curious embrace of the “identity politics” Republicans generally claim to shun.
Here in Colorado, Rubio’s campaign in particular is organizing as much as is practical with a state party that has rendered its own Republican caucuses meaningless. The Koch-funded Libre Initiative has an office in lower Highlands in Denver, ready to chase the Latino vote in the general election for the GOP. On paper, it all sounds like a formidable strategy.
The problem, as community icon Dolores Huerta and a who’s-who of recognized names among Latino voters are here to tell you, is that the appeal of these candidates is–and there’s no nice way to say ths–literally skin-deep. Other than an ability to converse in the native language, Marco Rubio simply has nothing tangible to offer Latino voters on the issues that matter to their daily lives. Rubio has abandoned the central policy plank on which he could have won over Latino votes, and running rightward in this primary, he can’t articulate any real plan for improving the personal economics of Latino families. As for Cruz?
You see the picture of him with Tom Tancredo and Steve King, right?
There’s no question that as a large and growing bloc of at least theoretically swingable voters, Latinos are going to be aggressively courted by anyone who wants to win elections.
For Republicans, this is a necessity that’s perilously likely to backfire.