OPINION

Janet Murguia: By Ignoring Lessons Of 2012, GOP Is Driving Latino Voters Further Away

It was exactly a year ago that the Republican National Committee (RNC) released an assessment of its resounding defeat in the 2012 election, known as the “autopsy report.”  That soul-searching piece rightly laid the defeat of Mitt Romney at the feet of the party’s profound disconnect with anyone outside its “core constituencies,” including young people, women, and Black and Latino voters. However, the political winds can shift quickly and it is no secret that Republicans are in much better shape politically than they were a year ago, especially when it comes to the 2014 midterm elections. But if the Republican Party continues to ignore the lessons of 2012, 2014 will be its last hurrah.

Not only has [the House] not voted on the Senate bill, it apparently can’t be bothered to read it because it’s “too long.”

- Janet Murguia

Those of us who have long argued that it is in the Latino community’s best interest to be courted by both parties experienced a hopeful moment last year. The autopsy report was released in the midst of the first meaningful push for comprehensive immigration reform in nearly a decade, as a bipartisan group of senators, the Gang of Eight, successfully shepherded a bill through the Senate. With the president firmly committed to signing a bill, the only thing left in June of last year was for the House of Representatives to act. 

Well, it is now nearly a year later and the House has proven itself to be an unmitigated disaster on immigration. Not only has it not voted on the Senate bill, it apparently can’t be bothered to read it because it’s “too long.” There has been a lot of chatter about the House advancing its own bill, but absolutely nothing has been introduced, let alone debated. And the only successful votes, which were engineered by Rep. Steve King (R–IA) — yes, the same congressman who claims to detect an undocumented immigrant by the size of his or her calves — would roll back the only positive immigration program of the last several years: deferred action for the students known as DREAMers.

In short, it is still 2010 among too many Republicans, with the familiar refrains of “no amnesty” and warnings about the “browning of America.”  But it is not 2010 and it never will be again. There are now four million more Hispanic voters than there were just four years ago. There are eight million more who can register to vote right now. And every single day, 2,000 young Latino U.S. citizens turn 18, a trend that will continue for at least the next 15 years. 

There is no sugar-coating the fact that the situation for the Republican Party vis-á-vis Latinos is dire and arguably worse than it was a year ago, with the stalling of reform in the House and the needless evisceration of Republican leaders who have attempted to help the party on the issue, such as Marco Rubio (R–FL). But it is not hopeless. It was only a decade ago that President Bush garnered a very healthy 44 percent of the Latino vote in his reelection. The fact that this percentage was reduced by nearly half by 2012 should be a cautionary tale for those who refuse to moderate their views on immigration reform or the Latino community.

While the situation is not hopeless, the challenge is not easy to overcome. It is going to take more than the baby steps that the RNC talked about this week in their autopsy anniversary news conference. This is not solely an issue of more outreach or better marketing. As the autopsy so eloquently stated, there is something fundamentally flawed in the way too many in the Republican Party view our community and our issues. And it is no exaggeration to say that the survival of the party depends on admitting that the flaw exists and then finding a way to fix it. A good start would be for the House leadership to allow a vote on comprehensive immigration reform.     

Janet Murguía is president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.

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