President Obama’s immigration speech last Thursday had everything to do with cementing the Democratic Party’s hold on the Latino vote for 2016. And he is counting on the GOP to make it happen.
His strategy depends upon a chorus of Republican voices calling for the rounding up of 11 million people; thereby thrusting their (voting) friends and family into the arms of the Democratic party for a generation.
Had Obama felt ‘so deeply’ about this issue when he ran for president why then did he not pursue it when the Democrats had huge majorities in the House and Senate?
Now with the election shellacking the Democrats took and with the Democrat coalition fraying it was time to stitch it back together with the twin tactics of baiting Republicans and pandering to a group.
During my military training I was taught that the best way to minimize the force of a punch that you cannot avoid is to lean into it. Since Obama is president there is no way to avoid his punches outright, but like Rocky Balboa the GOP can win the fight. Before I offer my suggestions on how the GOP might ultimately win the bout a few facts are in order:
- At the national level Democrats are afraid and the mainstream media won’t discuss it. Democrats won the Latino vote by 2-1 nationally; but both California and New York had essentially uncontested gubernatorial races masking the progress made by Republicans. In the heavily contested Senate and Gubernatorial races in Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Kansas and Iowa the GOP averaged 43% of the Latino vote.
- The deportation issue for Latinos is all about family in a culture that values family above all else. Millions of Latino voters have relatives that are here illegally and fear being torn from their loved ones. While one may lament the lawlessness involved in granting amnesty, their feelings are understandable; and Obama is setting the GOP up to make Hispanic voters choose between it and their families. One doesn’t have to work with Latinos and have Latino friends to understand how that is going to work out.
Here is how the GOP can win:
1. Mind its tone in its reaction to Obama's executive action. Frame its response in terms of executive overreach as a matter of principle and not as being anti-immigrant. Many older Latinos remember the days of the PRI in Mexico and will understand these arguments as long as they see it as a struggle between a legislative body and a chief executive seeking to undermine democratic rule.
2. Pass an immigration bill that makes law abiding Latinos and their families feel safe. They are here in the U.S. and unless the Republican Party is willing to stake the fate of the Republic on rounding up 11 million people they aren’t going anywhere. However, according to an October Pew Hispanic an immigration bill that emphasizes border security for national security reasons is something 47% of Latino voters will accept.
Moreover, such a bill doesn’t have to be perfect in Latino eyes -- fifty-four percent of Latino voters would pull the lever for a candidate who disagrees with them on immigration issues but agrees with them on most other issues.
3. Talk about the issues that matter to Latino voters! The economy and jobs are the number one issue (49%) followed by health care, education and immigration. Interestingly, (and anecdotally) many of my Latino friends are very unhappy with the state of the schools their children attend and the indifference with which they are treated by the government schools’ bureaucracy. They were appalled when I explained the relationship between public employee unions and politicians in California and why parental input just did not matter in the public school system.
The Democrats’ beholden to public employee unions and the GOP view that parental and local control are best when it comes to education is a powerful contrast that should be stressed in Republican messaging.
4. Further, specific and meaningful proposals for job creation and economic opportunity will improve the GOP’s image in Latino eyes.
5. Finally, the GOP should continue to build on the Republican National Committee’s superb work in Latino outreach this cycle by encouraging local and State Central committees to participate in local projects important to Latino voters.
The foundation operated by my businesses has done just that here in liberal Sonoma County by helping with after school tutoring centers; English language classes; microloans and small business incubators.
The left should not have a monopoly on grass roots "community organizing."
The GOP and outside groups should commit to proving their intentions by deed rather than word that it is the party that will help Latinos achieve their dreams. The Latino community is very digitally sophisticated and word will get out.
If this type of interaction by Republican groups were to happen at the grass roots level in hundreds of counties across the country it is the Democrats who will be wondering if they will ever win the White House again.
John Jordan is CEO of Jordan Winery, co-founder of Labrador OmniMedia (creator of Tastevin, a tablet-based restaurant beverage list software), and is a member of the Hoover Institution's Board of Overseers at Stanford University.