Alfonso Aguilar, Wednesday’s Fox News Latino’s guest contributor (“GOP Candidates with Latino Appeal”), is absolutely right about Hispanics being drawn to President Reagan. My father, a Mexican immigrant who earned his American citizenship in 1969, voted for Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and he voted for George Bush in 1988.
But, by 1992, Pa saw things differently. He admired Reagan’s patriotism and shared Reagan’s vision for America, but Democrats talked more about the issues that he knew would help him and his children realize that vision: like reforming our schools and making college more affordable.
Pa and the rest of my family – and most of the Hispanics I know here – have never seen government as the solution. Like Aguilar says, we tend to be a family-centric group who value our independence. But they also have experienced, first hand, the high cost of doing nothing to help the uninsured obtain health coverage. They don’t need “big” government, but they are sick of paying for one that blundered in Iraq, failed during Katrina, and favors tax breaks that only the richest Americans can use.
A Democratic President (Clinton) and Democratic Congress passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which promotes trade and greater cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico, helping Hispanics in both countries. A Democratic President (Clinton) worked with Republicans to balance the Federal Budget, while a Republican President and Congress that followed put us back on the track to massive deficits.
And this Democratic President and Democratic Congress passed health care reform that will help Hispanics – who have the highest percentage of uninsured individuals of any group – get coverage. They elevated the first Latina to the Supreme Court. They responded to the credit crisis by giving 95 percent of Americans a tax break, and sending billions to State governments to keep teachers, firefighters and cops on the job – all with little or no support from Republicans. Just weeks ago, Democrats tried to pass a Small Business Jobs Act, which would extend assistance to business owners looking for capital to grow their businesses and hire more workers. Republicans blocked the measure.
And, of course, there is the question of what to do with the millions of illegal Hispanic immigrants among us. To be fair, passing comprehensive immigration reform would be difficult for any president – even one, like President Obama, who won Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana and Virginia, and brought a 60 seat majority to the Senate. But President Obama has made his commitment to reforms that help secure our borders, reward those willing to work for a path to citizenship, and ensure that employers that break the law pay a price.
The fact is, we can’t pass immigration reform, large or small, without Republican support in Congress – and Republicans are headed in the wrong direction on this issue. Past leaders like Sen. John McCain have flip-flopped on some of their most basic principles. And 11 Senate Republicans who supported immigration reform under President Bush changed their votes when a similar proposal was submitted this fall.
Aguilar makes a reasonable argument: send a message by voting for the GOP candidates you think will help push issues that help Hispanics and reflect our values. Here’s the problem: we need to vote for or against the GOP we have, not the GOP we’d like to see. Let’s assume Aguilar is right, and Florida senatorial candidate Marco Rubio and California congressional candidate Carly Fiorina would want to encourage their Republican counterparts to support comprehensive immigration reform. Would Republican Senator hopeful Sharron Angle, now famous for running those racist Mexican gangbanger ads, ever really listen? Would the Republican Party operatives who produced ads encouraging Hispanics to stay home on Election Day ever really learn their lesson? Sadly, the answer is “no.”
This election is about issues that matter to Hispanics because we value family, hard work and opportunity. Democrats have performed better on these issues for decades.
In some races, Republicans have tried to make this election about fear and hate – with crime scene mock-ups featuring young Hispanic men. Make no mistake which party they represent – and send a message that Hispanics are paying attention.
Patti Solis Doyle is a partner at the law firm of Utrecht Phillips. She served for eight years on the staff of First Lady Hillary Clinton, ran Clinton’s political action committee and Senate re-election campaign, and served as Clinton’s campaign manager in 2008 – the first Latina to hold such a position.