Last month, we were at the California Republican convention and had the privilege of attending a town hall on attracting Latino voters. At least the California State GOP have identified the problem, now it's on to finding solutions.
Here’s a suggestion: Propose a specific immigration policy that engenders good will among California Mexicans, e.g. a Republican version of the federal DREAM Act that would provide a path to residency/citizenship for individuals brought to the U.S. at a young age.
Instead of finding ourselves in a perpetually defensive posture, the party would finally have a proactive stance with respect to immigration, and one that is very popular in the California Mexican community.
"Brilliant!" you say, the silver bullet Republicans have been searching for at their town halls and forums!
The party leadership isn’t interested. We asked. They think stressing tougher border security is the winning message.
Border security?...Really? (And we wonder why the party's registration is 30 percent in California and shrinking.)
It should come as no surprise that the current California GOP leadership is presiding over a spectacular collapse, one that began in the early 1990’s.
At 30 percent voter registration, the party is on track to be eclipsed by voters registered as "other," currently at 26 percent.
Put another way, the California GOP may soon be third in a two-party system.
This is not rocket science. Simply take the most sympathetic case (e.g. undocumented youth raised in American since infancy), come up with a proposal, and show that the party actually has solutions for America’s cumbersome immigration quagmire.
A Republican DREAM Act isn’t a political version of a Hail Mary pass either; Gallup and Rasmussen polls show that a majority of Americans support a path to residency or citizenship for these undocumented youth, if they earn it.
Imagine what the poll numbers are among Californians, 38 percent of whom are Hispanic?
Former Republican Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently penned an Op-Ed on Fox News Latino stating the need for the GOP to get it right on this issue.
The authors of this Op-Ed are conservative, believe in free markets, a strong national defense, traditional family values, and individual liberty. We also oppose the summary deportation of individuals raised in America from a young age, and who have committed no wrong.
Despite what some critics of the DREAM Act seem to imply, there is no causal link between conservative ideals and unequivocal opposition to the DREAM Act.
And, to compound the problem, the endorsement of hard-line anti-immigration candidates such as Tim Donnelly is killing the California GOP!
As they say in poker when a guy donks-off all of his chips, “you don’t like money?”
In the political arena, it would appear that the California GOP “don’t like winning.”
If the GOP wants to win statewide races in California, or have even a modicum of power in Sacramento, it must appeal to the Latino community – and be on the right side of this issue. The irony is, behind the scenes many prominent California GOP figures support the concept in principle, but believe it is politically untenable.
There's the rub. Party leaders misunderstand both California Mexicans voters AND the base. ¡Que lastima!
Unless irrelevance is an acceptable fate, the party better figure it out, and fast.
Tony Carlos is a prosecutor and congressional candidate in California's 3rd District (R). Roberto Marquez is an attorney from California and former prosecutor.