Last Tuesday, a friend of mine in Pennsylvania picked up his 92 year old mother to take her to vote as he does every Election Day. She made sure that she had her magnifying glass with her, since she can barely see. The interesting thing, he later told me, is that she told him that she had never voted for a Democratic Presidential nominee before. She didn’t vote for FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ, Clinton, or Obama in his first campaign. But she told her son on the ride over that she intended to vote for Obama because in Pennsylvania the GOP had passed a law that would have made it very difficult for her to cast her ballot.
He explained to her that the law was not in force, since courts had delayed it. She then began to list all of their relatives who had given their lives for America and the rest who had fought for the nation. She concluded her diatribe by saying ‘Nobody keeps me from voting.’ Well, I thought that that was an interesting story, but honestly, who really cares what one 92 year old woman does? She might vote in 2 or 3 more Presidential elections at most.
Then, yesterday, I was watching CNN and saw a discussion on what direction the GOP should go to become more competitive in national elections. One of the discussants, Carlos Gutierrez, said that ‘Our party is scaring the heck out of (Latinos).’Gutierrez was CEO of Kellogg’s, then was Secretary of Commerce under Bush2; this year, he was an advisor to Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign.
In a number of states, following the 2010 elections, the Republicans made it more difficult for some subsets of people to vote, arguing that these laws were needed in order to combat voter fraud. Democrats fought many of these measures in court, causing some of the laws to be delayed or removed. It then went into Hispanic and African-American communities and college campuses around the nation and contended that these laws were enacted to keep these people from voting. As we know, their counterattack was effective, with the voting percentages among minorities increasing since 2008.
Imagine how you would feel if you had immigrated here to make yourself and your family better off economically. Your kids went to school and served in the Armed Forces. You paid taxes like the rest of us. But, now, it turns out that the right to vote depends at least in part on which political party is in charge. How hard would you work to make sure that they are never in charge again?
The GOP can nominate Marco Rubio or Susana Martinez in 2016 for President. It can have a mariachi band playing Guantanamera at every campaign rally. It can offer free fajitas at every event. But as long as Hispanics associate the Republican Party with efforts to take away their right to vote, the likelihood of increasing its votes in this demographic will be minimal. For some reason, people seem to take their rights in this area pretty seriously.
Arguably, Hispanics would provide more votes to Democrats than Republicans in the short-term, because of income. This is true for all immigrant groups. Catholics were a solid Democratic constituency beginning with the 1928 election. The GOP tried similar tactics with them. It took the election of Ronald Reagan for them to move toward the GOP. Now, they tend to vote about the same as everyone else. If the Party makes it evident that they are hostile to any group, it is going to become increasingly difficult to get their support. The longer the Party maintains its hostile attitude towards Hispanics, the sooner it will become a political footnote.
The effort in a number of states after 2010 was interesting. However, in retrospect, it didn’t work. Admit it, and move on to real issues.
Here’s the CNN video of the round table discussion with Gutierrez. The comments that I alluded to occur at about the 4:00 mark: