Many in the Republican Party are addicted to the divisive practice of exploiting nativist fears to scare up votes. As with any addiction, the first step to kicking it is to admit you have a problem and ask for help.
And so it is that sometimes, I’m asked to speak to Republican groups and explain where their party went wrong and what it can do to make peace with Hispanics.
They had better do something. The nation’s 46 million Hispanics are America’s largest minority, and they’re on track to represent one in four Americans by 2042. Every two years, another 1 million Hispanics join the voter rolls. Two-thirds of Hispanics voted for Barack Obama. Political experts say that, if Republicans don’t stop hemorrhaging Hispanic support, they might never win another presidential election. Period.
The good news for Republicans is that Democrats are just as clueless as they are about winning Hispanic support. Most of the time, they rely on Hispanic politicians to deliver the vote while they concentrate on soccer moms and making inroads into the suburbs. Oh, Democrats get lucky now and then. This year, they benefited from the fact that Hispanics had soured on President Bush or anything that reminded them of him and from the fact that many Hispanics — especially the young — got swept up in Obamania along with much of the nation.
But Democrats can’t afford to be too smug at the moment. After all, it was only four years ago that another Democratic nominee — John Kerry — racked up the worst showing with Hispanic voters in a presidential election since people began keeping records. Luck has a way of running out.