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The Media Double Standard on Hispanic Political Loyalties

If Hispanics don't vote for the GOP, it's Republicans' fault. But if they don't vote for Democrats, they're "fickle."

by
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Bio

April 1, 2011 - 12:00 am

See if you can follow this logic: If Latinos don’t vote for Republicans, it’s because Republicans are doing something wrong. But if Latinos don’t vote for Democrats, it’s because there is something wrong with … Latinos.

That assessment seems overly generous to Democrats, doesn’t it? I mean, when do they get to be wrong? Unless, perhaps, you think Democrats can do no wrong?

That seemed to be the message behind a recent installment of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews. I was invited on the show to discuss, with guest host Chuck Todd, the surge in the U.S. Latino population and what it could mean for Election 2012. Also invited to participate was Associated Press reporter Liz Sidoti.

Anyone who watches NBC News knows that Todd, the network’s chief White House correspondent, is a pro who knows his material. Best of all, he’s smart enough not to go out on a limb and venture an opinion on a subject matter with which he’s not familiar. Sidoti, come to find out, not so much.

First let’s look at the numbers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are now 50.5 million Latinos in the United States. They account for 16.3 percent of the population. The Latino population grew 43 percent from 2000-2010, and it accounts for more than half of the growth of the entire U.S. population in that decade. There are eight states that are home to a million or more Latinos: California, Texas, New York, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey. California, the nation’s most populous state, is home to 14 million Latinos. But the largest increases in Latino population are actually found in states that are not typically considered heavily Latino, such as Virginia, Georgia, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

And the country will only become more Latino as time goes on to the point where, demographers predict, Latinos will account for as much as 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050.

Todd, Sidoti, and I were all in agreement that this Latino tidal wave spells bad news for Republicans in 2012 and beyond. The GOP’s anti-Latino immigration screed has proven to be, for much of this population, a better repellent than bug spray.

To be clear, the problem isn’t that Republicans tend to talk ad nauseam about border security, law and order, and national sovereignty. Those are all good things, and most Latinos support them as well. The problem is that, when it comes time to put actions behind their words, Republicans tend to act in ways that are dishonest, hypocritical, simpleminded, mean-spirited, and, yes, racist. And none of that sits well with many Latinos.

On this point, we all agreed. The Republicans are likely to pay for their immigration sins for decades to come, and lose one election after another until the debt is settled.

But where the discussion really got interesting was when I made the point that Democrats were not in the clear either. President Obama’s support among Latinos is, I said, “a mile wide and an inch deep” in part because he hasn’t delivered on immigration reform as promised. In fact, his surrogates such as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano actually go around the country bragging about how many illegal immigrants have been deported. That, too, does not sit well with many Latinos.

If relations aren’t improved, I warned, don’t be surprised if many Latinos just stay home and sit out the 2012 election — something that would, without question, hurt Obama’s reelection chances in a half dozen or so key states.

Todd asked Sidoti about that. Begrudgingly, the reporter agreed. After all, she said, Latino voters are “fickle.” A few seconds later, she said it again. Latino voters are “fickle.”

Hmm. Fickle, eh? How condescending.

Note the mindset of the elite and Obama-friendly D.C. media. If Latinos don’t vote for Republicans, it’s because they’re understandably outraged over being picked on and treated as scapegoats. But if Latinos don’t vote for Democrats, it’s because those voters are fickle.

Above all, the message goes, those who make up the nation’s largest minority group just don’t know how lucky they are to have a national leader like President Obama — not to mention an all-knowing and all-feeling Washington press corps that is intent on reminding them.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union Tribune, a nationally syndicated columnist, a frequent lecturer, and a regular contributor to CNN.com.
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