January 4, 2011
Here's what you'll hear in many end-of-the-year retrospectives: 2010 emerged as the year of the conservative voter.
It's true. Fed up with health care "reform," runaway spending and lingering unemployment, Americans across the country ushered out many of the liberals who supported President Obama's big-government agenda.
But here's what you won't hear: This conservative wave included some Hispanic-American voters. That fact inconveniently flouts the conventional wisdom that liberal candidates can consider Hispanic votes to be in the bag. It interrupts the usual narrative, so it must be ignored or explained away.
Take when Republican Francisco Canseco mounted a serious challenge to Democrat Ciro D. Rodriguez's congressional seat in Texas' 23rd District. An Oct. 28 New York Times article described Mr. Canseco as "a wealthy lawyer and developer who has allied himself with the anti-tax movement known as the Tea Party." You know, those people. Mr. Rodriguez, meanwhile, was described as being "from the working-class streets of south San Antonio." Mr. Canseco was there to "split the Latino vote and carry the banner for white conservatives angry at President Obama's economic and health care policies."
This may come as a shock to the Times, but conservatives, white or otherwise, are not alone in disagreeing with the president's policies. Conservative solutions have universal appeal. Small government, a strong defense, individual freedom - these principles attract voters of every age, race and economic background.
That includes Hispanics. They're part of the reason Mr. Canseco unseated Mr. Rodriguez. They helped turn Republicans Marco Rubio into a senator-elect in Florida, Brian Sandoval into the first Hispanic governor of Nevada and Susana Martinez into the first Hispanic governor of New Mexico.
"They are conservative people," Mr. Rodriguez said of Hispanics. The idea that liberal candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, can take their support for granted is an insult, quite frankly. Many Hispanics want a government that serves the people, not the other way around. Acting as if this goal is the exclusive property of any one ethnic group is absurd. Conservative values run deep among Hispanics.
Mr. Canseco, after all, didn't win by pandering. He ran on the same pocketbook issues most Americans care about - a failed stimulus, out-of-control spending and a health care "reform" that heralds still more government meddling.
That's why we at the Heritage Foundation recently launched Libertad.org, a new Spanish-language website. Libertad.org brings conservative solutions to Hispanics who prefer to read news in their first language. Unlike certain politicians, we don't act as if there are "Hispanic" issues and "non-Hispanic" issues. Libertad.org is there to provide access to the same research available on Heritage.org.
Even after the election, though, many liberals were up to their usual tricks - using the Dream Act in a blatant effort to pander to Hispanics. Yet as Libertad.org Editor Israel Ortega noted,"The irony is that Hispanics are more concerned about the economy and the stubborn unemployment rate nearing double digits nationwide than they are about illegal immigration." Much of that concern is rooted in conservative goals.
That's not surprising. Those goals, including self-reliance and hard work, are themselves rooted in the American dream, which all immigrants have sought for centuries in this land of opportunity. Contrast that message with the ethnic-warfare missives Hispanics usually get, such as the time when Mr. Obama urged them to "punish our enemies." He apologized shortly afterward, but this gaffe revealed an interesting mindset.
Hispanics deserve better than such condescension. They merit more than a political ghetto. The same concerns, the same issues, that animate their votes animate Americans whose families have been here for generations. It's time all politicians started acting like it.
Ed Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The Washington Times