Sen. John McCain’s recent “straight talk” urging conservatives to support immigration reform to win Hispanic voters was more than incredibly misguided; it ignored the new political landscape that places principled leadership over political gain.
In so doing, Sen. McCain only made it increasingly difficult that the Gang of Eight’s proposal will receive the backing in the Senate and the House of Representatives to make it to the president’s desk for a signature.
But just as misguided are predictions by some that conservatives policies will never appeal to Hispanics.
The truth is, the jury is still out on this one. Losing the Hispanic vote overwhelmingly in two consecutive presidential elections is hardly proof that conservatives can never recover and even grow our coalition. It was in fact only nine years ago that President George W. Bush received 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, essentially making this voting bloc a toss-up.
Besides, Hispanics are only now beginning to truly flex their political muscles. Additionally, the Hispanic electorate is constantly changing. Whereas even 30 years ago, the electorate was overwhelmingly of Mexican origin, today it includes many more Central and South Americans and a large number of unregistered voters that have yet to cast a vote for either political party.
In fact, 50,000 Hispanic turn 18 every month suggesting that we are only at the beginning of this demographic tidal wave. It’s much too soon for anyone to make absolutist pronouncements.
If anything, there is both conventional and anecdotal evidence to suggest that Hispanics are open to conservative policies and ideas. For example, a recent poll suggested that Hispanics would be open to school choice and vouchers. Yet another poll, this one by the well respected McClatchy-Marist poll, found that Hispanics, by a margin of 62 percent to 36 percent, favor extending tax cuts for all Americans — including the most affluent.
And on polling done on a state level, Florida Hispanics trusted Republicans over Democrats on national security and in states such as New Mexico and Colorado, Hispanics supported voter ID laws.
But perhaps the biggest hope for optimism lies in the fact that conservatives have a compelling story in describing how the policies supported and perpetuated by the left have been miserable failures in helping Hispanic families achieve the American Dream. From welfare to education and even to health care, conservatives can show how liberal ideas have fallen way short of their intended desires.
What’s more, the very same economic opportunities that many Hispanics came seeking were created not by a big government, but by a vibrant free market that values entrepreneurship and economic freedom. This is a powerful message that can resonate if empirical evidence is coupled with a sustained commitment by conservatives to communicate these ideas to Hispanics demonstrating how our policies provide opportunities and a real chance to live the American Dream without an onerous government.
Dismissive talk is no way of growing a movement that desperately needs to grow in order to tackle runaway spending, a fracturing civil society, and a robust foreign policy that will promote American interests around the world.
It’s too bad that some are throwing in the towel before the bell has even rung.
-Israel Ortega is the Editor of Libertad.org – The Spanish language page of The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Fox News Latino.