By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
I was recently reading an article by Steve Sailer, movie critic for The American Conservative entitled, "What GOP Should Say to Hispanics - Vote like Americans." Sailer used information from the Hispanic Pew Center study released on October 5th. The survey - "Latinos and the 2010 Elections: Strong Support for Democrats; Voter Weak Motivation" attempted to explain Latino issues that might affect how Latinos vote.
The Pew survey polled Hispanics on the top seven issues which Latinos felt were the extremely important to the Latino community. Several earlier polls have shown immigration to be one of the top issues that Latinos want addressed by consistent governmental policy and legislation.
There is no doubt that comprehensive immigration reform remains one of the issues that Latinos have demanded from President Obama, and is seen as one of the main reasons his positive polling numbers among Latinos has plunged dramatically.
Sailer on the other hand took the latest Hispanic Pew survey to misrepresent the feelings of the Latino community, and used his article to demonstrate that Latinos are losing interest or steam when it comes to immigration reform. His premise was that among the top seven most important issues facing the Latino community, "Immigration reform" only placed 5th in order of importance.
Using that misdirected premise, Sailer goes on a mission to demonstrate that if the GOP reached out to Hispanics, and asked to them to vote "like Americans," Latino Democrats might consider the message, because most Republicans concur with Latino preferences as well. The Hispanic Pew study states their polling shows that while Latinos generally support the Democrats, there is little motivation to vote come the mid-term elections. It gets back to that "enthusiasm gap," that generally is being touted by the GOP as affecting all Democrats.
Sailer's main rationale is simple, but clearly out of step with reality and any sense of what the Latino community feels about immigration reform. I don't know of any Latino leader who proposes to have open borders and leave the border unsecured. Most believe that an acceptable pathway to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants who want citizenship should be part of any immigration reform.
I don't find most immigration reform proponents demanding that undocumented immigrants be deported in train box cars like "our American government," did during "Operation Wetback" in the 1950's.
What Sailer proposes is, "My conclusion: After a Bush-blighted decade, it's time for Republican candidates to address Hispanic voters directly over illegal immigration. As a general rule, human beings respond more constructively to being challenged than to being pandered to. Hence, GOP candidates should forthrightly ask for the support of Hispanic voters in opposing illegal immigration."
What an idiotic proposal and void of any political reality that anyone would actually think that Latinos would vote for Republicans, especially how in practically every race in the country, they have demonized and dehumanized undocumented immigrants, and now Sailer thinks we would even consider voting "like Americans," and vote for Republicans?
Looking back at the top issues that registered Latino voters find extremely important start with Education at 58%. Jobs at 54%. Healthcare at 51%. Federal Budget Deficit at 35%. Immigration at 31%. Environment at 29%. And finally the war in Afghanistan at 27%.
When you understand that while the American economy has edged closer to the brink of bankruptcy for the last two years and unemployment and loss of jobs has affected most Americans, it is understandable that Jobs and Federal Budget Deficit are among the top five concerns. While the Obama Administration claims national unemployment figures top out at about 9.2%, many economists will tell you, in the Black and Latino communities the unemployment rates are anywhere from 12% to 15%.
For over forty or more years the Latino community has demanded that something be done with the great social equalizer, education. Education rates first at 58%. With 50% or more Latino students dropping out of school, it is a national crisis that most Republicans probably don't even recognize.
The same concern also rises in the Latino community when it comes to a lack of affordable healthcare. Most Latinos or immigrants will stay away from the doctors and hospitals because medical care is not affordable. The problem is when most Latinos finally go the doctor; their health problem is far more serious than if they had taken care of the health problem earlier.
No Mr. Sailer, it should not surprise you that at this point in time, while most Americans deal with the Great Recession, most people of color, including Latinos are dealing with the Great Depression of 2010.
The Hispanic Pew survey should not be misleading, because consistently in other Pew surveys, most Latinos want comprehensive immigration reform taken care of. But when you can't find a job to put food on the table of a hungry family, pay the rent or mortgage, deal with higher prices for transportation or keeping the old car drivable, and worrying about what happens when one of the kids gets sick, or how to deal with the costs of healthcare, it is no wonder these issues float to the top of the extremely important issues facing the Latino community.
Also, don't be so ignorant as to think that if Republicans simply "challenge Latinos instead of pandering to them," by asking Latinos to support the GOP's hate campaign against undocumented immigrants will resonate in the Latino community. Demonizing, dehumanizing, and calling people "illegals," is not going to drive as you call Latinos, "unmotivated Democrats," to vote for Republicans.
In fact, your misguided attempt to challenge Latinos to vote for the GOP candidate because of our "Hispanic patriotism," is like asking us to commit treason.
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H. S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years as a journalist. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; and in law enforcement as the Manager of Public Safety, responsible for the Denver Police Department, Denver Fire Department, and Denver Sheriff Department for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.