Republicans' relationship with the Latino community can be described as complicated at best, and abusive at it's core.
Along with efforts of voter suppression, Texas Republicans have a long history of portraying Latinos as “the bogeyman” of Texas, feeding into the xenophobia of many right-wing voters. The Republican Lieutenant Governor primary race has so far been the perfect embodiment of this dilemma. All four major GOP candidates have been desperate to sound the toughest on immigration, often resorting to racially divisive messages in order to pander to conservative Tea Party voters.
Even the Hispanic chairman of the Associated Republicans of Texas, Hector De Leon, believes this type of anti-immigrant rhetoric will only undermine the party's efforts to branch out to different voters, particularly Latinos.
“I understand the need to address the issue of illegal immigration, and I understand the need to secure borders, and I realize that's critically important,” said De Leon. “But by the same token, that issue can be addressed by not engaging in rhetoric that sounds like thinly veiled racism.”
Read more of the GOP's problem with Hispanic voters, including remarks by Senator Van de Putte, below the jump.
Patrick going after Mayor Julian Castro
The national debate on immigration has taken spotlight of the Republican Lt. Gov. primary race, despite the major similarities of the candidates' positions. The four major Republican candidates — current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, and state Senator Dan Patrick — virtually all share the same anti-immigrant policy views.
Wanting to distinguish himself from the pack — and as if not realizing his actions have real future consequences — Senator Dan Patrick has repeatedly called for a stop to this “illegal invasion” and even went as far as to challenge “immigration invasion Mayor” Julian Castro to a debate on immigration. Mayor Julian Castro has called Patrick the “most anti-immigrant Republican running for state office.”
Yet Texas' demographics are quickly leaning towards an increasingly critical Hispanic voting bloc. A reality even Republicans cannot refuse to ignore.
“I think it's inappropriate to be shortsighted in terms of achieving political office now and not farsighted in terms of what is best for the Republican Party in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years,” De Leon had to say about Republicans like Dan Patrick.
Latinos in Texas are expected to make up a plurality of the state's population by 2020. Republicans need to learn very soon how to properly communicate with Latinos, or face the very real possibility of never being elected to any Texas state-wide office ever again.
“When all you are doing is slamming immigrants whether they are legal or illegal, who primarily are Hispanic, then they only hear part of the story. They don't hear that the Republican Party is not going to deport Grandma,” said Patterson. “They just hear that you are slamming immigrants, and they just hear that in the large sense, not just the illegals, but those who are here legally.”
State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, Democrat and Hispanic candidate running for Lt. Gov., believes Texas Republicans have learned absolutely nothing from other Republicans in states where the GOP took harsh anti-immigrant stances and, consequently, began to lose support from Hispanic voters. Something her campaign will be able to effectively use against her future Republican opponent.
“They're not learning the lessons of Pete Wilson's California,” said Van de Putte. “They're not learning the lessons of Jan Brewer's Arizona.”
Chances are Republicans will never learn. Not until it is too late, and the very same people they demonized have helped turn Texas blue again.