That phrase is bandied about by US politicians and pundits alike, especially this election cycle, with the inference being that the “Latino vote” is made up of a like thinking, monolithic bloc of people who all vote the same way.
Many on the New American Right, especially in the wake of President Obama’s recent executive order exempting young, undocumented immigrants who meet a very specific set of criteria from the threat of imminent deportation, seem to think the “Latino vote” is an overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic vote. It is not.
As a new Puerto Rican friend pointed out to me the other night, the “Latino vote” in the U.S. is no more monolithic than the white, Anglo vote is.
White Anglo liberals in Massachusetts, for example, often have little in common philosophically, socially, or politically with their conservative counterparts in, say, Alabama, despite the fact they all speak English and are citizens of the U.S. The same holds true in the Latino community’s politics.
Many, despite President Obama’s recent action, are still angry that he oversaw such an aggressive detain, process, and deport initiative in the first 3 1/2 years of his presidency. Many others recall the humane approach Presidents Reagan and both Bushes took, and attempted to take, in regards to immigration policy. Many on the New American Right forget it was their supposed hero, the Gipper, who issued a blanket amnesty in 1986.
Both Presidents Bush, and especially G.W., attempted to apply an intelligent and humane approach to immigration reform. G.W.’s efforts, however, were repeatedly thwarted by the increasingly right wing and xenophobic elements within the GOP that emerged in the wake of 9-11.
Many Latinos were loyal Republicans until that shift in attitude occurred within the GOP. Some still are, albeit reluctantly, because of economic and social issues they tend to view through a traditionally conservative, but not a xenophobic, Tea Party, lens.
As my new friend said, “If the Republican party loses the Latino vote this year, from Mitt Romney on down, they will have no one but themselves to blame.
Obama was vulnerable in the eyes of many because of his initial aggressiveness in pursuing the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants and the slow pace of the economic recovery.”
But the ugly tenor and tone pertaining to immigration reform that dominated the GOP primary process, according to my friend, has left many Latinos in the U.S. feeling they can no longer support a party that has grown so overtly hostile to them in general, and their brethren living in the United States whose only crime, which was once just a civil offense, is not having their papers in order.
If Mitt Romney loses the election and it turns out the politically diverse Latino vote played a role in it, one can be sure he will be wishing he had not so brazenly pandered to the most base elements of the GOP in pursuit of the party’s nomination.
Vieques, Puerto Rico, and Gloucester