Speak Our Language: How the GOP Can Win the Latino Vote

“And so, I do give interviews in Spanish, and here’s why: because I believe that free enterprise and limited government is the best way to help people who are trying to achieve upward mobility. And if they get their news in Spanish, I want them to hear that directly from me. Not from a translator at Univision.” – Senator Marco Rubio

In the middle of July, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I was chosen to volunteer at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library for the 2nd GOP Presidential Primary debate in my hometown of Simi Valley, CA, which was pretty much a dream of mine since high school. On the day of the debate, we arrived at the overfilled parking lot, ready to undertake our duties. Upon entering the shuttle to the library, tensions arose quickly. Protestors were lined up on the sidewalk, showing their opposition to the GOP and the presidential debate.

For my job at the Reagan Library, I followed Barry Bennett—Dr. Ben Carson’s campaign manager—through the spin room. I heard his positive reactions to the debate, including highlights of Dr. Carson’s strong performance, along with opinions of other like-minded college students. Most of the students who are open about politics at the 5Cs support liberal and socialist policies, making it hard to share conservative ideas without being immediately labeled as an outsider, regardless of your background. Despite identifying as Latino, low-income, and a first-generation college student, once you’re known as a politically conservative person, your credibility disappears and your support groups are essentially lost.

Observing Latino protesters rallying against Donald Trump and the party’s lack of attention for Latino issues and their vote was comforting, but I felt a small sense of betrayal seeing my people protesting against the GOP as I rode a shuttle to the library. Even though I support the GOP’s economic policy more than the Democrats, I still oppose their anti-immigration stance and nativist fear-mongering. Balancing conflicting policy stances with my personal beliefs and feelings is always difficult, but this conflict is normal in a two-party system.

The GOP has had a miserable time communicating with Latinos in the U.S. and it has, in some cases, irrevocably harmed its public image. In fact, my parents disapproved of my decision to help in the debate. My mom even used profanity—words I rarely hear come out of her mouth—when I told her I might meet Donald Trump. Most Latinos instead decide to support social liberals and the Democratic Party who portray the image of friendship toward immigrants. Union leaders and socialists mistakenly oppose immigration to the U.S., claiming it lowers the wages of low-skilled Americans already in the country. Immigration, however, is one of the best tools to increase economic prosperity, reduce global income inequality, fill our shortage of skilled talent, and provide immigrants a chance for success.

Latin American countries have a horrible history of colonialism, government intervention, and outright corruption within their public systems. Countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Guatemala, and others consistently suffer under both corrupt government and cultural tendencies that stagnate their potential for growth and prosperity. Whether through U.S. intervention or local political corruption, government intervention is to blame. Latino voters need to recognize that Democratic policies only serve to keep us in poverty while promising openness and acceptance. Republican policies are hostile to our families in terms of immigration, military intervention in our homelands, and treatment of our relatives and children. Support for GOP candidates should be given with caution. Plenty of Latino immigrants left or escaped their country to avoid the consequences of an intrusive government. They come to the U.S. and ironically advocate for more government programs and intervention to help their cause. It seems that many of us haven’t learned our lesson yet.

When I talked about these issues and viewpoints with other minorities—both at home and in Chicago, where I worked last summer—I was praised for my insights. I rode a bus to the gym before I headed to work during my internship this summer and shared my opinions with some Latino janitors who worked downtown. Just like my family, this group showed a distrust of government bureaucracy, public sector work, Latin American elections, and welfare programs from their history in Mexico and Latin America. However, they were open to my libertarian philosophies, my emphasis on education, and the importance of hard work and persistence embodied by Latinos. One of these seniors had his oldest son start college this semester, all because of the sacrifices he had made for his family. The other two already had older kids who worked as plumbers, electricians, and auto dealership owners catering to Latinos. This alone was motivation enough to continue working hard over the summer.

The priorities of the Latino community vary from those of the general American voter. Latin American communities value family over all other issues, including government bureaucracy, political parties, and other services funded by authoritative bodies. Uniting Latin American families and keeping those bonds intact require a better immigration policy for all countries, since we care deeply about our families. Residency and/or citizenship and the ability to visit our parents, grandparents, or other relatives in other nations is a plus in terms of pleasing the Latino community and opening up new economic opportunities. A political party that shows care for family unity is an important step toward attracting the Latino vote in America.

Emphasizing institutions that promote the freedom to succeed as an entrepreneur or an independent worker will also attract Latinos to the GOP. Latinos are notorious for running underground economies to avoid burdensome U.S. regulation, including but not limited to auto repair businesses, underground food stands, and many others. Underground economies are not limited to immigrants: the urban poor also rely on the underground economy to sustain their lifestyles. Promoting limited government and allowing immigrants and the poor to build their own businesses would also appeal to many Latinos in the U.S.

The narrative of independence, perseverance, and unity in relation to the Latino community is missing from the GOP narrative. A sizable group of Latinos dislike government, contrary to popular GOP rhetoric. We value hard work, and we prefer assistance over reliance and dependence on the government. We also enjoy sharing the fruits of our labor with friends and family. Educating communities to make rational choices with their time and resources will help us escape poverty and contribute to the country that accepted us in our time of need. When the GOP learns to argue these viewpoints and actually invest some time into Latin American history, they may start winning elections and carry the Latino vote in the future.

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Image Source: Flickr

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