First some background! I am the son of (legal) immigrants, a mother from Nicaragua, a father from Mexico. Both arrived here in the states in the late 60s before “oprima uno para Espanol!” in order to better their lot in life.
My father and I have very different politics but he and I are both practicing Catholics and social conservatives.
Yesterday I spent time with my father in South Sacramento. We don’t spend a lot of time together so I cherish the times we work together on projects like a play structure for the kids or helping him with some sort of government red tape “Mijo, can you look up this thing on your computer?”. As we enjoyed lemonade and he introduced me to his new pet bird , a neighbor struck up a conversation with my father. “Raul” is another Hispanic legal immigrant who makes a living as a contractor and does great work on fences!
Their discussion turned towards the election, and here is what I overheard:
Romney “He made fun of Mexicans, but I hear he lived in Mexico when having many wives was outlawed here!”
Obama “Holder is a S.O.B. – Mexicans died from Fast and Furious and Americans just don’t care!”
I mentioned to them that many Republicans supported investigations, both were surprised at this.
Both gushed about “Those dreamer guys on TV” “the Democrats have a mayor from Texas – his Spanish is excellent!” “There are two!” “yes, brothers I think”
Jerry Brown (Governor of California) “Did you know he was a seminarian?” “Ha! Oh I remember he dated Linda Ronstadt!” “If he makes the rich pay more, that’s ok, just as long as he doesn’t raise the sales tax”
I quietly pointed out that our sales taxes WERE going going up. Both men expressed disbelief. “What!? No it’s just the rich, those that make a million dollars”.
My father and this gentleman get their news via two or three sources tops, the local liberal news paper, Univision, and maybe, MAYBE Catholic AM radio which in striving to not be political, lets the dominant media voices win. Those of us who are news junkies, politicos, twitter users, internet users, etc. must remember that to many, the closest they will get to twitter is wondering what that little bird is doing in the corner of the TV commercial.
The right’s exasperation should be not at with the poor, but in the right’s failure to communicate with and to them. They are not the enemy, they are potential allies and we are all to blame for this. Unemployment is hurting blacks and Latinos the most, and a comment from my father’s neighbor shows us perfectly just how the message isn’t bad, but the messaging IS. In other words, it’s not what you are saying, but how.
“Romney is rich, he doesn’t care if people go hungry. He wants to cut benefits to people who don’t have work, I’m not on unemployment but Cheto (his cousin) and Francisco (friend) are, they have kids! Who will feed them?”
All the while, tot 10 feet away from us stood a pole covered in fliers for a church food program.
Like it or not, there is a real, palpable fear of the GOP “taking away our food”. Sure some people are “gaming the system”, but at least in regards to the Hispanic population – many just want work. They come here to work, they wait in Home Depot parking lots to find work, they ask neighbors if they need work done, they don’t want to get assistance, for some it is their last resort. I personally realize that unemployment and government aid (“welfare”) are different beasts, I understand this, but many poor people don’t. The Democrats along with the media have at this point in history succeeded in framing conservatives in general and the GOP in particular as being cruel, mean, uncaring rich white people who care not a whit about the rest of us, Romney didn’t help this stereotype at all.
My message to the GOP and to the right, work harder, don’t compromise principles or pander, communicate with clarity and purpose. I won’t say compassion because I believe by it’s definition conservatism IS compassionate. This process will be difficult but I’m an optimist and I believe, si se puede.