R. E. S. P. E. C. T.
“Demography is destiny.”
The quote has been attributed to many a people, and this presidential election has got many a conservative, including talk show host Sean Hannity and columnist Charles Krauthammer thinking this way. Hannity has said he has “evolved” on the issue of immigration, Charules Krauthammer believes conservatives should embrace the word “amnesty.”
To be completely honest with you, I’ve never had a problem with amnesty for illegal immigrants with no criminal records. What are we going to do? Round them up and send them home? Not only is it impractical, it’s also incredibly cruel, considering their reasons for coming here. We need to seal the border and figure out an amnesty for people who are already here without crimimal record, in my view.
But if conservatives believe that suddenly supporting immigration reform is going to be the magic bullet for their issues with Hispanic voters, they’ve got another thing coming. Let me give them a clue: the reason Hispanics don’t vote GOP isn’t because the GOP has opposed amnesty, the reason they oppose Republicans is because of circumstances illustrated by the other reaction to the result: “You can’t beat Santa Claus”, said Rush Limbaugh, the top rated conservative talk radio host in the country. Mark Levin, the third most listened to host said something similar and has made a similar argument that illegals want to mooch off of our social services.
I studied marketing in college and I took a class on marketing to Hispanics. It was taught by Francisco Valle, who advised Meg Whitman in her gubernatorial campaign and hato conversations with Romney’s people. I had a conversation with him after class and he told me that the reason Hispanics don’t vote for the GOP is because they value respect and they do not feel that the GOP is respectful of them. He said that Whitman and Romney’s people were scared of the base and didn’t want to offer a practical solution for immigration policy. And it’s no wonder they’re scared of us. From Limbaugh and Levin’s comments you would think they assume Hispanics want hand outs, they assure they are lazy, living off our social services. Worse: they write them off saying amnesty is just an attempt to expand the base of the Democratic Party. (i.e. “They will never vote for us anyway.” which is ALWAYS a good way to be inclusive of people isn’t it?)
We’ve got to be honest with ourselves, this is not a way to include people in the conservative movement and get them to vote for our values. I don’t think older white conservative men like Limbaugh and Levin who think this way are racists, they’re just telling what they think is the truth from their perspective. They are probably just culturally ignorant of Hispanics and thats where the comments come from. In my experience, Hispanics are some of the hardest working, kind and warm people I have ever met. And illegals I have encountered are people who are just trying to make ends meat for their families and don’t have the opportunity to do it wherever they had come from. Let’s be honest: many of us have encountered illegal immigrants, maybe some of them have told us that they are. How many of us call ICE? We don’t, because there’s no need to most of the team. Most of these people are good, hardworking people and their legal US citizen relatives should be a natural fit for us politically.
So what of these sudden flips from Hannity, Krauthammer and more importantly, Speaker John Boehner to Amnesty? Won’t that win votes? Absolutely not. In the late 1950′s and early 1960′s, Republicans, including Arizona Senator and 1964 Republican Presidential Candidate, overwhelmingly supported the various incarnations of the Civil Rights Act that had come before Congress. When the 1964 version of the bill finally passed (again, with almost unanimous Republican support) Sen. Goldwater cast a vote against it saying that it included some unconstitutional provisions. Even though there were many more Democrats against President Lyndon Johnson got credit for the law he signed. And now, African Americans still believe to this day Republicans don’t support them and that Democrats were the ones that made the Civil Rights Act happen.
Make no mistake about it: If Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans pass an Amnesty bill, this time the Democrats will be heavily in favor of it and with President Obama claim credit for it and if the Republicans play the same game they have since the Civil Rights Act, Hispanics will be a solid voting bloc for the Democrats for generations to come.
Flips to Amnesty is not the answer. Respect is. Inclusion is. Newt Gingrich said, after the election, outreach is when five old white guys sit in a room and then come tell you what the plan is, inclusion is including people in the plan, it’s talking to people about conservatism and what it is. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. is a great song from Aretha Franklin, but it’s an acronym I’ve come up that I think will help us:
R – Relate: It’s not enough to talk about how great the Republican Party is for minorities. We’ve actually got to get people on the ground to talk to people about their lives. Don’t get me wrong, philosophy is important, but most people don’t have time to sit there and seriously consider philosophy. We’ve got to make philosophy more relatable to people personally.
E – Engage: Listening is good. But we also need to engage. It is an unfortunate stereotype, but many Republicans are indeed well off and some are wealthy enough that they don’t need to work. Some of us need to use that time wisely and get engaged in communities where we wouldn’t typically be engaged in. The question we need to be asking is “what needs to be done?” I would love to see an army of Republicans in Southern California volunteering in inner city after school programs helping kids with their home work. Maybe get involved with education reform activists who do much of their work in the inner-city. Find out where they need help. Presence matters, and it’s time those of us who can get engaged.
S – Salute: We need to do a better job of saluting achievements and milestones. We don’t like to do this, we feel like it’s racializing, but we’ve got to recognize the significance of the fact that a nation who once had legalized slavery has an African American president. Even if we don’t like his policies, it’s pretty incredible and speaks well of us as a people. Now, we have minorities in our party who have actually accomplished some great things. Not only is it great that they’re minorities, but they have a record of success they can be proud of as well. We need to tout Nikki Haley, Suzanna Martinez, Marco Rubio and others in our party. It’s not pandering, it’s pretty awesome that we have such a diverse party!
P – Promote: Once we’ve engaged and we’ve listen to these people’s stories, we’ve got to promote our values and how they can help them and their lives! It’s very, very important. When you work in sales you don’t just offer the same pitch to everyone, you tailor your pitch to align yourself with your prospect. It’s the same product, just a different angle of looking at it based on the prospect’s life and what they’re looking for. It is the same thing in politics, we’ve got to get better at it!
E – Encourage: We’ve got to encourage people who are not aligned with us to look into the issue a little deeper. Rapper Mos Def went on to Real Time with Bill Maher where the late Christopher Hitchens was also on as a guest. Mos Def, an African American, was making disparaging remarks about Bush’s War on Terror that weren’t well informed, but amusing. The white liberals in the audience laughed hysterically (some of them were quite funny), but Hitchens wouldn’t have it. He challenged Mos Def on what he was saying and encouraged him to be better informed. Some commentators noted it was illustrative of the difference between a European liberal, like Hitchens and American liberals, who view African Americans and other minorities as court jesters. I think there’s truth to that. One of my friends who is an African American hairdresser and holds conservative views told me that when she told one of her black clients she was supporting Mitt Romney, her client told her Romney wanted to eliminate Martin Luther King Jr Day. It wasn’t even remotely true and she politely informed her client that it wasn’t. There is a lot of here say and ignorance about the relationship between the GOP and minorities. We have to learn to respectfully encourage people to be better informed about the facts.
Connect: There is a culture snobbery tradition in the GOP. Like old school legalistic Christianity in the US, there seems to be the idea that people must behave before they can believe in our values and THEN if they do that then they can belong. We’ve got to move the “belong” to the front of the pack. When Arlen Specter jumped ship from the Republicans to the Democrats they accepted him with open arms. We’ve got to do that with people tired of the Democrats useless policies even if they don’t fully agree with us. The order has to be Belong-Believe-Behave. It’s good to see conservatives welcome former Rep. Artur Davis to our ranks (even though as a Democrats he agreed a lot with us anyway.) We’ve got to make sure we’re doing that with folks on the ground as well. Minds won’t be changed outside the party.
T – Teach: Listening is good, but we’ve got to educate. We need people, similar to Greenpeace, who educate people about conservative values on highways and byways.
Respect will go a long way in helping us reach new people.