Published on December 27th, 20120
Thoughts on Becoming, Being and Continuing On as a LATINO Republican
Looking over the various exit polls the day after the very first election in which I cast my vote, it was disheartening to see that out of all the Latino voters aged 18-29 years old, only a meager 23% had supported the Republican candidate (Governor Mitt Romney). Since I also fit in this combined demographic, I was simultaneously taken aback by the fact that Obama actually performed better among Latinos than he did in 2008.
Before elaborating on why it should be no shock to any amateur analyst that the Republicans have encountered an increasingly fleeting Latino vote, allow me to explain what led me to join that 23% of young Latinos who voted Republican in the last election.
My father is an immigrant who hails from the small, rural town of Salento, Colombia. Upon arriving in the United States in 1982 to escape the chaos in Colombia caused by the interplay of drug cartels, leftist guerrillas, and paramilitary groups he lived in a 1-bedroom apartment with his brother, his grandfather, and 5 other relatives in the inner-city of San Diego.
After having his initial hopes dashed by a rejection from the military due to a medical condition, my father worked a variety of menial jobs. He started off as a ticket vendor at an adult film theater in a dodgy part of Downtown San Diego. Through the 1980s and ‘90s, he served ice cream, drove trucks, and cleaned warehouses at night. However, after years of laborious effort and honest hard work, he has moved up the societal ladder.
My father today is an R&D aerospace technician with a full family in a two-story single-family house in a middle-class neighborhood. My father, who came from the Colombian countryside, has lived the American Dream in the truest way possible. There is no other country on the face of the planet that would allow any humble human being to achieve so much only through their determination and work.
Throughout all those years he never took a government handout. He stood on his own two feet and let the grace of God and his aspirations guide him to where he is today. That spirit of individuals choosing their own paths and maintaining a true work ethic are the core principles that drew me to the Republican Party as a young Latino and a son of immigrants.
Unfortunately, this narrative to which most young Latinos can relate is not the one that is being told. To put it frankly, the election loss was a clear indication that the Republican Party did not place a priority on outreach to Latinos. This preconceived notion of which party represents what is precisely the stumbling block that prevents the GOP from achieving electoral success.
During the long insufferable primary process Republicans allowed more stubborn elements of the party to give the Democrats innumerable chances to characterize Republicans as “anti-immigrant/Latino”.
This was exemplified with all the talk of “self-deportation”, the vicious attacks on Gingrich, Perry, and Huntsman for their “softer” positions on immigration, the Herman Cain border fence gaffe, and the thunderous applause during the Tea Party debate to Bachmann’s declaration that allowing children of illegal immigrants to stay was somehow un-American. After all the dust had settled, it is perfectly (and disappointingly) understandable as to why many Latinos would not cast their ballots for the Republicans.
Looking forward, there is reason for reserved optimism. There are emerging young Latino leaders in the party that realize the party’s problem with Latinos. Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Marco Rubio, George P. Bush just to name the most visible. Some GOP veterans like Jeb and George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice and others have called for true immigration reform to be spearheaded by Republicans. We can already see Republicans realizing that deporting 14 million people or so is not a viable option and trying to address the issue in a sensible manner with measures like the STEM Jobs Act and the Achieve Act. But there needs to be more interaction with Latinos if Republicans are to win in 2016.
We need to be on the ground, communicating to Latino communities on a personal level. We need to be on the streets of East Los Angeles or Paseo Boricua in Chicago or Jackson Heights in Queens, explaining why conservative policies will lift Latino communities out of the poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage that have come as a result of decades of Democratic representation.
We need to articulate in a non-alienating voice why government programs will not bring economic success, but only hard work in a free market system. A talking head on CNN stating that Latinos share conservative values will no longer suffice, as we have clearly seen. Victory for Republicans can be seen four years from now if the Republican Party wins over the Latino vote from the bottom up.
Randall Ramos is currently a sophomore attending California State University, Northridge, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science as well as a teaching certificate in ESL. Mr. Ramos interned at the Republican Party of Los Angeles County and worked on Todd Zink’s campaign for California State Senate. Other activities include serving as acting President of the newly formed CSUN chapter of the Puerto Rico Statehood Students Association.