News Column

Hispanics and the Vote: SVREP's Antonio Gonzalez, Part 2

Oct. 29, 2008


Antonio Gonzalez,  SVREP president, hispanic vote

In part two of our conversation with Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), we get his breakdown on Hispanics' nuanced relationship with the GOP and the DNC. Are their respective strategies bearing fruit with the Hispanic voting bloc?

What about the two major political parties? From a long-term perspective, beyond 2008, what issues and appeals will allow one party or the other to capture the Hispanic vote?

Well it's already begun to play out. We've already seen it for 10 years at least. Longer in other places, like 15 years ago in California where Republicans were campaigning and winning power based on immigrant bashing. They don't do that anymore. They stopped doing that because they couldn't win power that way.

Now, in their own way, Republicans think they are campaigning for Latino votes by appealing to Catholicism, conservative social values. They do bilingual stuff in ads. John McCain is trying to attack Barack Obama cause he didn't support the immigration bill that John McCain had supported. That wouldn't have happened -- "vote for me, a Republican, because a Democrat stopped an immigration reform bill" -- that wouldn't have happened before, whether the charge is true or not. That isn't the basis you would have previously campaigned for votes. You certainly wouldn't have campaigned for Latinos. Those changes have already begun. The change in California is not new toady. You see it in other places.

Arizona is in the midst of the beginnings [of the change]. They are fighting it out. They are in the stage of [California's] this Prop 187 [which sought to deny illegal aliens most government services], with utter and complete profiling and anti-immigrant reaction. But now people of good faith, people of conscience are aligning with Latinos to resist and then fight back. You know demographics is destiny. They won't lose that fight, but it is going to be a real hard fight.

We ultimately lost the [prop 187] election in 1994. We lost the battle but won the war. People don't realize -- you go back to 1990 there were only four Latino legislators in the state of California. Now there are almost 30.

Republicans of California learned the lesson.

But in the presidential primaries this year, the Republican Party displayed nativist and anti-immigrant sentiments. Can it control such sentiments and won't those views drive Latino voters away?

Yes, I think that's true. There is an anti-immigrant wing that is strong in the Republican Party. It also exists in the Democratic Party. We are still in that fight over immigration reform. It is still is not a positive for us. We are still swimming upstream on it. But you don't see immigration being demagogued in this election at the top of the ticket. You just don't see it. You basically have a Republican who out of all of them is most pro-immigrant. And Barack Obama has been good on immigration stuff. He has been fine. So it's a non-issue.

In Arizona, I think you will see [Republicans playing the anti-immigrant card]. I think you will see it in Colorado. Those states in particular. Sheriff Joe Arpaio say he will put guards in the Maricopa polling places in Phoenix. You know, it's rough down there.

But, I think everything is going to change. Who knows who will be the preferred party of Hispanics. Everything is going to change. You can't predict that stuff. For example, the party of African Americans is now Democrat, but originally it was Republicans for 60-70 years. It didn't change until about 1940 and took 20 years to shift. So who knows how it all will turn out. It depends on how flexible the parties are and whether they will embrace and include or whether they will exclude. If the Arizona model of exclusion prevails, all bets are off.

Source: (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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