How Republicans in a ‘swing’ state view Latinos—A personal perspective

Let me start with a little background: I live in Kenosha, a city in Wisconsin, which everyone in the media and politics identified as one of the ‘battleground’ or ‘swing’ states in the 2012 Presidential election. I am also a Caucasian, socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative Republican male who is involved in my local Hispanic community as the widower of a first generation Mexican-American woman and my active membership in the local Council of the League of Latin American Citizens(LULAC).

I am very involved in many issues locally, especially those dealing with immigration and disparities in education and educational opportunities. Both of these issues are in the forefront of policy discussions in the Republican Party, locally and nationally. You would think that someone like myself and other Hispanics who are open to the Republican messages on these issues would be courted and welcomed at the local and state party level.

I am here to tell you this: WE ARE NOT!

Despite the rise to prominence of Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, as well as a handful of Representatives and several Governors, the attitude of Republicans in my home state remains, at best, paternalistic and, at worst, dismissive. Despite the calls from National Chairman, Reince Priebus, a fellow Kenoshan, and despite calls from internal factions such as Resurgent Republic and the Hispanic Leadership Network, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, and my fellow Republicans of the 1st Congressional District and Kenosha County(currently represented by our latest Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan) turn a deaf ear to the potential strength of being a political party welcoming to Latinos and being a political party which is willing to address the concerns of Latinos.

In their December 2012 report entitled “The Hispanic Challenge and Opportunity for Republicans” Resurgent Republic and the Hispanic Leadership Network stated, ‘Years of harsh rhetoric and punitive policies will not be undone overnight. Fixing a broken immigration system is necessary but not sufficient to make Republicans competitive in the Hispanic community. But resolving those problems is imperative if Republicans hope to remain a competitive force in national politics. Numbers do not lie, and growing Hispanic influence in American life will only continue to grow…New candidates, new policies, and a new tone are all imperative.’

My experience here in Kenosha and in my contacts with the members of the Republican Party of the 1st Congressional District and Wisconsin have been dismissive of Latinos and Latino issues. They are not willing to engage in discussion of how to address the uncounted numbers of undocumented Latinos here in the United States beyond simply saying, “They are here illegally, and they should go home!” Many local Republicans have even expressed their frustrations that the children of these undocumented Latinos have to be provided a public education at taxpayer expense.

This does not bode well for the Party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower—Republicans all who were champions of minority rights—in Wisconsin. That to me is sad and disappointing because Republicans and Latinos do share many values which would make for a great partnership which would benefit America for the 21st Century and beyond.

By Being Latino Contributor, Jeffery Cassity.  Jeffery is a mostly socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative Anglo male who is involved in his local Hispanic community as the widower of a 1st generation Mexican-American woman and his active, some would say hyperactive, membership in the local Council of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC).


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