Last week a two day meeting of conservative Latinos seemed to fail on all levels. The meeting was supposed to reinvigorate the declining Republican Latino electorate, tone down anti-immigrant rhetoric in a party brewing hot Tea, and start a dialogue on conservative approaches to immigration reform.
The lack of attendance by any Republican presidential hopefuls other than Tim Pawlenty was an indication that national Republicans do not consider the Latino vote important enough to bother courting. Strong words against immigrants from Republicans around the country during the week leading up to the gathering demonstrated no moderation in tone. And the fact that reporters noted almost no mention of immigration issues by non-Latino speakers tells us that some McCain-like immigration reform program is not about to be unfurled in Congress any time soon.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was clearly concerned that his party may continue to alienate Latinos, who have been steadily moving away from the GOP since 2006. According to Politico:
Republicans would be “incredibly stupid” to ignore the fastest-growing population of voters, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told a conference of Hispanic Republicans Friday, particularly if they hope to recapture the White House.
Bush opened the Hispanic Leadership Network conference with a four-point plan for elected officials to expand the party’s reach: Be mindful of tone, embrace a broad agenda, appoint Hispanics to boards and judicial positions, and recruit qualified Hispanics to run for office.
“If you believe in the conservative philosophy as I do, it would be incredibly stupid over the long haul to ignore the burgeoning Hispanic vote,” Bush said. “They will be the swing voters in the swing states.
“So if we want to elect a center-right president of the United States, it seems to me that you should be concerned about places like New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, Texas — places [where], but for the Hispanic vote, elections are won or lost.”
Bush hinted at the divisive immigration debate, saying Republicans needed to adopt a “civility and tone that draws people toward our cause rather than rejects them.”
“We share very common values, but if you send signal of ‘them’ and ‘us,’ then you’re not going to get the desired results,” Bush said, drawing strong applause. “I watch TV; sometimes I’m turned off by the tone, even though I might agree with a particular view.”