By Miryam Barajas
During the McCain campaign, as I spoke daily to Hispanic voters, I wondered what needed to be done to win the Hispanic vote, and I quickly realized speaking to them 60 days before the election was a failure, and this was validated on election date.
To win the Hispanic vote we must win their trust and we must engage in a dialogue with them year round, not just election season. Republicans have too many misconceptions about the Hispanic community. It is true they care about immigration, but, it is not their top concern, it is the economy and education.
As we’re entering another presidential campaign cycle, what hasn’t changed is Republican’s need to use immigration as their only talking point when speaking about Latinos.
When Republicans begin to argue about who is the toughest on immigration, of course Hispanic voters will dislike the immigration rhetoric, and thus distrust republicans.
What Latinos care about the most is the 16% underemployment rate for our community, the near $4 a gallon of gasoline, sky-rocketing foreclosures, continued lay-offs, and a 50% graduate rate in many of our minority communities.
There are a number of areas where Republicans have common ground with Latinos, but for too long we have let others define us and through our own fault, we stayed on the sidelines rather than answer the tough questions.
Our Latino community is hard working, family oriented, and is not one that feeds off of social services. They are proud of their work ethic and willingness to help their family move up the economic ladder. Latinos also represent California’s fast growing entrepreneurial class and realize that over taxation, regulations, and the endless amount of government paper is making it more difficult for them to stay in business.
No matter how many blogs or comments I read that Republicans will have a tough time reaching the hearts and minds of our Latino community, doing nothing, doesn’t get us any closer to our goal of inclusion. Being afraid of what the Latino community might ask or how we might respond, is not a reason for not creating a dialogue.
Republicans can’t continue to ignore this important group, especially when you consider the demographic changes in our state. Over the last decade, Latinos accounted for over 90 percent of California growth, and nearly two in five Californians are Latinos- 53% of all K-12 kids are now Latino.
Republicans need to inspire a new set of voters while recruiting and training Hispanic Republican candidates. In the past, we’ve been too comfortable interacting with a limited set of voters rather than inspiring the next generation of Republicans. We are changing that now. We are reaching out to those who we have ignored in the past, and begin a new consistent dialogue, and are going to build a brighter future with Hispanic Republican leaders at the table.
Together, Republicans and Latinos can embrace the California of the future. We need to work together, something we should have done long ago.
Republicans are ready to admit that we have not worked enough with Latino voters in the past, but are ready to move forward, together, to build a relationship and a brighter tomorrow.
In 2008 Barajas served as the Western Regional Coalition Director for John McCain for President. Presently she is the Deputy Finance Director for the California Republican Party