Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The courtship of Latinos begins with Gingrich

Newt Gingrich's presidential bid will hinge on gaining Latino and Tea Party support simultaneously

Opinion By Adrian Perez, Publisher

Newt Gingrich
Of all the likely Republican presidential contenders for 2012, Newt Gingrich appears to be the best prepared to debate President Barack Obama and perhaps, even win the debate.  This does not mean he will win the votes necessary to become President, especially if he does not continue to make overtures to Latino voters.  At the same time, by making these overtures, he could be alienating the Tea Party, whose membership appears focused on minimizing Latino influence.

According to preliminary 2010 census data, Latinos are the fastest growing population segment in the United States and have clearly become the largest minority with their numbers quickly reaching 48 million.  Within the Latino population, there is a staggering number of new eligible voters whose numbers are projected to grow to over one million per year based on UCLA projections.  This being the case, and with Gingrich stressing regularly that the GOP needs to reach out and include Latinos, the 2012 presidential election appears to be headed for some interesting fireworks.

Gingrich’s first well publicized outreach to Latinos occurred at the  Americano Hispanic Forum held this past December where he emphasized the need for Republicans to be more inclusive of Latinos.

"We are not going to deport 11 million people," he told attendees at the first Hispanic Forum. "There has to be some zone between deportation and amnesty."

His comments are clearly not shy about criticizing the GOP’s far-right faction that has alienated Latino support due to continuous demonstrations of insensitivity toward immigrants.  For many Latino Republicans, Gingrich is on the right track.

"Newt is setting a table that had not been set before," Juan Hernandez, Founder of Conservatives for Comprehensive Immigration Reform told the Washington Post last year. "We needed a Nixon to go to China. Having Newt be the one going to Hispanics is kind of like that."

But, before anyone elevates Gingrich to official representative for conservative Latinos, it is essential to point out he hasn’t always been supportive of Latinos.  A couple of years ago, he equated speaking Spanish to “the language of living in a ghetto,” resulting in such a huge uproar that he videotaped a three-minute apology, in Spanish, to the Latino community.  This, Latino Democrats claim, is why Gingrich’s new approach for attaining Latino support is merely like painting a smile on the face of hate and racism.  Gingrich begs to differ, and his learning Spanish, speaking it at public events, even creating bilingual conservative websites, he hopes will demonstrate his sincerity.

But, while he is being sincere to Latinos, the GOP Tea Party movement continues to move toward an anti-Latino stance, by electing individuals who demonstrate insensitivity to Latino immigrants and non-immigrants living in the U.S.  This includes electing individuals who claim being Latino, but whose racist actions indicate a clearly loyalty to the Tea Party that elected them.  Such is the case with Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico.  Upon taking office, she essentially declared an open season to anyone who looks illegal to be stopped by state police.  Some Latinos in New Mexico who voted for her are surprised how she mirrors the Latino despised Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer. Brewer’s continued badgering of documented and undocumented Latinos has led for even the Hispanic Republicans of Arizona to push for her recall.

U.S. Senator Marc Rubio, Fl.
What chance does someone like Gingrich have at attaining support from Latinos should he pursue a presidential bid?  First, it will depend on how he can ally himself with popular conservative Latinos like Florida’s U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.  Rubio’s popularity easily won him the Senate seat, attaining nearly 60 percent of Florida’s Latino vote.  Secondly, it will depend heavily on whether they can also pull in the majority of GOP voters, including far right thinkers.  If the GOP’s far right continues to gain influence and if legislation like the Smith-King bill, which repeals the 14th Amendment’s birthright clause, Gingrich, regardless of his running mate, will be sent back to retirement.  If this becomes the case, his Spanish will be better used on vacation trips to Spanish speaking countries than attaining Latino support.

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