News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

English only? Not when GOP needs Latino votes.

Leading GOP contenders Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich support English Only laws -- but not when they're on the stump for Latino votes. 
(Correct spelling in English is apparently optional.)
“I think campaigning, historically, you’ve always been willing to go to people on their terms in their culture,” Gingrich was quoted in the Los Angeles Times. But, he said, “as a country, we have to unify ourselves in a future where there may be three or 400 languages” spoken.

This double talk is hardly surprising. The Republican party's core constituency strongly supports English Only laws. But with the GOP Florida primary on the horizon, Romney and Gingrich are pandering hard for what they perceive as a key bastion of Republican support in the Sunshine State: South Florida's Cuban-American community. 

First-generation Cuban exiles are hard line conservatives on almost every issue except one: They proudly cling to their native Spanish. So it's not surprising that the Romney campaign has already produced a Spanish-language TV ad titled "Nosotros" featuring two South Florida congressional Republicans Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. 

It will be interesting to see how Gingrich and Romney will try to squirm out of this ideological inconsistency once the Florida primary is in the rear view mirror. 

One thing is certain. As a party perceived to be serving the exclusive interests of Non-Hispanic Whites, the Republican party in a demographic death spiral. 

Even among the once-solidly Republican Cuban-American vote, the younger and more recent Cuban exiles are weary of the 50 year old failed embargo that is a staple issue of the old guard exiles. This growing schism could could create fertile ground for Democrats. As one Cuban exile who arrived in the last five years put it: "What has the embargo done to hurt Castro? Nothing. What has it done to hurt my family in Cuba? A lot." 

Desperate and fighting for survival, we can expect GOP politics to become increasingly divisive. As I noted in a previous post, the GOP strategy will likely be to neutralize Latino support for Obama by trying to drive a wedge between Blacks and Hispanics. 

Raul Ramos y Sanchez

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