On Tuesday, Washington Post’s Dana Milbank’s latest editorial, “Does the GOP Care About Latino Voters?” asked: “What else but a death wish could explain the party’s treatment of the fastest growing voting bloc in the nation?” Following a long-winded argument, Milbank concluded with: “The chimichanga? It may be the only thing Republicans have left to offer Latinos.”
Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign chief, tweeted his approval, citing Milbank’s comment as “the line of the day.”
The web erupted in response, many noting the racial insensitivity of the comment. The Republican National Committee expressed outrage, as did the Hispanic Leadership Network, its executive director stating:
“The fact that the campaign manager of President Obama’s reelection campaign thinks it’s appropriate to disseminate insulting jokes about the Hispanic community is a perfect example of the kind of empty rhetoric that characterizes this White House’s so-called outreach to Latinos. We demand that Mr. Messina immediately apologize and we ask that President Obama disavow his campaign manager’s ridiculous statement.”
The White House has yet to address the issue and Messina simply Tweeted: “Tweeting someone else’s [Milbank’s] words caused a stir, but the GOP is on the wrong side of every Hispanic voter priority,” providing a link to his own campaign’s (read: non-objective) memo on the matter. And therein lies the rub. Putting aside the racial insensitivity of the “you Latinos all love your spicy Mexican food!” snicker (more suitable for a Taco Bell commercial than a Washington Post editorial), the subtle racism of Milbank’s article and Messina’s doubling down lies not so much in the chimichanga comment but rather in Milbank and Messina’s assumptions about Latinos’s views.
Why does the left continuously and stubbornly assume that Latinos’s main priority is illegal immigration? Newsflash: poll after poll shows it’s actually the economy. Latino voters are much like most American voters – worried about jobs, taxes, and social issues. As proof, consider the Arizona immigration measure, one of Milbank’s three exhibits on how the GOP is allegedly alienating Latinos. Did the controversial Arizona law actually do so, as Milbank posits? No. A June 2010 Gallup poll examined this very issue and concluded: “Hispanic Voters’ Preferences Unchanged Post-Arizona Law,” leaving liberals scratching their heads in amazement. The drop in Latino support for Republicans after the Republican-controlled Arizona legislature passed the law? A mere 1%.
While living in Manhattan, I had innumerable conversations on nights out with liberals that went something like this:
“Hey, you have a little bit of an accent – where are you from?”
“Miami, my parents are Cuban.”
“But you’re always posting Republican stuff on Twitter and Facebook.”
“Yes, I’m a conservative.”
“But how, if you’re a Latina?”
“Huh? I don’t follow.”
“Well, I mean, Republicans are totally anti-immigration and anti-welfare.”
And that’s my cue to excuse myself.
Notice the racism and inherent condescension? As a Latina, I am expected to care most about a candidate’s stance on immigration, a candidate’s stance on entitlements, and my (assumed) crew of illegal cousins trying to get a green card or cross that pesky border. This is nothing new – after all, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) (D), while campaigning in August 2010, famously stated: “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican.” The one third of Hispanics that vote Republican, including a steadfast majority of Cuban-Americans, must have missed that memo, Harry.
Despite liberals’ beliefs to the contrary, not all Latinos care for amnesty and guest worker programs, support the Dream Act, and stress over affirmative action. In fact, many of us oppose those very platforms. Our concerns, by and large, mirror those of other hard-working, tax-paying Americans. Indeed, President Obama has his work cut out for him. The Los Angeles Times, in October 2011, featured a revealing piece entitled: “Obama woos disheartened Latino voters.” With his approval rating among Hispanics dropping below 50% this past fall, and only rebounding slightly to its current 58% level this week (even lower among Hispanics in critical swing states), Democrats would do well to focus on their own courting measures. So no, Mr. Milbank, a chimichanga won’t buy our vote. Next time, perhaps make it a Mojito and we’ll talk.