Republican double-talk on Hispanic voters
Eight years ago this week, President George Bush’s political strategist Karl Rove was in Albuquerque speaking at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The venue couldn’t have been an accident for a Republican Party that was trying once again to increase outreach to Hispanic voters.
Just a year later, in the heat of the 2004 election, the outreach stalled as Rove’s Republican Party fell back on old habits of advertisements bashing immigrants and rhetoric aimed at turning out their right-wing base.
This weekend’s meeting of the Hispanic Leadership Network in Albuquerque was the start of a new “sustained effort to engage the Hispanic Community” by the Republican group American Action Network. But, this time, the hypocrisy of their outreach was evident before the sustained effort had even begun.
Almost exactly one year ago, the American Action Network had much less interest in Hispanic engagement. Across the country, the group was spending millions of dollars on negative ads stoking fear of immigrants to help elect Republicans. Their ads featured dark images of immigrants scaling a chain-link fence and claimed that the new health care law took money from seniors to provide free health care to immigrants.
Beyond incendiary imagery and rhetoric, the spots were also false: TV stations in Connecticut and Colorado took the very rare step of pulling the ads off the air because of inaccuracies.
After running millions in demonstrably false ads that intentionally demonized immigrants, you might be surprised to learn that their title for last week’s panel on immigration policy was “Getting Past the Rhetoric.”
Appeals to Hispanic voters versus actions
The dissonance between Republican appeals to Hispanic voters and their actions doesn’t stop at negative TV ads.
On education, the conference featured a panel titled, “Closing the Achievement Gap – How can Hispanic Students succeed?” Not likely the panel discussed current Republican efforts to slash Pell Grants that have made it possible for many teenagers to be the first in their family to go to college.
The panel on “Jobs/Small Business” probably avoided examining the reasons Republicans are opposing tax credits that would help small businesses hire new workers right now but continuing to support tax breaks for corporations who move American jobs to China.
Its difficult to see the “Home Ownership Panel” would have had much to say about congressional Republicans’ effort to reward Wall Street by ending rules that protect consumers from predatory mortgage lenders.
At the lunchtime panel, “Soaring Hispanic Growth – What it Means in the 2012 Elections?,” there was likely mention of the Republican presidential debate in Tampa earlier this month. It featured Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann trying to prove their credentials by bashing a Texas law that provides a chance at college for children of undocumented immigrants who were brought here by their parents.
On a national level, Romney and the others believe that immigrants who risk their lives overseas defending America should not have access to citizenship.
The Hispanic Leadership Network simply avoided having a panel on health care. That’s likely a smart strategic decision since the discussion could have ventured to the Republican plan that would essentially end Medicare for future retirees, make deep cuts to community health centers and entirely abolish the Children’s Health Insurance Program. While it sounds extreme, this health care plan has the support of Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and the rest of the Republican presidential field.
One seemingly useful panel
However, there was one seemingly useful panel at the Hispanic Leadership Network: “Media Panel and On Camera Training.”
After demonizing immigrants, cutting education, opposing small business job creation, slashing health care and siding with big banks, Republicans will need as many media-savvy operatives as possible to spin their horrible record on issues important to Hispanic families.
Bill Burton is a former deputy White House press secretary for President Obama and senior strategist for Priorities USA Action.
Editor’s note: This column claims that the Hispanic Leadership Network’s conference did not include a panel on health care but did include a panel on media and “on camera training.” That’s not accurate. As you can see from the final program agenda, the conference did have a panel on health care and did not have one on media. But that’s not the whole story. The initial program agenda did not include a panel on health care and did include one on media. Even though the program for the event changed, that initial agenda remained published on the group’s website until today, while the final program agenda was not on the website when NMPolitics.net checked earlier today, so it’s easy to see how this column’s author came to his assumptions. Given that, NMPolitics.net opted to keep the column posted but point out the errors, rather than removing the column.
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