April 20, 2014

Conservative outreach to Hispanics


After the results of the 2012 presidential election in which incumbent President Obama defeated challenger Mitt Romney, there was much soul searching done by the conservative community. A lot of it centered on the changing composition of the American electorate and that the popular vote was closer than the electoral. However, there were some disturbing trends in the results for the conservative movement that are worth discussing. For example, President Obama received overwhelming support among minorities, including the Hispanic community—the fastest growing and youngest demographic in the nation. Obama won 71% of the Hispanic vote versus the 27% garnered by Romney. While outreach to all Americans is important for all of those involved in issue advocacy and policymaking, the Hispanic community is one where the conservative movement has potential for large growth. With the Hispanic Population increasing every election we need to look at a few ways to do better outreach.


Conservative issues Hispanics care about.

Hispanic eligible voters are first and foremost Americans. That means that their issue priorities are often in line with those of the rest of America. In the lead up to the 2012 elections, it was well-documented that Jobs, the Economy, and Education consistently polled ahead of Immigration as the most important issues among those surveyed.  This demonstrates that some of the core conservative principles that are the very foundation of the American Dream could find support among Hispanic voters.

The Hispanic community is very hard working and also quite entrepreneurial. The conservative message of self-reliance and equal opportunity—not outcome—has the potential to resonate with a hard working community seeking to the chance to fulfill the American Dream. Furthermore, recently Hispanics have been opening small businesses at higher rates than other demographic populations. These businesses are often cornerstones in local communities and also offer employment opportunities to nearby residents. It should be clear that jobs and the economy are directly related to these characteristics of the Hispanic community and that certain conservative principles are in line with them.

In my opinion, one of the most important parts of the American Dream is the desire to build a better future for oneself and one’s family. Family is extremely important in Hispanic culture. That includes providing for one’s children and offering them all of the available opportunities. Education is one of the best roads to advancement that America offers. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the top issue areas for the Hispanic community and school choice, and expansion of charter school options, and holding teachers accountable at a state level are popular topics. These thoughts again find themselves in line with conservative principles.

Hispanics, Natural Conservative Voters?

I often hear that Hispanics are natural conservatives, and among the follow-up comments are the parallel beliefs on the importance of religion and strong family values. This argument is valid up to a point. The Hispanic demographic is very much associated with Christianity. Mexico has the second most Catholics of any country in the world and evangelical movements are making in-roads throughout the Americas. However, I caution that there is a difference between religious identification and practicing. Due to the importance that churches often have in the local Hispanic community this does provide an in-road for Conservative Beliefs, but maybe not to the extent that some believe. Regardless, the aforementioned family-centric values are very apparent in the Hispanic community. Appealing to the community’s social conservatism could be quite beneficial, but the close-knit nature of the community also provides conservatives with a significant problem to address.

According to polling and results, the “I” word—Immigration—is where conservatives have struggled the most with the Hispanic community over the past few elections. Hispanics often know recent immigrants—they may be family, friends, or neighbors (both legal and undocumented), or may be among the most recent arrivals.  This makes immigration a personal issue for many, especially those who are turned off by harsh rhetoric and tone. “Conservative” has become synonymous with “anti-immigrant” in too many parts of the Hispanic community. The conservative movement could make substantial gains on other issues if it takes a less aggressive tone, avoids slang terms, and advocates for its pro-legal-immigrant agenda, rather than focusing on the problem of undocumented immigrants.

If one feels respected one is far more likely to be open to new ideas. If it uses responsible rhetoric and tone, the conservative movement may very well improve their chances of gaining the support of the Hispanic community. Hispanic eligible voters are Americans, but they are also very close with the other members of their community. If one respects that simple fact, the conservative movement could have a significant and fast-growing audience for their message.

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