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CEPEDA: On Ryan, a familiar echo

Esther J. Cepeda

Esther J. Cepeda

CHICAGO -- I looked at Hispanic dissatisfaction over Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick with more than a little skepticism. After all, if Paul Ryan isn't a suitable choice to the most vocal Latinos who are complaining about the Wisconsin congressman, who would they have preferred?

Arguably many of these very politically attuned Hispanics have been engaged in the debate since the harsh immigration rhetoric that boiled over in 2005 with Republican-sponsored legislation that, among other things, threatened to criminalize anyone assisting unlawful immigrants. In the years after the massive immigration reform marches that followed House passage of that legislation, the rallying cry that emerged was "Today we march, tomorrow we vote."

These days that cry is voiced most often by immigrant advocacy organizations. It was many of their representatives who jumped to echo the comments of the talking heads, Latino and otherwise, who immediately declared that Ryan wouldn't help Romney's standing with Hispanics, that he's "out of touch" with the Latino vote, and that his selection signals that the presumptive GOP nominee is essentially writing off Hispanics.

These critics are the same people who would have scoffed even if Romney had gone really bold and picked a minority woman, such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez or South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (the daughter of Sikh immigrants) or a Latino such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, or even Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (America's first Indian-American governor). Those remarkable superstars have each earned a pariah status as "traitors" in certain liberal and minority circles because they happen to embrace Republican ideology. So to imagine that a more "diverse" choice would have won Romney any converts is laughable.

It should be noted that more independent-minded Latino voters who don't evaluate a candidate's worthiness for office solely on their official party or immigration policy might have been truly impressed if Romney had chosen a running mate who could change the face of the Republican Party. Some of us keep pining for the day when we're past having two parties but only one that is more diverse and inclusive.

But it was probably too much to hope that Romney would put the responsibility of dragging the Republican Party into the multicultural 21st century ahead of veering rightward to placate the GOP's conservative base.

Still, there are nuances to this Hispanic disappointment, even after you set aside the idea that the most vocal opposition to Ryan would have opposed any running mate with restrictionist views on immigration.

"I was surprised, then puzzled, then shocked," said Gabe Gonzalez, the national campaign director for the Campaign for Community Change, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization for low-income and minority communities. He believes the Ryan pick was a huge boon for Democrats. "You'd think Romney would try to reach out to the center but Ryan does not speak to the majority and, in fact, alarms the Democratic base."

"For Latinos it has always been all about jobs and education, with immigration coming in third place and themes of hard work, faith and family security playing very well," Gonzalez told me. "But though Ryan wasn't well-known to Latinos, they figured out what he's all about. What immediately ticked them off was his views on tax cuts and like most Americans they said 'You're kidding!'"

In truth, Ryan is still a bit of a mystery to everyone outside his home state. Though some have rejoiced that one of his strengths is that he's so sunny and evenhanded that he won't easily be caricatured as an extremist, others have either lamented that he's not fiscally conservative enough or flatly denounced him as a "right-wing" ideologue.

It doesn't matter either way. In 2008, President Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate was roundly criticized, yet had no real bearing on the outcome. Latino voters, like everyone else, will be picking the candidate based on whether they want a big, benefit-ladling government or a small one that can rein in its spending. And on that score Romney is even -- his bet on Ryan was not a "dis" to minorities but rather a decent-odds gamble on the Anyone-But-Obama vote.

Esther J. Cepeda is a nationally syndicated columnist. Email her at estherjcepeda@washpost.com.

Comments

JV 1 year, 11 months ago

There is too much attention given to the Latino vote. Besides being a small part of the U.S. voting population, a recent poll indicates many are not very interested in voting at all. “Latinos are growing less enthusiastic about actually casting a ballot on Election Day, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo national poll of Hispanic registered voters. Interest among Latinos in the upcoming presidential elections is at 68 percent, 11 percent less than most Americans (79 percent). Similarly, the percentage of Hispanics who say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual has dropped from 57 percent on June 12 to 50 percent in the new survey.” This poll has some saying the overwhelming Hispanic support is not going to be with Obama this time because they're not going to be as enthusiastic to go out to vote.

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notblind 1 year, 11 months ago

"... Hispanic...,... would have opposed any running mate with restrictionist views on immigration."

In other words, anybody that has the idea that the United States should restrict immigration AT ALL is not going to get any support from hispanics. This is the reality of the situation. The claim farther down that immigration is third in importance to Hispanics is not born out by anything you see written by them. And what they really mean is ILLEGAL immigration.

If the federal government had been doing their job over the last 50 years we would not be even having this discussion and suffering from this divisive issue in our society. Just another wedge deepening the divide between conservatives and liberals.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 11 months ago

Remember, too, that Hispanics are the group to whom President Obama said , and I'm paraphrasing, we need to reward our friends and punish our enemies.

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news2me 1 year, 11 months ago

The Republican party doesn't need to pander for votes it probably wouldn't get anyway. It is a waste of time and resources to attempt to go after the Hispanic vote. This is not rocket science. With more and more American citizens waking up and turning against Illegal immigration, why bother?

Hispanics can vote for Obama, but they probably won't vote at all. Who really cares? The only good thing that might come of Obama's attempt to help children of Illegals (aka pimping for votes) is the database they might be collecting with mostly inaccurate information. If I had spent this many years in a country evading deportation I would never stand in line to willingly hand over information that could be used against me in the future. Years of being an Illegal alien and stealing from the taxpayers won't look too good on a citizenship application, now will it?

Face reality, Hispanics are just not that important to either party.

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FordGalaxy 1 year, 11 months ago

"Some of us keep pining for the day when we're past having two parties but only one that is more diverse and inclusive."


Who, exactly, is looking for a single political party? If anything, the American system needs more parties, maybe not as extreme as the British model, but at least more than two. The Libertarian Party is making strides towards becoming an established and powerful third party, as a large number of Americans have libertarian tendencies, but we're taught by social media and the education system that you have to be either Republican or Democrat.

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notblind 1 year, 11 months ago

"...diverse and inclusive." of everybody but conservatives. We would have to kowtow to the liberal agenda [ until they quickly totally wrecked the economy and the country we know as the United States of America was lost forever] . Watch the movie Soylent Green to get an idea of the future if we don't change direction NOW . Masses of people with no jobs, no homes, no future except what the government supplies them.

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gwinnettisgreat1 1 year, 11 months ago

You guys basically hit the nail on the head. The latino vote doesn't mean squat. The ones who cry the most are not even eligible to vote!!!! So who cares??? To much attention is given to these people. Majority rules and these guys and gals are a SMALL minority who news outlets and our "President" loves to pander to. Stop it already. Geeze.

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kevin 1 year, 11 months ago

It would be nicer if the Hispanic community would think for themselves instead of being led around by a bunch of activists. Obama has and will do nothing for Hispanics. He has had almost 4 yrs and nothing good has happened. He doesn't even clarify the rules these illegals have to play by for this 2-YEAR PASS he wants to give them. Then you have an administration that admits it can't stop any fraudulent applications because there aren't enough employees to handle this. Are there enough Federal workers to be handling the terrorist influx into this country? Apparently not either!

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