April 13, 2011


Hispanic Conservatives (William Murchison, April 2011, American Spectator)

Some 47 million Hispanics now live in the United States -- almost 15 percent of the total population. Of these, a survey by the Pew Hispanic Forum in October 2010 estimates 38 percent to be immigrants. Of this latter category, an estimated 19 percent (something over 11 million) are what we once called illegal aliens but now generally refer to as undocumented workers -- accent perhaps on the word "workers."

Work they do -- in factories, on construction sites, in homes and hotels and offices, on lawn-cutting crews, on hog and poultry farms. They work because America has more work to be done than is available in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, or Ecuador, with native-born Americans more indisposed than formerly to low-paying trades and occupations. The work ethic, in other words, informs the Hispanic voter, actual or potential. A building contractor with whom my wife and I were recently discussing the integrity of construction workers told us, "It's whites who steal from you on the job site. The Hispanics have their heads down working to make money to send somewhere or the other." I wouldn't call that a dispositive observation on the Hispanic orientation toward work, but it gets you to thinking. A willing worker, conservatives tend to understand, is susceptible to opportunities for pay and reward such as the free market provides out of all proportion to those occurring under government auspices and control. This understanding, one might well deduce, gives conservative candidates a leg up in the quest for private sector growth.

The general Hispanic population likewise has a relatively strong commitment to religion and family. I am uncertain how far we are to push this particular point, which I have heard advanced in a vague way for years, without statistical underpinning. I think modern Anglos, looking anxiously at the evaporation of their own cultural norms, have a bent for romanticizing the attachments and outlooks of others who seem at least from the outside to "have it all together." We know, against this cultural bent, that the pregnancy rate among Hispanic teens exceeds that for whites as the rate among blacks exceeds that for Hispanics. We know that more Hispanics drop out of high school than do whites or blacks. Yet something else we know (thanks to a Pew Forum survey) is that nearly two-thirds of older Hispanics oppose abortion -- the other side of this particular coin being lighter opposition (43 percent) among younger Hispanics. When the Texas senate, in February, approved a bill requiring the offer of a sonogram view of her child to a woman considering abortion, three Hispanic Democrats, representing heavily Hispanic South Texas districts, voted with the Anglo Republican majority.

To pursue further the question of philosophical orientation, a poll more than a year ago asserted that 54 percent of Texas Hispanics call themselves conservative, as against 18 percent who self-identify as liberal or progressive. Maybe so, to judge from how things went at the polls in Texas last November. Four Hispanic Republicans won state house seats in Hispanic territory. Three of the Democratic losers were likewise Hispanic. With the election over, along came Rep. Aaron Peña, a Democrat, to cross over to the Republican side due to what he identified as the overlap of his own views with those of the GOP.

Of particular note, from this same standpoint, was the contest in formerly Anglo-Czech-Slovak Williamson County, home base for Dell Computer, lying just north of Austin, where a Hispanic woman, Diana Maldonado, two years earlier wrested the seat from a white man. In 2010, one Larry Gonzales wrested it back for the GOP. Nobody -- Anglo, Hispanic, or what-not -- seemed to notice anything but the philosophical and partisan divide between the two candidates. Walloping the Democrats, rather than fretting over ethnic identity, turned out to be the big thing.

NOT THAT HISPANIC VOTES can be likened to ripe pears waiting to fall into the aprons of eager Republicans shaking the tree. In 2008, Barack Obama received two-thirds of the Hispanic vote. A national House exit poll in 2010 suggested that 60 percent of Latinos voted Democratic. In fact, something had happened since 2006, when exit polls put the Hispanic vote at 69 percent Democratic. Was that due in part at least to the economic mess, coupled with Democratic failure to create jobs? Whatever the case, Republicans and conservatives sense for 2012 an opportunity, not so much to forge a grand alliance with Latinos -- such a process will take time -- as to illustrate what Aaron Peña figured out for himself, namely, the general congruence of Hispanic values and Republican policies.

Posted by at April 13, 2011 6:12 AM

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