I am, bluntly, not noticing any particular success Democratic candidates are having in exciting or motivating Hispanic voters this election. But what shortcomings funded statewide Texas Democrats may have in connecting with Hispanics may not matter – Republicans may well do Democrats’ work for them.
I imagine that a lot of people in Hispanic communities are well-aware that Republican officeholders say all the right(wing) code words their entire time in office which amount to scapegoating Hispanics in one way or another, make sure their deeds match those code words, then turn around and ask Hispanics for their vote come election time. I also imagine that most Hispanics who pay attention completely get the drill, and as a result those who vote overwhelmingly support Democrats.
But Democratic candidates haven’t exactly been lighting the world on fire with motivational messages aimed at these voters either. Depending on the election or the candidate, the message falls flat, seems contrived, or doesn’t exist.
I recently talked to a close friend in a position to know a lot about Hispanic communities. “Every election, candidates get on the airwaves telling Hispanics that if we support them, the candidate will create more jobs. Then after the elections, we Hispanics always get all the crappy jobs. Stop telling us about jobs, because everybody knows it’s bullshit,” she said.
“What Democrats should be doing is ripping Republicans’ heads off for what Republicans believe about us, and for what they do to our communities.” And she was just getting warmed up.
Far too often, what ultimately happens is that Democratic candidates give a weak nod toward politely communicating to these voters, assuming the whole time that nothing they say will ultimately motivate them to vote in large percentages anyway. While that’s happening, Republicans put substantial resources into communicating to Hispanics, hoping to cut their losses by making Hispanics forget all the bad stuff they’ve done, or threatened to do, to their communities, in the years leading up to the election.
The result is completely predictable and rational: a high percentage of Hispanic voters shrug their shoulders, skip the election, and go about their day, because both sides have made absolutely sure that nothing about the election rings true or makes a difference.
But never fear, Democrats, because Republicans are taking up your slack.
An enterprising Republican consultant finally took an honesty pill and suggested that Republicans try something different – instead of putting messages on the air aimed at Hispanics which are designed to make those voters forget the extent to which Republicans screw them over, they finally just skipped a step – they’ve designed a message that just flat-out suggests that Hispanics shouldn’t vote at all.
In other words, Republicans screwed up and put on the air what they’ve been discussing privately in the strategy meetings for years.
Texas Republicans may answer that the incident didn’t happen here, so it’s irrelevant. But those will be the same Republicans who have been trying to nationalize this election all year long, so what happens elsewhere in America they get to own here in Texas, whether they like it or not.
This mis-step may well ring so utterly true to Hispanics that it might be a catalyst for Hispanics all over the country to vote in high percentages. “I’m trying to screw you over by convincing you to decline to participate in your own screwing” is, truly, a strong motivation to answer “no mas, mo-fo.”
Never before has their been such an overt and unmistakable tone from Republican candidates to Hispanics of we don’t want you here, and pay no attention – this has nothing to do with you. People wouldn’t even accept that tone at the dinner table from their own children, much less over the airwaves from those who would be their elected representatives.
That which has long been plausibly denied thus becomes the undeniable, and the implications will not be lost on Hispanic Americans. It’s now more clear than ever that Republicans believe it is their manifest destiny to govern, but that their plan can only work if Hispanics don’t participate in their own government.
It has long been true that when Democrats win, it is often only after Republicans have inadvertently helped them win. This may be one of those times. When it comes to Hispanic voters, while Democrats have done an abysmal job in this arena, Republicans may have really screwed the pooch this time.