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GOP Senator Admits Scapegoating of Hispanics Endangers His Party

by Simon Rosenberg on 11/10/2008 at 2:54pm

Originally posted at NDN.org

Earlier today on Meet the Press Tom Brokaw cited NDN in asking Senator
Mel Martinez (R-FL) whether the weak showing of the Republicans these
last few years with Hispanics was endangering their Party’s ability to
be a majority in the 21st century. The transcript:

MR. BROKAW: Senator Martinez, as you know, politics is about
keeping score. I know this is tough for you to hear, probably, but you
were 0-for-3 last Tuesday. You’re a Republican; you are from Florida,
that went to the Democrats; and you’re Hispanic, or Latino in some
parts of this country, and the Hispanics went overwhelmingly for the
Democrats this time. Jill Lawrence wrote in USA TODAY: “`If the
Republicans don’t make their peace with Hispanic voters, they’re not
going to win presidential elections anymore. The math just isn’t
there.'” That’s according to Simon Rosenberg, head of the NDN, a
Democratic group that studies Hispanic voters.” How do you get back to
the Hispanics?

SEN. MARTINEZ: Governor Jeb Bush–former Governor Jeb Bush last
week made a comment that if Republicans don’t figure it out and do the
math that we’re going to be relegated to minority status. I’ve been
preaching this for a long time to my colleagues within my party. I
think that the very divisive rhetoric of the immigration debate set a
very bad tone for our brand as Republicans. The fact of the matter is I
think in Florida there was not a great ideological shift, but I think
there was plenty of room for improvement in how that state was looked
upon.

The fact of the matter is that Hispanics are going to be
a more and more vibrant part of the electorate, and the Republican
Party had better figure out how to talk to them. We had a very dramatic
shift between what President Bush was able to do with Hispanic voters,
where he won 44 percent of them, and what happened to Senator McCain.
Senator McCain did not deserve what he got.
He was
one of those that valiantly fought, fought for immigration reform, but
there were voices within our party, frankly, which if they continue
with that kind of rhetoric, anti-Hispanic rhetoric, that so much of it
was heard, we’re going to be relegated to minority status
. (bold added). 

For three years now NDN has argued that the way the Republicans had
handled the immigration issue – by demonizing Hispanics – was one of
the biggest political mistakes made by a political party in the last 50
years of American politics.  As Peter Wallsten writes
in the LA Times today, this failure with Hispanics may have cost them 4
prominent states in this election, but may cost them Arizona and Texas
in the coming years.  If that comes about it is game over, lights out
for the GOP in the Electoral College for a very long time. 

And see here for Jill Lawrence’s piece in USA Today mentioned by Brokaw, and here for our landmark study that lays out this argument, Hispanics Rising II.  

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