In May 2005, I went to Washington DC along with several NAHP-associated publishers. The objective, as defined by the NAHP, was to both enable us to get a better read from members of Congress about immigration reform, and to send them a message on behalf of our readers. Given that each of us represented publications whose readers were almost exclusively first-generation immigrants and Spanish-language dominant, the objective made sense.
What DIDN’T make sense, however, was the itinerary. Meetings were set up almost entirely with Democrat members of Congress. In fact, the only Republican we tried to meet, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, cancelled at the last minute due to a scheduling conflict.
I finally, after revealing my political hand as being slightly right of center, said to one of the more prominent members of the group, “We’re preaching to the choir. If you want legislation passed as you say, and Republicans are in the way, why not meet with Republicans?” She leaned to me and, in a whisper, said, “You know, I’m a Republican.”
After Sen. Harry Reid recently proclaimed that he just couldn’t understand how any Hispanic could be a Republican, I found myself wondering two things: 1.) Just how many “closet” conservatives are there among so-called Hispanic leaders? Almost everyone in my family is conservative, and they’re getting increasingly bolder. 2.) Do Democrats REALLY have an ideological hold on Hispanics, or do they merely bully influential groups (including media) into Democrat Party allegiance?
The Tea Party has wielded interesting influence in the recent election. Setting aside the ostensible wholesale rejection by voters of big government and deficit spending, election results themselves have challenged the stereotypes the Democrat Party has attempted to perpetuate of political party allegiance by ethnic groups. Two African Americans endorsed by the Tea Party won their respective Congressional elections. The open question at this time is whether or not they will be accepted by the Black Caucus in Washington DC.
Likewise, Marco Rubio of Florida, Raul Labrador of Idaho, and Susana Martinez of New Mexico won their respective elections as Tea Party-endorsed candidates. So, how does one explain the Democrat stereotype of Hispanics in view of these elections? The Democrat Party would seem to want to label them as mere anomalies, and then isolate them as both pariahs and even traitors of their ethnicity. But could they really be a reflection of an evolving Hispanic American identity of genuinely conservative values?
I’m of the opposite view of Sen. Reid. I often wonder, after my years of experience living and working within Hispanic communities in the U.S., and in Latin America, how Hispanics could be Democrats. Laying my cynicism of BOTH parties aside, which party’s platform most closely is aligned with traditional Hispanic values?
Among the many messages voters sent in this recent election was, in my opinion, the message that Americans are tired of class and ethnic warfare being used as a form of political bullying through class divisions. You see, almost by definition, if you are separated from the mainstream, you become disenfranchised. Convince enough people that they belong to a disenfranchised group, and you create victims … victims in need of redress. But is that a more palatable message for Hispanics in the United States than one in which you are treated as everyone else, and allowed to succeed or fail depending on your own merits and efforts?
A new age of political candidates is emerging who seem to consider themselves Americans before conveniently ethnic “outliers”, and who love America for its freedoms and opportunities … to succeed in a big way, even at the risk of possibly failing. They seem to prefer this liberty to the government –controlled limits that come with social programs and resource redistribution.
I think we’re seeing the beginning of Hispanics showing their true identity, as they fight back against the polemic, ideological bullying by some groups who just can’t understand why everyone doesn’t view life in the context of their left-wing assumptions. You can write off one or two people as anomalies. It’s becoming more difficult, however, to explain away the new crop of conservative leaders. These conservative leaders will increasingly shape whichever party reflects their conservative values. Either that, or the party rejects these leaders, at its own peril.
Now the million dollar question: Are we in Hispanic media part of the bullying process? If our readership is more conservative than the leadership of our media outlets, business life is going to get very interesting going forward.
But at least some of us may not any longer have to whisper that we’re conservative.
Bill Vincent has recently worked as publisher of the newspaper Rumbo Texas. Before that, he was the business director of La Estrella in Dallas/Fort Worth, and launched La Estrella en Casa. He currently is the executive director of Vincent Global Connections, a consultancy specializing in niche marketing, financial diversification, and business expansion within the Americas.