Saturday, October 1, 2011





Give the California Republican Party credit. With its share of registered voters down to barely above 30 percent, the GOP at least realizes what it must do if it’s ever to become competitive again in this state: Recruit Latinos.

Republicans are not deaf and dumb. They realize Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic group both here and in the rest of America; they know Hispanics make up close to 36 percent of the state’s legal populace and roughly 18 percent of the voters who turn out in each election. So they know they have to do better than the 20-something percent of votes their candidates have drawn from Latinos in every election of the last two decades where Arnold Schwarzenegger was not a candidate.

Their problem is that reaching out to Latinos will have to mean more than the lip service California Republicans have given Hispanic voters over that time. Lip service there has been aplenty.

Almost every time the party holds a state convention, it vows to go after Latino voters. The problem is that Republicans in this state have not been willing to change their party’s positions one iota to accommodate the interests and preferences of the voters they need to attract.

The question: How can the GOP hope to attract Latino voters if its positions consistently conflict with what every poll shows Latinos want?

The answer: It can’t and won’t, no matter what it says. Which makes the party’s latest attempt at Hispanic outreach – announced with some fanfare at its mid-September state convention in Los Angeles – little more than the GOP’s usual whistling past the Latino graveyard.

Here’s what state party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro told reporters: “We have been preaching to the converted too long,” he said. “We have not been speaking to the majority of California voters for too long.”

In short, even the California GOP’s top dog knows it has been out of touch for decades and voters have deserted the party in droves because of it, resulting in huge Democratic majorities in both houses of the state Legislature and the state’s congressional delegation. The GOP can complain about gerrymandering and new district lines until it’s blue in the face, but it won’t be competitive until it speaks to the interests of Latino voters.

Of course, Del Beccaro’s remarks came at the same convention where conservative party delegates refused to budge a bit from the state GOP’s extreme right-wing platform. The same convention where the party’s quadrennial presidential straw vote showed the longtime fringe, libertarian-leaning candidate Ron Paul has twice the support among GOP activists of any other Republican presidential contender.

So the party stuck with its message of no new taxes, no matter what state services are cut, including public schools and universities, police and fire services, health care for the indigent and adult day health care.

Has it occurred to anyone in the GOP that the plurality of California schoolkids is Latino, that a large portion of adults in day health care have been Hispanics and that Latino areas tend to have higher-than-average crime rates? Do these folks realize cutting those services slaps Latinos in the face? Yet, that’s what Republicans in the Legislature have caused with their persistent votes against compromises that would raise new taxes in exchange for other GOP-inspired measures that might help create jobs and business.

The party also stuck with its hard-line stance against any benefits for illegal immigrants, even children brought here by their parents at an early age when they had absolutely no say about it.

Yes, as Republicans say, their anti-same sex marriage position pretty much lines up with the preference of most Latinos and their family values message resonates. But things like slicing education, police and health care services cut much more deeply because these are not mere ideas, but realities that create problems for hundreds of thousands of Latino voters daily.

The GOP, thus, did itself a major disservice by squashing an attempt by moderate delegates to soften its platform.

The party also needs to recruit far more credible Latino candidates if it’s to be competitive. More candidates in the mold of former state Sen. Abel Maldonado, who served briefly as a stopgap appointive lieutenant governor under Schwarzenegger. It is no accident that Maldonado, running for Congress against Santa Barbara County Democrat Lois Capps, is one of the few Republicans with any chance of knocking off an incumbent Democrat next year. He’s a moderate in a party of hard-liners and a Latino in a newly-drawn district with plenty of them.

The Maldonado mold would be a healthy one for other Republicans to follow, but they show no signs of doing so. Until they do, their hyped minority outreach effort will once again go nowhere.


Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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