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Fighting An Emerging Democratic Strategy

Harry Reid is a despicable jerk and his retirement from the Senate can't come quickly enough.  But I'm not sure that the Republican/conservative response to Reid's "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican" comment has been as effective as it might be.  The main Republican/conservative reaction seems to be spluttering outrage and looking around for right-leaning Latinos who will say that gosh no, it is totally okay for Hispanics to be Republican.  This approach might work okay with white swing voters who don't like racialist politics.  It isn't clear to me why politically unaligned Latinos should care that Reid's comment hurt conservative feelings or care that some activist that 99.9% of Americans never heard of thinks the GOP is A OK for Latinos.  Reid's comment was in the context of an argument.  He was arguing that all Latinos had certain overriding common interests that were represented by the Democrats and opposed by the Republicans.  We can expect to see this argument from the Democrats in future campaigns (though perhaps not made with such brazen malice) and this argument (and it is a terrible argument) will have to be answered. It will have to be answered with an explanation as to why it is wrong in its presumptions that all Latinos have the same voting interests, but just as importantly, it will have to be answered by showing how Republicans offer (most) Latinos a better deal on both principle and policy.  Reid's comment is a preview of Democratic attempts to make voting for Democrats an integral part of Latino political identity so that non-Democratic Latinos become utterly marginal.  Just calling moral fouls when Democrats use this tactic won't be good enough.

That doesn't mean conservatives shouldn't be outraged or express outrage.  Marco Rubio had the best reaction so far.  The outrage at Reid's comment should be expressed within an answer about why Latinos (and people of every other racial and ethnic group) should vote Republican.  The substance of the answer makes contempt for Reid's presumption more meaningful.  Rubio hit all the right themes of free enterprise, sacrifice, family, work and intergenerational upward mobility but he was still only halfway there.  The problem is that these themes become easily tuned out sloganeering if they are not combined with specific policies that can plausibly offer tangible outcomes.

A better answer to Reid would be that Latino (and non-Latino) voters should vote Republican because of tax policies that will decrease unemployment and make it easier for working parents to raise their children.  A better answer would include arguing for health care reforms that will improve the quality and security of care while increasing take home pay. A better answer would include arguing that Republicans won't use limited and hard earned tax payer dollars to fund abortions.  And then it would make sense to conclude that the reason Harry Reid doesn't know why any Latinos would vote Republican is because he is an arrogant and prejudiced Washington hack who thinks he is entitled to people's votes based on their surname.  It also wouldn't hurt to put this message in Spanish language ads. 

This is much bigger than a Nevada Senate race.  I want Reid gone, but I'm not sure Nevada Republicans have a Senate candidate that can articulate and defend a relevant agenda in English, never mind Spanish language media.  Angle might win anyway based on the horrible condition of the Nevada labor market, but that won't stop Democrats from trying to consolidate the Latino vote based on racialist arguments.  This is a good moment for Republicans to work out their counterarguments (and policies) so as to block the Democrats from slowly gaining overwhelming margins among a large fraction of the voting population.

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 11 Comments

How about something like this:

If you want your new country to have the government of your old country, vote Democratic...

But remember, there was a reason your family left that old country, and why America and the American economy succeeds. They are not separate from each other.

Horatius, it is probably not a good idea to have your appeal to an audience based on a vague and gratuitous insult to your audience's countries of origin. It smacks of resentment of the mere presence of those voters and the fear that "they" will make "our" country like "their" country. It is also tough to see how that line of argument easily applies to the political arguments of the day. I suppose one can construct an argument about how cap and trade (or Obamacare or whatever) will make American more like this or that country, but that is hardly the best or simplest way of explaining what is wrong with that policy.

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A few years ago at a dinner party a naturalized Germany made some disparaging comments about America. My response was pretty blunt: There were reasons we left Europe. Then I went into it, noting the chronic unemployment, the dying populations, and the lower quality of life of most Europeans. In short, we are the Europeans who chose to live like men rather than sheep.

I think it's a good thing to remind Americans that European socialism/collectivism ain't so great. We don't hear it often enough. My feeling has always been, if someone likes the "old country" better than America, then pack your damned bags and get the hell outta my country. The Founders clearly understood that America could ill-afford "dual citizenship."

And I'll add that the immigration we've experienced since the 1880s has been generally the wrong kind. So-called "economic immigration" lacks the political will necessary to make the American Experiment work. We need people who are fed up with being pushed around; we really haven't had enough of those kind of immigrants since the early 1800s (although the recent folks from East Europe and Christian Korea often fit the bill -- they understand America, I think).

that should have read "a naturalized German"

Redwald, well it depends on what one means by becoming more like Europe or Latin America or whatever. A stricter regime of immigration enforcement would make us (in that one sense) more like Mexico. A system with wider use of HSAs would make us more like Singapore (though our health care systems would still be very different in other ways.) A system that transitioned Medicaid into a subsidized system of high deductible private insurance would make us more like Switzerland. Cutting our corporate income taxes would make us more (again in that one sense) like lots of European countries. I happen to think those might be good ideas, but the threats to American exceptionalism multiply once one tries to apply the rhetoric seriously.

And once again, I don't think anyone here has defended the proposition that the US should become like this or that country based on the general principle that those countries are better. It just doesn't make sense to pointlessly insult people with unnecessary slights against their (or their ancestors') countries of origin. Doing so won't make "them" go back to "their" country. They'll just stop listening and vote for someone who can explain their policies and principles without indulging in gratuitous displays of resentment and contempt.

Sensitivity to hyphenated Americans is a Leftist trait, Pete. On the latest Census form, when asked my race, I wrote in "American." That's the way it should be, and anyone who clings to an ethnic/racial identity as their "master status" isn't really an American.

Redwald, I'm not sure this was ever about what someone put on the census. Responding to policy differences by non germane insults to people's heritage isn't a left or right trait. It is a counterproductive jerk trait. That is why you didn't see Reagan responding to policy differences with Tip O'Neil and Mario Cuomo by telling them to go back to Ireland/Italy if they didn't like the Kemp-Roth tax bill.

Well, Pete, we've had this argument before. You seem to think that wonkish appeals can trump ethnic identity. I don't. My position (assimilationist) is far closer to the Founder's view than yours. I'm happy with that.

Redwald, actually this seems to be a new and interesting argument. My position would be that one shouldn't respond to policy differences (or merely policy incomprehension) by insulting people's heritage in a way that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

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