Leadership is out of touch with Hispanics
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 28, 2004
By Jaime A. Molera

Results from Proposition 200, the recent Protect Arizona Now initiative, further demonstrate that Latinos should not be pigeonholed as a monolithic voting block.

While many in the media and most politicians tend to group Latinos as Democrats and many vocal Hispanic "leaders" tend to be very liberal and purport to speak for the Latino community in general, voting trends show Hispanics moving in the opposite direction.

It may shock many political pundits to learn that nearly 44 percent of Hispanics (according to polling conducted by the No on 200 campaign) actually voted for Proposition 200.

For the record, I was, and will continue to be, an ardent critic of this initiative. I strongly believe that many of the proponents of Protect Arizona Now took the important issue of immigration reform and bastardized it for their own political ends. However, it is important to answer the question of why so many Latinos backed the measure.

So then, why did so many Latinos support an initiative that was derided as racist and specifically anti-Latino? The answer is twofold: First, most Hispanics witness firsthand the frustration of the failure of our border policies. Second, Hispanics are becoming more and more willing to accept conservative principles as their own and are unwilling to accept blindly the communiqués of left-leaning Latino leaders.

Hispanics, like everyone else in Arizona, are frustrated with antiquated and ineffective immigration policies. Many see firsthand how illegal immigrants can impact communities.

Their frustration stems from high crime rates, lack of accountability in schools, low property values due to lack of home ownership in their communities, and an overall dearth of significant infrastructure.

In addition, many second- and third-generation Latinos working in blue collar/union jobs often view recent immigrants as a threat to their own employment. They don't care that this was bad public policy and that at the end of the day it will not keep one illegal immigrant from crossing the border. They believe something, anything, must be done to protect and improve their way of life.

Second, many Latinos embody values that more resemble the Republican Party platform. On issues ranging from public safety, free trade, educational accountability, school choice, limited government and abortion, Latinos often will sound just as Republican as a 70-year-old Anglo male resident of north Scottsdale.

It is important to note that the same proportion (44 percent) of Arizona Hispanics voted for President Bush. Many in the political intelligentsia would have us believe that when a "rich Anglo conservative Republican" runs for office, Latinos will vote in droves against him. This narrow mind-set simply does not capture the seismic shift that is occurring within the Latino voting bloc (between 2000 and 2004, Bush enjoyed nearly a 10 percent increase in his Hispanic vote).

This change also impacts how campaigns will communicate in the future to Latinos. Unfortunately for the No on 200 effort, its leaders realized too late. With less than two months left in the election, the first-rate public relations firm Hamilton, Gullett, Davis and Roman were brought in to salvage the campaign (they took over when polls showed Proposition 200 at 78 percent for to 14 percent against).

Their revelation came in contrast to some of the Latino advocates who for the year leading up to the election cast the initiative as merely a sinister Republican effort to attack the Hispanic community. They argued this even though every member of Arizona's GOP congressional delegation as well as the state party chairman opposed the initiative.

The thinking of these zealots was simple: Attack it as a conservative initiative, then stand back and watch the Latino population rise up against it. Unfortunately, this simple plan was too simplistic.

In knowing what we know, why are Hispanic "leaders" disconnected from the community they preach to serve? Quite frankly, the answer is they are not disconnected. Most of the well-known liberal Latino advocates are intelligent, passionate and charismatic. They indeed do speak for large pockets of the community, but understand that they represent segments of the population and not the race as a whole.

It is ludicrous to think that any one person or organization can be the spokesman for an entire ethnic group, just as it would be ridiculous to imagine Rush Limbaugh as the voice of all Anglos in America.

It is important to comprehend that many of these advocates came up through the ranks of the Democratic Party and tend to see the world through this prism.

However, more and more Hispanics, as we have seen from November's results, view politics and the world differently.

Jaime A. Molera is the former state superintendent of public instruction and a public affairs consultant with Molera Alvarez Group, LLC.