Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Let's engage (educate?) fellow conservatives and grow the party, says Tennessee Republican National Hispanic Assembly

52,000 potential Latino Tennessee voters in 2010

Plus: Phil Valentine's comments at Ibiza

The Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Tennessee (TNRNHA) is 40 members strong and wants to do at least two things: (1) engage fellow conservatives, and (2) grow the party with Hispanic voters.

Engage: we are U.S. citizen Hispanic Tennesseans, and (maybe) take it easy on the rhetoric

One idea TNRNHA President Raul Lopez says is long overdue is that Hispanics must engage high-profile conservatives such as radio host Phil Valentine, who "might generate ill-will to Americans, that happen to be Hispanic, as a by-product of their popular commentary on illegal immigration," according to Lopez. The TNRNHA invited Valentine to speak at an event held at local latin dance club Ibiza, and both The Tennessean and WPLN filed reports. (Valentine's summary of his comments at the Ibiza event are at the end of this article.)

It would appear, from Lopez's admission that "ill will" is generated among Hispanic Americans as a result of certain comments on illegal immigration, that his group is concerned about stemming that same ill will, and maybe not only by its stated strategy of undoing what it sees as public distortions of conservative figures. Could it be that the TNRNHA also wants to change the tone of the Republican party's stance on particularly Hispanic-sensitive political issues?

Take as an example the TNRNHA's statement on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (H/T: Post Politics). The group didn't stray too far from some of the controversial GOP allegations of racism against the sitting federal appellate court judge, citing "the bias she will bring to the Supreme Court as a Latina woman," but the TNRNHA did eschew the specific word "racist" when describing Sotomayor and twice welcomed the concept of diversity on the nation's highest court.

There is also some evidence that the group intends to correct distortions of facts about Hispanics - for example, the kind of generalizations about legal status that led to the "ivory soap" comment by Maury County official Bob Farmer, who said that 99.99% of Hispanics are "here illegally." Lopez was quoted by WPLN as saying that he wants people to know there are many U.S. citizen and legal resident Hispanics in Tennessee. In fact, it is estimated that 75% of the Hispanics living in Tennessee fit into those citizen and legal resident categories.

Grow the party: 52,000 potential voters

The TNRNHA has 40 members now, according to the Tennessean, but the group sees its potential as much greater. From the Tennessean story:
The Tennessee Republican National Hispanic Assembly formed in April, said Raul Lopez, the group's Cuban-American chairman, and its membership stands at 40. But the figure he's looking at is 52,000 — an estimate of potential Latino voters next year.
TNRNHA Vice-Chair Juan Borges was quoted in a recent press release as saying, "The Hispanic vote is critical":
Right now we estimate that there are about 155,000 homes in Middle Tennessee that speak Spanish. We estimate that there are about 53,000 Latinos registered to vote. Out of those only about 9,500 have voted in the previous election.

"They are an untapped market and we're going to go get them. We're going to give them a place to belong and it's going to be the Republican National Hispanic Assembly."

Nationally: Republicans struggle for Hispanic audience

In June, the national chairman of the RNHA commented on the importance of Hispanic voters:
The Republican Party must recapture a material portion of the Hispanic vote or we will not win national elections in the future.
Jeb Bush, in a July interview with Tucker Carlson for Esquire, said that Republicans are
sending signals that Hispanics aren't wanted in our party
and that
the emotion, the anger, is a signal. ... It makes it sound like them and us.
In 2005, GOP author of Los Republicanos and former George W. Bush administration official Leslie Sanchez warned this would happen:
Ham-fisted attacks ... on illegal immigrants, while political red meat for some, cause many in our coalition -- particularly Hispanics and suburban women -- to recoil.
In Nashville in 2005, a conservative talk show host said that Governor Bredesen was not tuned in to the "animosity" on the "vibrant" issue of illegal immigration, describing this state of affairs as a political weakness of Bredesen to be exploited. In retrospect, the political weapon built on that animosity appears to have backfired, having reached a fever pitch in May 2006, marked by the now-famous "shoot him" punch line by Nashville talk show host Phil Valentine.

Phil Valentine speaks to the TNRNHA

Phil Valentine kindly summarized for his comments at the recent TNRNHA event held at Ibiza. Here they are:
The basic theme of my talk was that I am not at all opposed to immigration. I believe orderly, legal immigration is still vital to the United States. I believe illegal immigrants do great damage to Hispanics in general because of the MS13 problem, jobs going to illegals, drunk driving deaths and murders committed by illegal aliens.

The legal Hispanic community must come together to help solve this problem. They cannot turn a blind eye or, worse, help harbor those who have broken into this country. The key to success is assimilation. Those who don't will never be successful in this country. That means a common language and a common heritage. There's nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage but placing that heritage above being American is unacceptable.

It's time to join together and solve this problem for the good of the country.

TNRNHA emphasizes cultural conservatism, defense, fiscal responsibility

When I asked Raul Lopez about his own comments at the Ibiza event, here is what he said:
Faith, Family, Freedom and Fiscal Responsibility.

We Republicans believe in the Sanctity of Life (We're the ONLY Party that backs it up in our platform)
We believe in the Sanctity of Marriage
We believe in empowering the family over the government (Less taxes, Less bureaucracy, Enhanced personal empowerment)
We believe in Secure Borders (The North, South, East, and West) to protect us from terrorism and any other threats to our Nation
We believe that everyone should not be judged by the color of their skin but rather by the content of their character (We don't believe in Racial Discrimination; even reverse Discrimination)
We believe that you can't spend your way to long lasting recovery and prosperity

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