To reach Hispanics, Republicans need to change their delivery

Geoffrey Bailey

All across the Lone Star State — from the mountains of El Paso to the hallowed halls of the LBJ School — any modern Texas political debate inevitably leads to a discussion on the coming wave of Hispanic voters and the corresponding demise of an anti-illegal immigration Texas Republican Party. I believe that narrative is both false and overly simplistic. Hispanics are voting Democrat not because their policies are better, but because my party hasn’t figured out how to talk to them yet.

Similarly, the recent parliamentary victories of Marine Le Pen’s Front National Party in France and Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party in Great Britain are being cast by the European press as surprise victories for a new wave of anti-immigration political parties across Europe.

Almost on cue, the American media – and many around UT – are drawing parallels to the immigration debate here in Texas, asking how the Republican Party can possibly survive with such an obvious and glaring “problem” with Hispanics.

I believe that narrative is false and not grounded in fact. Rather, I believe that Republicans – particularly here in Texas – have a short-term messaging problem with Hispanics, while Democrats have a long-term policy problem that threatens their viability with Hispanic voters.

In particular, the Democratic Party’s growing hostility toward faith and prosperity puts them at odds with the values of the burgeoning Hispanic demographic in Texas.

On Faith – There is a segment of the Democratic Party that is hostile toward organized religion – particularly public displays of religious faith – that is growing increasingly militant and becoming progressively more mainstream. While you see this frequently on campus, one need only look at the floor fight from the 2012 Democratic National Convention when former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was forced to overrule the majority of delegates who adamantly opposed the inclusion of a mere reference to “God” in the national party platform.

These views are fundamentally at odds with Hispanic voters. Faith for many Hispanic and Latinos isn’t just something they experience in church. Catholicism – and a passionate belief in the almighty – is intrinsic to who they are as a community and something that permeates their everyday lives. Moreover, according to Pew Research, by a margin of +10 percent, Hispanics are more pro-life than the public at large.

On Prosperity – A recent report by the National Urban League found that the unemployment rate among Hispanics was 9.1 percent, with an underemployment rate of 18.4 percent. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University puts it another way: The Hispanic homeownership rate of 46 percent – down about 3 percentage points since the end of George W. Bush’s presidency – is at its lowest level in a decade and 27.5 percentage points below white homeownership.

While the numbers can be confusing, the message is simple: Democratic policies are bad for the Hispanic community. Higher taxes, more regulation and a pervasive culture of entitlement reduce jobs, strangle economic growth and hinder the Hispanic community’s ability to prosper.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party’s core beliefs of lower taxes, smaller – less intrusive – government and empowering the individual instead of the state resonate with the Hispanic community. However, the way in which many of our candidates ignorantly fail to communicate these ideas to Hispanic voters gives many in their community the impression that Republicans do not value or appreciate them, their families or their contribution to society.

We do. And it is my hope that the 2014 Republican Party State Convention, which just wrapped up in Fort Worth, will focus the resources and attention of Republicans across the state on effectively communicating conservative values to the Hispanic community.

Hispanics – like any other demographic – will vote for the candidate with the best ideas. In order to win the Hispanic vote, the Republican Party needs to start offering solutions to their everyday problems. Until Republican candidates begin to consistently knock on Hispanic doors and say, “Here’s who I am, here’s what I believe and here’s how what I believe makes a positive impact in your life,” then Hispanic and Latino voters will continue to go elsewhere.

For example, undoubtedly, border security is – and will always be – a top policy priority for lawmakers in Austin. But, when Republican state officials refer to our broken immigration system in the context of an “invasion,” when our party’s nominee for President of the United States touts “self-deportation” as a means to an end, and when the Young Conservatives of Texas chapter here at UT offers $25 gift cards in a nauseating effort to “catch” illegal immigrants on campus, we give Hispanic voters no glimpse into how our ideas make their lives better and no choice but to vote for someone else.  

Here at the University of Texas, we believe “what starts here changes the world.” The College Republicans, the Young Conservatives and any other conservative groups on campus should internalize our campus motto and use it to change our party by proactively reaching out to Hispanic student organizations and sharing how conservative ideas and values can make a positive impact in their lives.

When you talk with other students on campus, it may seem like the Republican Party’s challenges with Hispanic voters are insurmountable. They are not. Soon, my party will figure out how to share our ideas with the Hispanic community. Once that happens, it is the Democratic Party in Texas that should worry; because you can’t change core values, and you can’t message away bad ideas.

Bailey is an MBA student and President of the Graduate Business Council for the Texas Evening MBA class of 2016. He ran for the Texas House in 2010.