Politico's Advice Regarding Wooing Hispanics, Part II: Tokenism

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on November 9, 2010

The recent Politico story entitled "Hispanic vote a 2012 wild card" does not present a very attractive picture of "Hispanics." It presents them as having a narrow, self-interested focus on the almost total advancement of their group in the immigration process with little regard to the possible needs of other groups or the United States more generally.

The article is no more accurate or helpful when it comes to giving the GOP advice. That portion of the article begins with a misstatement: "Republicans, meanwhile, were carried to power by a conservative base that is, if anything, even less open to compromise on immigration – or anything else – than was the last Congress." Leaving aside the gratuitous "or anything else" that seems to lay all responsibility for the lack of progress on any issue to the GOP, the core of that declarative assertion is mistaken. Republicans were carried to power on the basis of their appeal to independent voters. Those very same voters had swung toward Obama and the Democratic Party in 2008.

The article also reports that Numbers USA, "which favors lower immigration levels, estimates that the election wiped out about three dozen immigration reform supporters in the House and about a half-dozen in the Senate."

Mmmmm … "immigration reform." Would that be a shorthand for "comprehensive immigration reform," which is itself shorthand for legalization of 10-12 million undocumented immigrants and a continuation of family preference categories that favor increased "Latino" immigration numbers? Is it possible that the new members of Congress would be interested in something different than a "grand bargain" trade of legalization for enforcement?

Maybe so, but that possibility is never broached because of the words "comprehensive immigration reform" are by now a lemming-like mantra that is no more necessarily accurate than other conventional-wisdom terms buttressed by journalist groupthink.

You see, Republicans are caught in a bind, according to the thrust of the article. Their conservative base doesn't support wholesale legalization, but as the Politico article reports, "Democrats face open demands from Hispanic leaders for a reward for their votes." Presumably, the same calculus applies to Republicans.

But Politico reports that there is a way out of this "trap." It notes that, "Many Republican leaders see another way out of the trap: putting Rubio on the 2012 ballot," but then immediately quotes Fernand Amandi, a Florida-based Democratic pollster, downplaying Marco Rubio's 55-62 percent showing among that state's "Hispanic" community by saying that, "if he had been forced to defend his record, his support among Hispanics would very likely have been lower."

Rubio is on record as being against wholesale legalization policies, so you see that position couldn't possible hold up with "Hispanics" who in the view of the many pro-legalization advocates quoted by the piece are singularly self-interested in the advancement of their own group.

The article's narrative line envisions no policy alternative to "comprehensive immigration reform," defined in terms of wholesale legalization of illegal immigrants and reinforcing and expanding family preference policy as it now stands.

Consistent with the article's immigration groupthink is its one-sidedness. The story quotes Sen. Menendez, extensively – very extensively. Then there are two full paragraphs and quotes from David Binder, "a California-based Democratic pollster who works for the Democratic National Committee and advised the Service Employees International Union's intensely successful campaign against Whitman among Hispanic voters." This is on top of several paragraphs devoted to similar views of persons associated with Latino Decisions, a polling firm with substantial funding from pro-legalization advocacy organizations. And, just in case you missed the point of the piece, there are quotes from one Jill Hanauer, "executive director of Project New West, a Democratic group active in the Western states," and a few quotes from Frank Sharry, "executive director of the pro-reform America's Voice."

For "balance" there are two quotes GOP strategists on the need to speak respectfully to "Hispanics." Obviously, in the story's view, this advice is needed because they don't.

The Politico piece is riddled with conventional thinking about immigration reform and the assumptions underlying it. It breaks no new ground, but rather is content to add another layer of uncritical acceptance to a rather conventional, narrow, and ultimately misleading narrative. And in the process it reflects badly on voters from the many diverse Spanish-background communities in the United States who are indiscriminately lumped together under a term of convenience – "Hispanic." At the same time, it marginalizes those who hold different views of what "immigration reform" might better mean, thus lending itself to the support of a very narrow, partisan narrative.