Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority group in the country, and in 2013, they numbered some fifty-four million Americans. As their population continues to grow, so does their influence on the electorate. With that in mind, it really comes as no surprise that both Democrats and Republicans are trying craft messages to appeal to their communities and secure their increasingly important votes. The GOP’s strategy was introducing two Cuban-Americans into the race, hoping that the thought of making history by electing the first Hispanic president would be so appealing that Latinos would disregard years of anti-immigrant rhetoric and flock to the Republican Party in 2016. Unfortunately for them, their choices were so bad that both liberal and conservative Hispanics are launching campaigns against Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in an attempt to turn Latinos against them by rightfully calling them out for being “traitors” to their culture.
According to the Washington Post:
Radio and online ads, social media posts and public discussions with Hispanic leaders in swing states are accusing Cruz and Rubio, senators from Texas and Florida, respectively, of fighting against immigration reforms, a minimum wage increase and other changes that millions of Latinos support. Many of the ads equate the two candidates to GOP front-runner Donald Trump, whose sharp rhetoric on immigration has until now drawn most of the attention of Hispanic activists.
After Mitt Romney was trounced in the 2012 election, many political pundits blamed it on the GOP’s failure to capture Latino voters; Romney, after all, was only able to secure twenty-seven percent of the coveted Hispanic swing vote. When the dust settled after the election, the Republican National Convention Chairman Reince Priebus told his party “they must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform” if they wanted to win the next presidential election.
For a while it looked like the party might take his advice and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) became one of eight senators to draft an immigration reform bill. However, Rubio soon started distancing himself from the bill after he realized that in order to gain the support of the xenophobic white Republican base he’d have to throw his own community under the bus. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), on the other hand, never believed in any pathway to legalization, and supports the much talked about, mythical “self-deportation” plan that turned Latinos against Romney in 2012.
Cristóbal Alex, president of the Democratic-backed Latino Victory Project, spoke of the strategy to go after the two candidates and said,”It’s not comfortable for us to do this, to call out members of our own community who don’t reflect our community values, but we have no choice.”
A group of Hispanic leaders gathered in Nevada on Monday and had the two candidates’ photos right next to a photo of Donald Trump, calling all three of them anti-Latino. The group issued a press release that stated,”while Trump continues to grab headlines with his hateful anti-Latino, anti-immigrant language, the positions and records of the two Latino presidential candidates in the race are equally dangerous for Nevada communities.”
Influential labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta called the candidates “traitors” and “sell-outs.” But, surprisingly, liberal activists aren’t the only ones disgusted by Cruz and Rubio, conservative Hispanic groups are equally so.
A group of influential conservative Hispanic leaders held a press conference on Monday, after a meeting with Ted Cruz’s campaign, and raised some concerns about the candidate’s views on “self-deportation.” Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, said that Cruz is “perhaps even worse” than Donald Trump:
“They don’t like to use the term self-deportation, but for all intents and purposes, that’s really what self-deportation means. So we learned today, to our dismay, that Sen. Cruz believes in attrition through enforcement, or … no legalization whatsoever.”
It’s one thing for liberals to go after Cruz and Rubio for their anti-Hispanic policies, it’s quite another for conservatives to speak out against them. Marco Rubio thinks that all he has to do is speak a little Spanish and voters will flock to his side; Ted Cruz believes that sending his father, a Cuban immigrant and religious extremist, out to campaign for him is going to fool Latinos into believing he is one of them. Neither of these limp-wristed and patronizing tactics are going to work, and it is downright insulting to millions of people that they think Hispanics are that simple-minded.
The fact of the matter is, if a candidate does not support immigration reform, the vast majority of Latinos will not vote for them. Speaking Spanish, having extra melanin in their skin and saying,”look! My dad is an immigrant! I’m one of you!” is not enough; in order to win over these voters, they must put their money where their mouths are and prove that they stand with their community. There are millions of families in this country — including my own — that would be ripped apart by the GOP’s xenophobic immigration policies. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are worse than Donald Trump, although they are not as overtly racist as he is, they have turned their backs on their people in order to appease the ignorant, vile Republican base. They have turned their backs on the American values that gave their fathers the opportunity to come a forge a new life in this nation, and have declared their intention to deny that dream to others. And that’s why they will never, ever sit behind a desk in the Oval Office.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.