Reaching out to Hispanics cannot be simply an election-year tactic. It must be an ongoing recruitment based on engagement in the community:
In the long term, education on American history, economic freedom, and the principles behind conservatism must be a part of the playbook if we want to make lasting inroads. The Libre Initiative, a new organization dedicated to educating Hispanics on the benefits of free-markets and limited constitutional government, has begun the work. Likewise, Hillsdale’s highly successful (and free) online Constitution courses are an excellent model of how we can do it in a cost-effective manner. Soon, over a million people will have taken Hillsdale’s courses.I agree completely with her assessment of the situation and what is required to turn the tide. So I was thrilled to see that she had expounded on the theme in an article published in the November issue of American Spectator magazine. In it, she goes into greater detail about her Mexican-American family and how her father gradually switched allegiance from the Democrats to the Republicans.
At the same time, in our zeal to promote the economic advantages of our principles, we must not shy away from the social issues. When we highlight our position on abortion and traditional marriage, we spotlight the secular and radical social agenda of the Left, an agenda that is foreign and antithetical to Hispanics’ values.
This is not easy work. Educating children and their parents on the universal messages of free enterprise and self-determination takes money. So does grooming political talent within the community and training and hiring Latino surrogates to bring the message to Spanish- and English-speaking media. Building community coalitions with pro-life groups and pro-business groups takes time. It also takes time to earn the trust of Hispanics and to see the fruits of our work in the dreams of their children. But make no mistake — we can do this.
For a Reagan Democrat like my dad, voting Republican in 1980 created the space to begin questioning his family’s Democrat heritage, the Catholic loyalty forged by the election of JFK, and the union rhetoric he grew up hearing. Reagan had a way of transcending ethnic, racial, and political lines and of making everyone feel proud to be an American. It was an attractive message for a first-generation Mexican American soldier raised on Elvis and baseball. Plus, Reagan delivered results. In 1984, it was morning again in America. My dad voted for Reagan a second time and eventually registered Republican when he could no longer square the Democrats’ position on abortion with his faith, principles, and values. The decision would make my father the only Republican in his large Mexican American family.One of the things that surprised me (though I don't know why it should) is that her political inspiration was Jack Kemp:
Jack Kemp, it turned out, shared some of my roommates’ concerns. Long before the Hispanic vote became a favorite topic for pundits and talking heads, he profoundly understood that changing demographics created consequences for the GOP if it failed to aggressively and continually engage minorities in ideological debate.
Today, Harry Reid says he doesn’t understand how anyone Hispanic could be a Republican. Actor John Leguizamo claims that Hispanics voting for Republicans are like roaches voting for Raid.
But when Kemp was alive, he specifically and exuberantly made the case that Hispanics belonged in the GOP. He passionately argued that the work ethic and entrepreneurialism of Mexican Americans is quintessentially American—and very Republican. He understood that our parents and grandparents came north for economic freedom, not more government. He recognized that Hispanics are inherently pro-life and very traditional in their principles and values.
Jack Kemp is the reason I became interested in Empower America, and the reason I brought my roommates and the MTV cameras with me on that beautiful afternoon. Later, I received a handwritten note from “Old #15” that I still have framed in my home office. It reads: “Rachel—I’m sure glad you made it to M.T.V. They need a young (beautiful), sharp, conservative ‘bleeding heart’ Hispanic woman from Arizona.”
What Jack didn’t say in that note, but knew to be true, was that the GOP needed me too.I was only nine years old in 1996 when Kemp joined Bob Dole on the GOP ticket as the vice-presidential nominee. So his career did not have any impact on me as it did for Campos-Duffy. But after reading her article I was inspired to start reading about Kemp, his career and his methods of reaching out to voter groups. I was very impressed. And was further bolstered by an article written by John Nolte at Breitbart.com in which he acknowledged that he, like Campos-Duffy, had been inspired to be Conservative by Jack Kemp!
The important point is that we are in a competition with the Left for the hearts and minds of a constituency that will continue to play a major role in the outcome of elections while at the same time gradually assimilate into the unique and still-exceptional American culture. The competition is not about who can pander most effectively or make the most cynical promises but which side can do the better job articulating its case. Conservative principles and American values are superior to anything offered by the Left. But that doesn't count for much if the message gets lost or, even worse, isn't offered at all.
So why haven’t more hardworking and socially conservative Hispanics joined the GOP ranks? The answer has more to do with tactics and institutions than ideology.
For too long, the party’s strategy has been to hire a few Beltway conservative Latinos six months before an election and call it “outreach.” What’s needed is permanent outreach at the grassroots levels between elections. Conservative Hispanic activists on the ground know that the GOP needs to take a few cues from successful groups like the far-left La Raza, which has made its mark by bringing public policy to the neighborhood level.Of course she is exactly right in her assessment that while the GOP definitely has some rising stars in Marco Rubio, Susana Martinez (and Brian Sandoval and Ted Cruz) there needs to be a greater Hispanic presence among our most visible politicians and message-crafters. Rachel Campos-Duffy has now written two excellent articles on this subject at a time when the GOP and the Conservative movement in general are undergoing brutal self-examination and searching for solutions.
Nor can we afford to cede Spanish-language media to the Democrats. Obama and his team are effectively and aggressively penetrating the Latino media with ads featuring celebrities like Cristina Saralegui—the Spanish-language Oprah. At the same time, Democrat-friendly news producers, reporters, and anchors create the impression on Spanish-language television that Democrats are the only ones who care about Hispanics. Publications like People en Española and Latina Magazine might as well be arms of the DNC.
Fox News Latino brings some balance, but conservatives still need an aggressive strategy to capture Hispanics via their media, by both advertising and deploying Hispanic surrogates who are articulate, informed, and can offer classic American stories of struggle and success.
Which brings us to another problem: The Republican Party has a shockingly shallow pool of Hispanic surrogates. The left successfully grooms Hispanic talent at the local level, with the understanding that the fruits of the effort may not be visible in the next election. Julian Castro, the young mayor of San Antonio who gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, is an example of this.
Republicans have an extraordinary representative in Marco Rubio, who can sell American exceptionalism with the clarity of Reagan and the enthusiasm of Kemp. In New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, they have a relatable Mexican American governor who grew up around a family business.
But Martinez is being under-utilized, and Rubio cannot do it alone. The Republican Party needs to work harder to find, train, fund, and empower Hispanic conservatives who can go out, particularly during the off years, to present our principles and our values.
This gives me hope that she will continue to raise her visibility and increase her impact in the Conservative movement. She has a compelling personal story, which provides something of a blueprint for others like her. She is the wife of a very promising, up-and-coming GOP Congressman, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. I anticipate she will become more active as time goes by and her children get older. We Republicans need more leaders like Rachel Campos-Duffy taking care of business in communities all across the country as we work towards making the 21st Century an American success story.