As soon as I got into college I knew my major was going to be political science. I have relatives who have been involved in law enforcement, the military and a few other forms of public service; they have become role models whose example I try to follow. Family dinner time revolved around the daily happenings of political campaigns, which civic meetings my parents would be attending that week, or issues involving our family’s conservative values. This background provided me the opportunity to develop a political identity by the time I got into college. As a young conservative, I was ready to take on all the various political topics my classes would present to me, but most of all, I was excited about engaging in political conversations outside of class with a diverse group of people.
Even though I did enjoy plenty of these discussions eventually, things turned out different than I expected. As a young conservative in a higher learning institution, I found that many of my conversations with other politically inclined students started with them asking “How can you be a republican when the party has such a strong position against Hispanics?” When I wanted to talk about taxes, the economy, or foreign policy, I was forced to begin the discussion defending the validity of my party affiliation and being Hispanic. It was an uncomfortable position to be in, but I quickly realized that it had to be done. The constant efforts of a new generation of young Hispanics sharing their conservative views with the public are needed to change what the public understands to be a politically active Latino.
With time, I learned to respect the question, which I understood to be based on years and years of the opposition controlling the message as it regards the way Hispanics perceive republicans. However, I am also aware that the language used by groups within my party can be perceived as overly aggressive by Latinos. I believe the responsibilities of active Hispanic conservatives are two-fold. We have to assume active roles within our communities to start chipping away from the negative image the opposition has created regarding the way Hispanics perceive our party. Secondly, we have to engage ourselves within our local parties to start the conversations that need to happen to tone down the dialogue some conservatives use in regards to immigration.
by David Zapata, Hispanic Outreach for the Republican Party of Texas
When talking about the Republican Party to other Hispanics I like to point out that the last president to pass significant immigration reform was Ronald Reagan, a republican. More recently, George W. Bush invested a significant amount of political capital during his presidency trying to pass a new immigration bill, which was defeated in a Democratic controlled Senate. It took the initiative of a republican president to present an immigration bill to Congress. Furthermore, the last election cycle was historic for Hispanics. The Pew Hispanic Center reports that for the first time ever, three Latino candidates, all republican, won statewide offices. Susana Martinez became the first Latina Governor of New Mexico. In Nevada, Brian Sandoval became their first Hispanic Governor. And Florida elected Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate. These situations represent the serious efforts the Republican Party has taken to reach out to the Hispanic community.
Immigration is an incredibly significant topic for Latinos but it’s not the only one they are interested in. The issues affecting the community are the same as those affecting everyone else and we want our political leaders to address those issues as well. In fact, the Pew of Hispanic Research reports that Latino registered voters rank education, jobs, the federal budget deficit and healthcare as their top issues of concern during the last midterm elections. I hope the politicians who think they will win the Hispanic vote by only talking about immigration will realize their underestimation of Latino concerns. At 47 million, Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States. It’s time that politicians get to know more about this diverse community, instead of pigeonholing them to one or two issues.
The Hispanic community needs to be presented with the conservative message. I strongly believe that Latino and conservative values align with each other since both believe in the importance of faith, traditional family values, small government and keeping most of the money earned from one’s work. The hope of most Hispanic conservatives is to share these beliefs with the rest of our community. By doing this we hope to inspire and motivate more Hispanics to stand up for their conservative values and join the party which truly represents their core beliefs. I am aware that at this point many Hispanics still identify themselves more consistently with the Democrats. But we are fighting against a message that has been instilled in Latino communities for decades by the opposition. It will take the efforts of all Hispanic conservatives to change it. We need to actively engage our community to show them that conservative values are also Hispanic values. And, we have to be involved within our local parties to make sure we are part of the political dialogue.
Being a Hispanic conservative in college was a lonely experience at first. However, I had decided to be vocal about my political views with friends from the get go. Yes, plenty of times I had to go through the motions of explaining why I was a republican even though I was Hispanic. But, I always tried getting to the issues that matter afterwards. Being vocal about my values led me to other young conservatives, but it also allowed me to present the conservative message to other young people. My hope is that all Hispanic conservatives are able to work together among us and with other conservative groups to coordinate a real effort to effectively present the Hispanic community with our message. In the end, I believe they will find these ideals to be familiar and feel more comfortable with joining the party which truly represents Hispanic values.