(Jim Clark) – Readers of this column know that every once in a while I get on a soap box and harangue Republicans to do a better job of reaching out to Latinos. As of the 2010 census, Latinos constitute 25% of Nevada’s population, 17% of registered voters in the Silver State and are the only population cohort that is growing.
And yet it seems as though our GOP presidential candidates, with the exception of Newt Gingrich, keep hammering away at immigrants in a somewhat disingenuous effort to slant their messages to the Republican right wing in hopes of gaining primary victories. Are they alienating an important voting bloc for the general election?
Gingrich has for some time published a conservative Latino e-magazine called El Americano. Similarly, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has been married to Mexico-born Columba Garnica Gallo de Bush for 35 years, is the driving force behind the Hispanic Leadership Network, so there are conservative forces that recognize that disdaining of immigrants is cutting the GOP’s own throat for the future.
Not that America is alone in dissing immigrants. The Irish Independent newspaper recently ran an editorial titled “Guarding against demonizing immigrants,” which said:
We Irish, a people of emigrants, are behaving churlishly to our own immigrants. Back when the housing boom was on we couldn’t get enough of those Polish plumbers and Latvian cabinetmakers filling our desperate need for workers. But when the crash came, a ‘nasty resentment’ crept in. People began muttering about Eastern Europeans all living together in one packed house to save money, not even spending their wages to help the Irish economy. Of course, they were just doing what tens of thousands of Paddies had done decades before in the U.S., Australia and Canada – working hard, living frugally, and sending their wages to families back home.
Imagine if those countries had closed their borders to the Irish and told them to look elsewhere for jobs. That kind of nasty anti-immigrant sentiment is spreading throughout Europe. A far-right party in the Netherlands has even started a website where the Dutch can lodge complaints about immigrants. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy is courting far right voters with a promise to crack down on immigration. We need to be vigilant in this country that we don’t foster that kind of unhealthy intolerance. With so many Irish living abroad our own history demands that we be welcoming.
Are Bush, Gingrich and other conservatives who oppose immigrant bashing merely thin, small voices in the wilderness?
In Northern Nevada, the story is more encouraging. A sure way to help Latinos integrate into the mainstream of America is to help elevate them to positions of power much as their Irish and Italian forbearers aspired to in the 19th and 20th centuries. This year, for the first time, we have two Latino candidates running for office as Republicans: Jesse Gutierrez, candidate for Washoe County Commission to represent Sparks and Spanish Springs, and David Espinosa, Republican candidate for Nevada Assembly seeking to oust a Democratic incumbent in Assembly District 31.
Both candidacies have been endorsed by the Grand Dame of Nevada Politics, former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich, a clear message of welcome from the GOP. Both candidates are campaigning vigorously and stand a better than even chance of election. We should all hope and pray for their success because that would shatter Nevada’s glass ceiling which has heretofore kept conservative Latinos from attaining public office.
Let’s show the world that Nevadans can be as tolerant as the Irish.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and a member of the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees; he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)