(Jim Cark) – Readers of this space know that I occasionally . . . actually, more like frequently . . engage in public nagging of Republicans to dispense with harsh rhetoric on immigration. In addition to my personal admiration for the work ethic, family centeredness and disdain of government handouts exhibited by Latinos, both legal and otherwise, the plain fact that Hispanics are the only population cohort that is growing makes it essential that they feel welcome in the GOP if the Republican Party is to remain a political force in the future.
In Nevada, fully 25% of the population and 17% of registered voters are Latinos. They will drive the 2012 election in Nevada and three other swing states, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado.
Until recently, I have felt like a voice in the wilderness . . . like Winston Churchill in the 1930s trying to warn the world of Nazism. Heretofore in the current debates, Republican presidential candidates seemed to be trying to outdo each other in an immigrant-bashing contest as they pandered for votes from the GOP far right.
Then, all of a sudden, two major lightning strikes of sanity occurred. At the last GOP presidential candidate debate Newt Gingrich said: “I don’t see how a party that says it’s the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families which have been here a quarter century. I’m prepared to take the heat for saying let’s be humane in enforcing the law.”
And on December 9, it was announced that Nevada Republican Governor Brian Sandoval has joined the board of the Hispanic Leadership Network, an organization dedicated to persuading Hispanic voters in swing states that conservative candidates are better suited to repair the nation’s wounded economy.
Sandoval said he would use his position to share his views and insight on rebuilding the American dream for Hispanics and other Americans. He will serve with other big name Republicans on that board, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno, former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador.
The Hispanic Leadership Network was created by the American Action Network, an issue advocacy organization that promotes “center-right” economic policies. Founded in February 2010 to counter the liberal Move-on.org, sponsors included former GOP Senator Norm Coleman and McCain campaign advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Its current board includes Coleman, former Senator George Allen, former Ambassador Boyden Grey, former Senator Mel Martinez and Congressman Jim Nussle, among others.
In its relatively short life, the Hispanic Leadership Network has organized and sponsored important regional conferences. In January of 2011 former Governor Jeb Bush and former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez co-chaired its inaugural conference and last September, during Hispanic Heritage Month, the Network held its two-day southwest regional conference featuring Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez.
Last June, the Network took another major step in hiring Jennifer Korn as Executive Director. Jenny is a political strategist who served in the Bush Administration as Director of Hispanic and Women’s Affairs in the White House Office of Public Liaison.
To be sure, the GOP still has its share of red necks but with the enlistment of Gov. Sandoval and other prominent national figures into the service of the Hispanic Leadership Network I am hopeful that the Republican Party will be persuaded to adopt a platform welcoming conservatives of all ethnicities.
We should all work together to once again become the party of Abraham Lincoln.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates and a member of the Washoe County & Nevada State GOP Central Committees)
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