(Steve Sebelius/Slash Politics) – The Review-Journal today carried a big piece about the impact of the Hispanic vote in Nevada’s election, and how Democrats capitalized on Latino turnout to win. And in that piece, failed Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle demonstrated once more why she was, and is, not a person the GOP ever wants to see in another statewide race.
Commentator Ruben Navarette told R-J reporter Ben Spillman that Angle drove a wedge between Nevada Latinos and Republicans. “Sharron Angle, in effect, poisoned the well in Nevada. The smart Republicans know they have to find a way to kiss and make up with Hispanics. If not, they are going to go the way of the Whigs.”
That’s overstating the case, but the essence of what Navarette says is true: Angle aired ads that depicted Hispanics as illegal immigrants and gang members preying on white Americans. Then, she spoke to a high school Hispanic student group and said that some of them “looked a little bit Asian to her.” Then, as if to remove all doubt about where she stood, she aired yet another ad showing evil Latinos menacing good, white families.
It was disgusting. It was race-baiting. And it backfired totally when incumbent U.S. Sen. Harry Reid overwhelmingly won the Hispanic vote in Nevada.
But Angle — who spoke to Spillman for the story — had another perspective.
“I think the election shows you just have to have more votes,” she said. “I don’t think that what was said, on either side, was the deciding factor.”
Brilliant. You need more votes to win an election.
Oh, and she’s wrong on top of being pedantic. While Hispanics in Nevada were probably more inclined to vote Democrat than Republican, her ads certainly helped seal the deal. It turns out, ethnic groups don’t like being portrayed as criminals so desperate candidates can try to scare independent voters to the polls. Who knew? (Not Angle, clearly.)
As many Republicans have pointed out, many Latinos have a natural fit with the Republican Party. Many Latinos are Roman Catholic, and share the Republican emphasis on family values and pro-life positions. There’s a strong work ethic in the Latino community that dovetails with the Republican belief in individual achievement. And as incomes rise, and earners seek to protect and keep more of what they earn, Republican opposition to taxes and support of tax cuts becomes more appealing. And it was no less a Republican leader than President George W. Bush — a former Texas governor — who proposed a compassionate, intelligent and workable immigration reform package. (It was ultimately defeated, with Republican opposition.)
But in Nevada, Latinos are overwhelmingly Democrat. And it looks like things will stay that way, too. A couple trends to consider:
• As the R-J also reported recently, every single Hispanic elected official in the Legislature is a Democrat. By contrast, the Republicans in both state Senate and Assembly are all white and overwhelmingly male.
• Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate and Assembly are pushing bills aimed at illegal immigrants that cannot help but reinforce the notion that the GOP is anti-Latino.
• The highest-ranking Latino elected official in Nevada — Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval — performed poorly in the Latino community, possibly as a result of his embrace of Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigration law and flip-flop on the issue of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.
As Spillman’s story notes, there are people in the Republican Party who seem to recognize the need for outreach to the Latino community. While Whig-dom doesn’t await a racially tone-deaf Republican Party, future losses at the polls in Las Vegas and in statewide races might.