Beware of Repentant Republicans

By Miguel Perez

November 20, 2012 9 min read

The human hand was not meant to scribble so fast as to be able to record all the truly amazing, self-deprecating comments uttered by Republicans as they confessed repentance for all their immigrant bashing last week.

I know because I tried, and I couldn't keep up with them. Such juicy quotes don't usually come in barrages.

One after another, GOP leaders were finding the cojones to admit they have been alienating Latino voters, and that their party will vanish unless they drop their hatemongering, voter-suppressing, xenophobic tactics.

I couldn't believe it. They were beginning to sound like me.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called on Republicans to "stop being the stupid party." Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez charged that, "the far right of the party has taken the party to a place where it doesn't belong." Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham noted, "It's one thing to shoot yourself in the foot. Just don't reload the gun." Speaker of the House John Boehner told ABC News that comprehensive immigration reform is "long overdue." Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer criticized Mitt Romney for "unnecessarily" going to the right of Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the GOP primaries and came out in support of, "A single policy change: "Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty."

Obama's 71 to 27 percent victory among Latinos, his impressive support, even among traditionally Republican Cuban-Americans, is a huge accomplishment — bigger than anyone expected.

The Latino voter "sleeping giant" not only woke up, but stumped on Romney with such force that now some Republicans are questioning their long-held tradition of pandering to right-wing extremists and xenophobes. Since the Latino vote now is obviously much more powerful than their xenophobia constituency, they figure the time has come to switch allegiances. Bienvenidos!

This is by far the clearest consequence of the presidential election. It wasn't widely anticipated, but President Obama says he saw it coming. "Before the election, I had given a couple of interviews where I predicted that the Latino vote was going to be strong and that that would cause some reflection on the part of Republicans about their position on immigration reform," Obama said in a press conference following the election. "I think we're starting to see that already."

Obama said he knows he has to "seize the moment," and that he expects comprehensive immigration reform legislation — with a path to legalization for undocumented workers — to be introduced in Congress shortly after his second inauguration.

The tide changes, but rarely this dramatically.

Even some of the same Republicans who just recently were making excuses for Romney's anti-immigrant platform now are organizing a new Super PAC: "Republicans for Immigration Reform" to support immigrant-friendly politicians. And while their efforts are welcome, their quick about-face is too hypocritical not to be suspect.

After all, these are the same people who kept quiet earlier this year, when the GOP presidential campaign revolved around electrified border fences, self-deportation and racial profiling.

If Romney had won, most of these people would not be so concerned about fixing immigration or making peace with Latinos. They would have prolonged their demographic delusions a little longer until the sleeping giant finally stumped on them a few years down the road.

However, their time is up. Romney was soundly beaten by Latino voters, especially in swing states like Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Nationally, Romney received less Latino votes than any presidential candidate in the past 16 years. Latinos now are 10 percent of the voting population. Everyone now realizes that the sleeping giant is huge, powerful and staying wide-awake.

And what happens when the far right starts resisting immigration reform, as we know they will? Will the Tea Party be asked to consider some kind of therapy to alleviate its chronic xenophobia? Will GOP leaders stop listening to the extremists in their ranks or will they follow Romney's demographically distorted road to the White House?

Apparently, some Republicans already are looking for a better road.

That's why last week we saw so many GOP leaders cringing and scrambling to do damage control after Romney spoke in a conference call with his wealthy campaign donors and blamed his election loss on the "extraordinary financial gifts" Obama allegedly gave to blacks, Latinos and young voters.

"This is completely unhelpful," Jindal said on CNN. "This is not where the Republican Party needs to go. Look, if you want voters to like you, the first thing you have to do is to like them first. And it's certainly not helpful to tell voters that you think their votes were bought. That's certainly not a way to show them that you respect them, you like them. We need to stop being the dumb party. We need to offer smart, conservative, intelligent ideas and policies. That's how you win elections. We don't win elections by insulting voters."

When Jindal noted that some Republicans have "damaged our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments," that they have "had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism," and that Republicans "need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters," he was echoing some of my recent columns. And so was Graham when he said Obama won the Latino vote because he was "the lesser of two evils."

And when Republicans begin to sound like me, I worry!

Last week, this column spoke of the hole Republicans have dug for themselves in the Hispanic community. And a few days later, Graham spoke of the same hole. "Rhetoric like this keeps digging a hole for the Republican Party," Graham said of Romney's remarks. "And if we don't stop digging, we're never going to get out of it."

In spite of Romney's infamous 47 percent remark during the campaign, which showed the disdain he feels for nearly half the population, Gutierrez insisted that he was "shocked" by Romney's most recent denigrating remarks. "I don't know if he (Romney) understood that he was saying something that was insulting," the former Romney surrogate said on CNN.

Amazingly, now it's the Republicans who suddenly find Romney offensive and insulting.

"It's easier to blame somebody else than to look in the mirror and to blame yourself for your shortfalls," said CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro. "But I think it's Mitt Romney who has to figure out why he got only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote." She said George W. Bush got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote and, "it wasn't because he was giving away gifts of freebies. And it's just the wrong message to say that Hispanics, blacks, young people are nothing but takers and that that's why they voted for Barack Obama. I find it terribly offensive."

Former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Romney's remarks were "nuts" and "insulting." On ABC's "This Week," he noted, "The job of a political leader, in part, is to understand the people. If we can't offer a better future that is believable to more people, we're not going to win."

But perhaps the most descriptive and astute reaction came from former Mississippi Gov. Hayley Barbour, who noted that, "We've got to give our political organizational activity a very serious proctology exam."

I couldn't have said it better.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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