Leadership is out of touch with Hispanics
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 28, 2004
By Jaime A. Molera
Results from Proposition 200, the recent Protect Arizona Now initiative, further
demonstrate that Latinos should not be pigeonholed as a monolithic voting block.
While many in the media and most politicians tend to group Latinos as Democrats
and many vocal Hispanic "leaders" tend to be very liberal and purport to speak
for the Latino community in general, voting trends show Hispanics moving in the
It may shock many political pundits to learn that nearly 44 percent of Hispanics
(according to polling conducted by the No on 200 campaign) actually voted for
For the record, I was, and will continue to be, an ardent critic of this
initiative. I strongly believe that many of the proponents of Protect Arizona
Now took the important issue of immigration reform and bastardized it for their
own political ends. However, it is important to answer the question of why so
many Latinos backed the measure.
So then, why did so many Latinos support an initiative that was derided as
racist and specifically anti-Latino? The answer is twofold: First, most
Hispanics witness firsthand the frustration of the failure of our border
policies. Second, Hispanics are becoming more and more willing to accept
conservative principles as their own and are unwilling to accept blindly the
communiqués of left-leaning Latino leaders.
Hispanics, like everyone else in Arizona, are frustrated with antiquated and
ineffective immigration policies. Many see firsthand how illegal immigrants can
Their frustration stems from high crime rates, lack of accountability in
schools, low property values due to lack of home ownership in their communities,
and an overall dearth of significant infrastructure.
In addition, many second- and third-generation Latinos working in blue
collar/union jobs often view recent immigrants as a threat to their own
employment. They don't care that this was bad public policy and that at the end
of the day it will not keep one illegal immigrant from crossing the border. They
believe something, anything, must be done to protect and improve their way of
Second, many Latinos embody values that more resemble the Republican Party
platform. On issues ranging from public safety, free trade, educational
accountability, school choice, limited government and abortion, Latinos often
will sound just as Republican as a 70-year-old Anglo male resident of north
It is important to note that the same proportion (44 percent) of Arizona
Hispanics voted for President Bush. Many in the political intelligentsia would
have us believe that when a "rich Anglo conservative Republican" runs for
office, Latinos will vote in droves against him. This narrow mind-set simply
does not capture the seismic shift that is occurring within the Latino voting
bloc (between 2000 and 2004, Bush enjoyed nearly a 10 percent increase in his
This change also impacts how campaigns will communicate in the future to
Latinos. Unfortunately for the No on 200 effort, its leaders realized too late.
With less than two months left in the election, the first-rate public relations
firm Hamilton, Gullett, Davis and Roman were brought in to salvage the campaign
(they took over when polls showed Proposition 200 at 78 percent for to 14
Their revelation came in contrast to some of the Latino advocates who for the
year leading up to the election cast the initiative as merely a sinister
Republican effort to attack the Hispanic community. They argued this even though
every member of Arizona's GOP congressional delegation as well as the state
party chairman opposed the initiative.
The thinking of these zealots was simple: Attack it as a conservative
initiative, then stand back and watch the Latino population rise up against it.
Unfortunately, this simple plan was too simplistic.
In knowing what we know, why are Hispanic "leaders" disconnected from the
community they preach to serve? Quite frankly, the answer is they are not
disconnected. Most of the well-known liberal Latino advocates are intelligent,
passionate and charismatic. They indeed do speak for large pockets of the
community, but understand that they represent segments of the population and not
the race as a whole.
It is ludicrous to think that any one person or organization can be the
spokesman for an entire ethnic group, just as it would be ridiculous to imagine
Rush Limbaugh as the voice of all Anglos in America.
It is important to comprehend that many of these advocates came up through the
ranks of the Democratic Party and tend to see the world through this prism.
However, more and more Hispanics, as we have seen from November's results, view
politics and the world differently.
Jaime A. Molera is the former state superintendent of public instruction and a
public affairs consultant with Molera Alvarez Group, LLC.