GOP Hispanic outreach runs afoul of ObamaCare

As Republicans hammer out the details of a “comprehensive immigration reform” plan that will attract support from Hispanic voters, the L.A. Times takes a sober look at the actual political views of this ostensibly Republican-friendly constituency… and finds they are “among the strongest backers of President Obama’s health care law,” to the tune of 48 percent favorable vs. 19 percent unfavorable.

That’s far higher support than one will find among the general population.  The Republican Party is both philosophically opposed to ObamaCare, and politically hoping to rally overall public dismay with the program into votes in the next few elections.  It seems as if that plan will put them on the wrong side of both the existing Latino voting population and the immense new wave of voters that will soon be naturalized.  (Does anyone outside of the Republican consultant class really think those 11 or 12 million people can be held in a quasi-legal non-voting status for decades?)

Republican optimism about navigating the political obstacle of ObamaCare clashes with the sober pessimism of pollsters in the L.A. Times piece:

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Alexandra Franceschi expressed confidence that Latinos would ultimately recognize that the law raises costs and burdens businesses. “We’re going to do a better job explaining why this law is negatively affecting all Americans, including the Hispanic community,” she said.

At the same time, however, attacking the law risks undermining the RNC’s planned minority outreach campaign, which party leaders said in a recent strategy blueprint must convince Latinos “we care about them.”

“This is going to hurt Republicans,” said Matt Barreto, cofounder of Latino Decisions, a nonpartisan national polling firm. “When Republicans keep saying they will repeal the health law, Latinos hear the party is going to take away their healthcare.”

We’re also told that Mitt Romney alienated the Hispanic vote when he “made overturning the health law a central plank in his campaign.”  Latino voters apparently heard the squeaking of that plank a lot more clearly than the rest of us.  Romney did criticize ObamaCare, but he didn’t exactly go after it hammer-and-tongs, in part because of lingering reluctance to disavow the health care plan he instituted as governor of Massachusetts.  However, the L.A. Times notes that Obama’s campaign team pushed the “Republicans are going to take away your healthcare” line very hard to Hispanic voters, to great effect.

The view of the Hispanic voting majority painted by this article is pretty dismal.  They don’t care about costs to taxpayers, infringements upon personal liberty, or Big Government promises that cannot be kept.  They have an astonishing degree of trust that the maternal State will work out all the pesky little details:

“Latinos realize that government will not fulfill every need, but what they admire about the United States is that the government steps in when there is a need,” said Lorena Chambers, a Latina media consultant who worked on a campaign to help pass the president’s health law.

Nearly half of Latinos in a recent Pew Research Center poll said they trusted the federal government to do the right thing “always” or “most of the time.” Just 20% of white respondents felt that way. And two-thirds of Latinos believed the federal government should ensure that everyone has access to health insurance, a 2012 Latino Decisions survey found.

Challise Brittain, an unemployed teacher of Puerto Rican descent from Mississippi, said she was looking forward to getting health insurance under Obama’s healthcare law next year. Brittain, 30, and her husband, an accountant, lost their jobs and their health coverage last year. Their two children, who are 2 and 4, qualify for Medicaid. Brittain responded to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

Republicans, she said, just don’t seem to understand that kind of struggle. “It seems like whatever the president is for, they are against. They don’t care about how that affects real people,” she said.

This amazing level of faith in federal authority should, in theory, be transferable to any sufficiently persuasive candidate – in other words, wouldn’t they have comparable trust that the federal government will “do the right thing” under President Marco Rubio?

But it sounds as if Latino voters will generally be a tough sell for arguments in favor of scaling back government spending, debt, and taxation.  If the Republican National Committee is going to invest in “boots on the ground” outreach efforts to the Hispanic community, it would be wise to investigate the source of their trust in central authority.  Frankly, there isn’t much about the governments that first-generation Hispanic voters emigrated from that would inspire confidence in the wisdom of central authority.

The impression left by the L.A. Times is that Hispanic resistance to Republican outreach might be less a matter of culture than socio-economic status.  A large portion of Hispanic voters fall into the income and unemployment groups that see nothing but upside to Big Government programs.  Team Obama was ruthlessly efficient in milking this dependency for votes, even as Obama’s policies expand the market for social welfare benefits.  The Brittain couple quoted in the story are among the many people who lost their jobs, apparently for the long term, during the Obama “recovery.”

Reversing the downward slide of low growth and rising unemployment should reverse these trends… but that would take a while, and in order to replace crony-socialist Obamanomics with free-market growth policies, Republicans are going to have to win some big elections.

And it would be a mistake to hope that Hispanic voters will turn on the Democrats when ObamaCare doesn’t live up to its promises, because as a group, they sound quite receptive to the counter-argument that even more government control is the solution – right up to single-payer socialized medicine.

Confidence is essential to appreciate talk of liberty and opportunity.  People who are primarily worried about falling into illness and poverty have little appreciation for arguments based on the true definition of “fairness,” long-term fiscal projections, or even the staggering levels of waste and abuse eating up taxpayer dollars.  There are answers rooted in economic liberty to every concern Hispanic voters raise in the L.A. Times article – just for starters, conservative reformers also want to separate health insurance from employment, and there is no significant American constituency for leaving the indigent to perish from illness.

There really aren’t that many people, from any cultural background, who prefer Big Government dependency to prosperity.  They just need to believe that opportunity is real, and accessible.  We can either trust the federal government to do the right thing… or trust each other.  Only one of those paths leads to a future of liberty and prosperity.  Maybe that would be a good place to begin those Republican outreach efforts.


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