The Republican Party’s presidential nominating process is not officially over, but it might as well be. Mitt Romney’s candidacy is preceded, for the time being, by words like presumptive and inevitable. You get the feeling that in most GOP circles the feeling is more like might-as-well-be, but that’s fodder for another day.
Technically there are still 2 GOP front runners, Romney and Rick Santorum, and both of them have a big problem to overcome among Latino voters. Now, you can listen to all the usual experts tell you what they think that problem is – most will say it has to do with policy and stances on issues like immigration and voter I.D. and the like. My take is a little different. I think the Republicans are having problems with Latinos becaue they sound too familiar, but in the wrong ways.
Take Romney, for instance. Have you noticed how he seldom speaks directly to Latinos? Romney always talks to non-Latinos about what he’ll do for Latinos or about what needs to be done for Latinos or about what his campaign or his party need to do about the Latino “problem,” as if Latinos aren’t in the room. It’s a matter of perception. You get the feeling he really doesn’t see Latinos.
Santorum, on the other hand, sees Latinos differently. That was made clear in his off-issue remark about President Obama and the snobbishness of going to college. Didn’t that remind you of some people in the Latino culture who put you down for being educated? George Lopez did an entire routine on it: the relative or the neighbor who tries to belittle you for thinking you’re better than the rest because you went to college, and in the same breath extols the virtues of being a team leader at Walmart (not that there’s anything wrong with that…) That’s the vibe Rick Santorum gives: “mira, mira, muy ch^*%on.”
Same problem; different perspective. It has little to do with policy, although their attitude bubbles-up in misguided policy and issues – if you don’t see Latinos or if you see them through a skewed lens, your policies regarding Latinos will reflect that.
So before the GOP tries to adjust what they need to do to reach Latino voters, and how they need to go about that adjusting, they would do well to figure out why they view Latinos they way they do. The first thing they’ll see is that they don’t think they have a problem. And that just may be their tallest hurdle.[Photo By The Rachel Maddow Show]