Time for Rubio to “get right” on immigration, Creationism — or his Cuban surname won’t help

The national Republican Party, casting about for ways to mend its abysmal track record with Americans of Hispanic descent, ought not pin its hopes quite so naively onĀ  Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

There’s no such thing as a Latino voting block in the United States, and if there were, it’s likely these days to be dominated by the surging immigration of Mexicans into the country’s West, Southwest and Midwest. Wooing and winning the future Mexican American voter demand the Republicans change up their immigration, economic and jobs policies. Success will be about policy — not last name.

Rubio ought to be allowed to rise or fall on his merits, not his parentage. Barack Obama ought to have been allowed the same, not because of, but despite of his skin color. And, as Hillary Clinton plays her cards for the 2016 presidential election, watch for web worlds filled with “first woman who …” headlines — and data-dumps of information about an imagined “block of women voters.”

Americans appear to understand that one white Alpha male doesn’t represent all men. We’re not so savvy about ethnicity, race and gender. We’re just aware enough not to say it aloud in polite company, but most of us haven’t moved too far past “some of my best friends are (feel free to fill in the blank.)

The Republican and mainstream media conversation about Rubio during and following the presidential campaign feels just too much like the “best friends,” pat ourselves on the back approach. The allure of Rubio’s Hispanic surname, his conservative credentials and his “rising star” moniker among the national media make him virtually irresistible to Republicans. One can hear them chortling in the backrooms: “We’ve got the trifecta here.”

There’s a problem with that. Three of them actually, and unless Republicans up-end their unsophisticated approach to America’s multinational Hispanic population, they’ll have little ballot box success.

Ruben Navarrette Jr., a long-time advocate and columnist for American Latinos, puts it this way in a column entitled “Why Marco Rubio can’t save the GOP”:

When you’re a Cuban-American politician who is being put forth by your party to help get votes from Latino voters — the majority of whom are Mexican or Mexican-American — things can get complicated.

First, let’s stop with the idea that any-Hispanic-surname will connect with potential voters.

Rubio is of Cuban descent, which may continue to play well in Cuban-dominated Florida, but that ethnic heritage is unlikely to appeal to the 63 percent of American Hispanics whose family trees are rooted in Mexico. Even in Key West with its 21 percent Cuban American population, Rubio fans are hard to come by. Why? Because as one multi-generational Cuban American told me: “Miami Cubans and Key West Cubans had different paths to the United States,” she said. “We’ve always lived here; we weren’t political refugees.”

If Rubio be disconnected from at least some Cuban-descent Key Westers, how much more so will he be disconnected from Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and Hispanics from South and Central America and the Dominican Republic?

Second, Republicans must get their immigration policies straightened out. Cubans and Mexicans simply don’t share the same immigration challenges, and the GOP’s current hardline policies — staunchly supported by Rubio — aren’t going to work.

Third, Rubio’s Creationist, hate-the-science, Tea Party approach to governing are simply out of touch with pretty much every voting block except the neo-cons. It’s time for a platform update.

Rubio can’t connect the GOP with the ill-defined, virtually unshaped Hispanic voting block. Not solely because he’s Cuban, but because his immigration and public policies are out of sync.


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