Watching conservatives trying to appeal to Hispanic voters can be frustrating to watch because they’re making it harder than it really should be. In reality, it’s no different than winning support from any other voter segment. Convince voters – as many as possible – that you’ll do a better job of addressing their concerns than the other candidate, and then do it.
That’s because the fundamental question that every person answers before stepping into the voting booth is “which candidate is more likely to make things better for me and for the people I care about?” And while it is true that there are many variables that go into answering that question, it’s hard to win if people doubt that you’re actually committed to addressing their concerns.
The frustration stems from the fact that conservatives can and should win this test every time, but time and again they have failed to make an effective case to the Hispanic community. Having ceded outreach efforts of minority communities to progressive non-profits, unions and liberal candidates, their neglect has resulted in the loss of precious votes on a massive scale across the country.
In contrast, the “Left” has parlayed the goodwill and trust they have been cultivating into huge political payoffs by making deceptive moral arguments – based mostly on emotional and populist pleas. President Obama told Hispanics the game was rigged against them, that they needed his style of benevolent governance to usher in an era of fairness and social justice. In reality, it meant pushing a failed agenda of redistribution and the usurpation of individual rights. He promised to take the fight to “greedy” capitalists, but this meant convincing minority communities and young Millenials that weakening America’s vital free-market system is a necessary step to combat growing inequality.
Ultimately, it was minority communities that were hurt most by President Obama’s failed economic policies. Unemployment rates are still unacceptably high, the median household income continues to trend downward, and millions have been moved from full-time to part-time employment, largely as a result of Obamacare.
Unwittingly, by lending their electoral support to leftist politicians, Hispanics are helping to drive old, tired and failed progressive policies. And as the Hispanic share of the electorate grows, conservatives can no longer choose to sit on the sidelines and pretend that conservative principles sell themselves. There is too much at stake. The time to drive a pro-liberty, free market agenda that makes deep inroads with the U.S. Hispanic community is now. To that end, there are a number of things the “Right” needs to do – starting now.
Match or Surpass the Left’s Technology Edge: Conservatives need access to a massive database of Hispanic voters – one that enables the sort of targeted messaging the Obama campaign perfected. Among other things, that messaging will allow conservatives to highlight the fact that there are millions of conservative Hispanics like them – with thousands already holding office in their states, counties and communities.
Be Not Afraid: There are plenty of Hispanics who consider themselves conservatives. They are waiting to hear a counter message to the promises constantly fed to them by liberal activists and politicians. You will never win their support if you’re afraid to tell them what you believe.
Perspective Matters: This is not about whites persuading Hispanics they really do like them. This is about American conservatives engaging their own, and winning over like-minded citizens – who happen to be Hispanics.
There are no “Hispanic Issues”: Just as the Anglo community is too diverse for there to be any “white issues,” so is the Latino community. They care about jobs, energy, debt, school choice, poverty, health care – you name it. There’s no magic set of talking points to break out for this audience.
Segmentation: Tailor your message to your audience. Consider the elemental diversity of Hispanic communities – things like age, gender, level of acculturation, and if they are members of key voting blocs – such as entrepreneurs or members of the faith community. Become acquainted with the particular aspirations, distinct sensibilities and varying interests of each segmentation, so that you can be a more effective ambassador of the conservative message.
Family is Important: Fiscal issues are not the only ones that matter, so be sure to talk about more than deficits, debt ceilings and government waste. Remember that liberalism wrecks families and weakens society overall, while fiscally responsible conservatism starts with families and strengthens them.
Don’t Pander: Conservatism and economic freedom are better for families, better for workers, and better for Americans generally. If you offer the same promises as liberals do, even if a little less,only to win cheap political points, you too are complicit in the destruction of the Hispanic family unit. Stick with conservative principles that build a prosperous economy, sound communities, and improve the wellbeing of families.
No Silver Bullet: There’s no group of voters that can be reached by only one medium, especially not Hispanics; you need a range of approaches because they are not monolithic. Expect to use both English and Spanish language media. Participate in community outreach and assistance in our neighborhoods – as you do with any other voters.
Challenge the Narrative: You know you care, but they may not know it. You have to show them. Hispanics have been hammered with messaging from progressives, unions and Hollywood celebrities with this notion that you “hate” them. Having ceded territory to minority communities to the “Left”, expect this to take some effort.
This to-do-list isn’t for the faint of heart. It will take work. But remember, this isn’t a fight for a party or for politicians. It is an ideological battle conservatives can’t afford to lose. The future of the American Dream is at stake. If we wish to see a prosperous America and a thriving Latino community we need more freedom and less government. We need leaders who are committed and steadfast – and who can inspire others to action.
Even today, America confronts unacceptable levels of poverty, scarcity, and vestiges of discrimination. But we know that when liberty was born here – for the first time in world history – the result was expanded economic opportunities, a decline of inequality, and vast improvements in our body politic. By emphasizing individualism, decentralized power, private property and free enterprise, conservative leaders can engage Hispanics effectively and enlist their support in a new era of prosperity.
Daniel Garza is the Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advances economic freedom in the Hispanic community. Follow him on Twitter @DanielGGarza