The Good Book tells us that for “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Republicans would do well to heed this wisdom when it pertains to outreach and engagement with America’s religious minority groups – especially Latinos. There’s no getting around the fact that the hard work needs to be done before they can begin to make up lost ground.
Looking at recent data from Pew, the Washington Posts’s Aaron Blake says Republicans “really shouldn’t count on religiosity to move the needle in their favor.” It’s a misguided premise, and Republicans should disregard it. While the GOP can’t count on religiosity to woo Hispanics, the religious convictions of many Hispanics align them with the conservative principles of most Republicans. This is an opportunity for conservatives and it can’t be ignored. In many districts and states, Hispanics are vital swing voters. Republicans would be foolish to forfeit an opportunity to make deeper inroads with a critical demographic group.
Evangelicals are the fastest growing segment of the faith community and it is this group that demonstrated the highest affinity to conservatism. Among Hispanics who affiliate with evangelical denominations, 40 percent identify as conservative against just 25 percent who identify as liberal. Even Hispanics in the Catholic Church lean towards conservatism – with 34 percent conservative against just 28 percent liberal. (And while Blake emphasizes the decline of Catholicism among Hispanics, many speculate that Pope Francis could change that trend.) It is these segments that are most readily persuadable with effective engagement and hard work, but Blake’s prescription for the GOP is to shift attention away from them.
The conservative movement has an advantage in winning over the Hispanic electorate, if they work harder in engaging and dedicate time and resources. Values like market-based policies, personal responsibility, respect for life, and a strong military resonate with religious Hispanics. This explains why non-Hispanic Republicans who dedicate time and resources to engaging are often rewarded for their efforts.
George W. Bush, Steve Pearce, and Andy Vidak are among the GOP success stories. Canada’s conservatives enjoyed a historic turnaround as well – not by pandering, but by recognizing that they could reach conservative immigrants by engaging consistently. With Hispanics increasingly turning against a massive government program – despite a constant drumbeat of promotion – there’s a real opportunity.
While the White House gave the community a rose colored picture of the Affordable Care Act and flooded Spanish language media with promises, we at the LIBRE Initiative countered with a Spanish and English language media campaign that included editorials in major newspapers across the country, radio interviews, television appearances and ad buys that told the full story. The strong evidence of the negative impact of Obamacare on Latinos made the job easier. We’ve also targeted specific legislators who insist on costly health insurance by government mandate, imposed by an army of bureaucrats, and weighed down by anti-competitive price controls. Such government initiatives are not in the interest of Hispanics or any other American social group. Last year Obamacare was supported by 69 percent of Latinos. Today, only 47 percent have a favorable view of the law. This is despite the heavy promotion by celebrities, Spanish language media and a myriad of Hispanic non-profits hired to enlist them.
It has also been during this time that President Barack Obama’s favorability rating with the Hispanic community has tanked – falling from 75 percent down to 52 percent.
Still, diminishing the liberal brand by pointing to the negative results of progressive policies is only one aspect of winning the Hispanic vote. Showcasing the primacy of conservative principles and their superior results is important. Republicans have simply and famously failed to go into the community and show how their policies work better for all.
It’s important to point out the failure isn’t one of ideology. It’s because of a long history of neglecting to promote the free market, Constitutional, pro-liberty principles that define the party. An effective outreach and engagement strategy by candidates, officials and conservative leaders can deliver huge gains in religious communities – and elsewhere. Youth, women, business groups – all are looking for better results than they are getting from this administration. Now is the time for the party to create a culture of engagement.
And that is the key. Blake is correct that a one-dimensional strategy focused solely on communities of faith won’t yield any party the desired electoral results to win races on a broad and consistent basis. The Hispanic community after all, is extremely diverse and much more complex than that. Outreach to Hispanics of faith is absolutely a critical part of a broader plan of engagement. No one segment is the silver bullet to success, but ignoring Hispanics of faith would be political malpractice of the highest order by the GOP.
Daniel Garza is the Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advances economic freedom in the Hispanic community.