Thursday, August 30, 2007



If you read Tom Schaller's brilliant book Whistling Past Dixie, you know that giving up all but the most flimsy pretense of seriously contesting the African-American vote was part of the Republican plan-- what is often called "Nixon's Southern Strategy"-- to lock up the South. The Republicans have winked and nodded their way into the politically polar opposite of what one would expect from the party of Abraham Lincoln-- in the South, for starters, they are unquestionably the party of racism, bigotry, hatred and the respectable face of the KKK.

The strategy-- and the Democrats inability to effectively counter it-- came to its climax in 2004 when they were able to claim control over all three branches of the federal government plus an unprecedented number of Southern legislative seats and gubernatorial chairs. They are likely to continue gaining southern legislative seats and to fatten their hold on much of the former Confederacy, but they have set the stage for turning themselves into a backward, theocratic regional party that will be incapable of competing nationally.

And instead of foreseeing the systemic electoral disasters ahead, the most reactionary elements of the party-- firmly in control-- have set out to worsen the problem by targeting the fastest growing voter bloc in the country, Hispanics. Today's Miami Herald points out the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in Univision's Spanish-language presidential debates. The Democrats will engage with Spanish-speaking Americans on September 9. The Republican debate, scheduled for September 16, was cancelled yesterday.

Only John McCain had agreed to participate in the Republican debate. "All eight Democratic candidates are slated to show up Sept. 9, and party leaders plan to highlight the contrast. The New Democratic Network, a nationwide political group, is planning news conferences and inviting Hispanic leaders, including Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, former Cabinet member Henry Cisneros and U.S. Rep. Luís Gutiérrez of Illinois."

Last year a market research firm, LatinInsights, reported that about 9% of American voters are Hispanic and that about half of that 9% prefer to speak Spanish. Until recently the Republicans have made tremendous progress in winning a substantial share of this fast-growing segment of the population-- from just 21% in 1996 to 35% in 2000 and to what will probably prove to have been an apex of 40% in 2004. But even before the xenophobic explosion of Know Nothing bigotry and hatred inside the Republican Party-- which has crippled Republican efforts among Hispanic voters-- the trend had reversed. Here are the key findings from the LatinInsights report:
Key Finding 1: Hispanics are disappointed with Bush and unhappy with Republican government. Recent electoral gains made by Bush in this community have been wiped out.   
No matter how the numbers are cut, President Bush and the Republicans have seen a dramatic eroding of their standing with Spanish-speaking Hispanic voters.
In 2004 Kerry beat Bush 59%-40% with all Hispanics, and 52%-48% with those Spanish-dominant. In this survey Hispanics confirmed the closeness of the 2004 result. When asked who “did you vote for in 2004?” the result came back 38%-36% Kerry-Bush.
When asked how they would vote if the Presidential election were held today, this group gives Democrats a remarkable 36-point advantage (59%-23%). For Republicans this is a dramatic drop from the 52%-48% Kerry-Bush result with the Spanish-speaking sub-group in 2004. 
Bush’s standing with this group has plummeted. In the 2004 cycle, Bush regularly received a 60% favorable rating from Hispanics. In our survey this was reversed, as 38% see him favorably, 58% unfavorably, with 40% very unfavorable towards the President.

Democrats have a very significant advantage in favorability, with a 65%-25% favorable/ unfavorable result. Republicans come in at 41%-51% favorable/unfavorable. For the first time in any Hispanic poll we’ve seen, The Republican Party is seen more favorably than Bush. It is would not be a stretch to now say that President Bush has become a drag on the Republican Party with Hispanics.

On almost every major issue, not just immigration, overwhelming majorities of Hispanic voters think the Republican approach is wrong and harmful. That includes Iraq, the economy (rated #1 and 2 by Hispanic voters in terms of importance). "Of 20 major issues tested, Democrats outperform Republicans on 17, including 'family values,' 'better use of my tax money' and 'respects more my religious beliefs.' The loss of faith of Republican government to achieve things of value for the Hispanic community should be a major concern to the governing Party." 

Seven years ago there were over 28 million US households in which Spanish was the most-spoken language. Over 40 million Hispanics live in the U.S. Only 4 countries in the entire world have more Spanish speakers than the U.S. (Mexico, Colombia, Spain and Argentina). In 2000 there were 5 states where over 20% of the population spoke Spanish as a primary language, New Mexico (43.27%), California (34.72%), Texas (34.63%), Arizona (28.03%), Nevada (22.80%). Since then Colorado and Florida have probably crossed the 20% line as well.

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