How Can A Latino Be Conservative? - We Op-Ed - A Community for Political News and Civilized Debate
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We Op-Ed - A Community for Political News and Civilized Debate

Originally posted here.

I've been asked that question often in my life, as if being Latino and not a liberal was a crime. As if only white people had the freedom to stray from liberal ideology.

First Sen. Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign spread the offensive and far fetched rumor that Latinos were less likely to vote for a black candidate for President, loosely basing such a ridiculous idea on tensions between Mexican/Chicano gangs and African-American gangs in Los Angeles. Now, the media has chosen to embrace a more truthful assumption about the Latino vote in this country: that many Latinos vote conservatively.

This assumption is based mostly (and solidly) on how much of the Latino vote George W. Bush won in 2000 and 2004. But I think some people-namely white liberals-are often shocked that a Latino can be anything but a blindly loyal Democrat. A lot of black people are also surprised to find out I do not subscribe to liberalism. I'm surprised why more black Americans aren't conservative.

At the risk of using sweeping generalizations, I don't think that most people would doubt that blacks and Latinos are people of faith. Latinos pray almost as many times a day as Muslims, and blacks are the only people I know whose voice mail greetings are most likely to tell callers to have "a blessed day." Like the Christian Right and the Republicans who pander to that voting bloc, Latinos and blacks invoke God into their personal lives on a daily basis, and not just when they take the Lord's name into vain, either.

Liberals, on the other hand, are widely regarded as being secular and atheist. Most white college professors are both liberal and secular to the point where they actually look down on people who believe in God. Most white liberals couldn't care less that the right wing segment of American media label them as Godless and blame them for everything from the overblown "war on Christmas" to an alleged opposition to school prayer...but Latinos care.

While white liberals may enjoy depicting the evangelical Christian community in the U.S. as one operated solely by stereotypical angry white males, most within the mainstream evangelical community know that Latinos make an enormous contribution to their efforts. Given the large numbers that Latinos as well as African-Americans make to this country's evangelical community, it would seem ridiculous to believe the stereotypical depiction of evangelical Christians as "angry white men". Do Caucasians still think all Latinos are Roman Catholic?The mass voluntary conversion of Latinos from Catholicism to Protestantism (especially the more evangelical sects) is nothing new, and it did not all take place in the United States.

Like my father, I was raised Protestant (he in the Pentecostal Church, me in the Reformed Church) after his father converted from Catholicism in his native Puerto Rico because he believed Jesus Christ told him to do so in a dream. My mother was raised Roman Catholic, but after she completed her Confirmation was never forced to attend services by her atheist father or her mother, who practiced a mix of Santeria and Spiritism. Talk about religious diversity!

Latinos, at least the ones who can vote, are also more supportive of securing our borders than most gringos would expect, another reason for Latinos to not vote Democrat. Most Latinos in this country are not recent immigrants. Chicanos are the descendants of the mestizos (Native Americans mixed with Spaniards) who lived on the land stolen by the United States from Mexico in the 1840s. Many Chicanos/Xicanos are fourth, fifth and sixth-generation Americans and do not have a personal stake in the immigration debate. Some Chicanos have closer ties to various Native American groups in the U.S. (i.e., Navajo, Pueblo, etc.) than to Mexicans.

Cubans can immigrate to the U.S. more easily than Mexicans and other Latin Americans because of Washington's cold-shoulder policy with Cuba and its communist regime. So they don't have any personal stake in the immigration debate, either. Neither do Puerto Ricans, whose homeland is a U.S. colony and have enjoyed U.S. citizenship since 1917.

So when the Republicans talk about securing the U.S. border, many Latino voters listen carefully, because it may be them who their bosses may replace with illegals who will work under harsher conditions for less money. Latinos, who make up the smallest number of college graduates in this country, are the ones most likely to be replaced by illegal workers.

While many Latino voters may personally know someone who is undocumented, I'm not sure how personal a stake they may have in any kind of government crackdown on illegal immigration. It is fairly safe to say, however, that Latinos are far more sympathetic to illegal immigrants than non-Latinos. But expecting all Latinos to be pro-illegal immigration makes as much sense as assuming all Latinos are immigrants.

Republican support of school vouchers may be another reason Latinos tend to vote conservative. While many self-appointed black leaders and other puppets of the left preach the wonders of our broken public school system, many Latino families have long since given up on public schools and put whatever they can together to send their children to private schools. For example, in the New York City county of the Bronx with its heavily Latino population, high crime rates and low property values, you are very likely to see Latino children in Catholic school uniforms during the weekdays. The Bronx is home to some of the most dangerous public schools in the city, most of which have devolved into holding pens for juvenile delinquents who disturb the children who are there to learn.

Black Republicans and black conservatives are hard to find, often because those who are become pariahs in their own community. I'm not sure how Republicans became the official enemy of black people given that slavery was ended by a Republican President and that Republican Congressmembers signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was actually opposed by Southern Democrats, into federal law.

The history of the relationship between the black community and the Democratic Party has been one of broken promises and failed policies. Now that the Dems have begun paying attention to Latinos, they have already fed us a string of soon-to-be-broken promises similar to the ones that have been fed to African-Americans.

How can a Latino be conservative? How can I not be?

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Tags: 2008, Presidential, ethnicity, media, race, spirituality, voting

Comment by Gray Kane on August 19, 2008 at 3:17pm
Don't forget that Cubans and now Venezuelans associate liberalism with communism. Castro and Chavez have scared away a lot of Latin Americans from the interference of a state apparatus in the name of a greater good.

I agree as to the string of broken promises to the African-American community. However, I'd like to point out that there have been a lot of fulfilled promises as well, not the least of which being the Civil Rights Act. I'd also like to point out that the Republican party has not made any advancements for minorities. The Republican party tends to view such advancements as being merely the federal government's meddling in individual civic responsibility, not to mention excessively stringent restrictions on business practices.

Reagan's revolving-door policy of enforcing illegal immigration laws solely during non-harvesting seasons did piss off a lot of Hispanics.

Also, with the exception of Colon Powell and Condoleezza Rice, there aren't a lot of prominent minorities in the Republican party, and Powell and Rice are fairly recent additions within the political memory of American voters. Both the lack of minorities and the occasional campaign appeals to racism and xenophobia have tainted the party with an air of racism that it's having problems shaking due to its strong white southern base. Look at it this way: not too many Democrats blindly submit Hispanic names from the phone book to INS on election day, or draw comparisons between Obama and a monkey.

Meanwhile, the Democratic party is fairly racially diverse in both its state and federal elected officials.

But your points are well taken. Good post.
Comment by Katie on August 19, 2008 at 9:40pm
This post was really terrific. It's really a shame there are only two parties that have power, because a party that espouses the conservative social views of many minorities and the economic policies that would actually benefit them, could really be a force to be reckoned with. It would also give minorities greater power.

So, for people who straddle party lines, it's not a great choice. The choice isn't that great anyway.

I, however, do not get why members of minorities flock to a party that doesn't seem to care about them. The Democratic party is obvioulsy flawed in many ways, but I think objectively it does try to reach out to different kinds of people. I honestly cannot say the same thing about Republicans. I'm not willing to label the party wholely as racist or xenophobic, but looking at some of the most vocal party members, it's hard to think they're open and welcoming.
Comment by Daniel Cuevas on August 20, 2008 at 3:03am
Gray,

Your comment regarding Cubans and Venezuelans is dead-on. The same can be said for many other South Americans who see Chavez less as a threat and more like that annoying neighbor who plays the stereo too loud at night.

I assume you're referring to the Democratic Party when you speak of unfulfilled promises. As for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was strongly opposed by Southern Democrats in Congress and supported by Republicans. In fact, Howard Smith, a Democrat Congressman, tried with all his might to kill the legislation before it even came to committee review.

You're right about the Republicans not making any advancements for minorities, but the same can be said for the Democrats. The problem is that you have one party that panders to minorities and pretends to help them and then there's the other party that doesn't pander to minorities and couldn't care less about them.

What Democrats are very good at is creating programs like Affirmative Action, gun control, minimum wage laws, bilingual education and welfare which all sound good but hurt minorities more than they help. Meanwhile, the things that hurt minorities, like the War on Drugs, the Democrats do nothing about. Our complicated 9,000-word tax code, chock full of legal loopholes for the rich, is another thing supported by Democrats, who oppose a flat tax or a national sales tax to replace all other federal taxes. Democrats oppose school vouchers and praise our broken public school system which has failed generations of Americans of color. They market themselves to minorities as the main catalyst behind most accomplishments of the black and Latino communities and they work hard to convince minority of color that any future progress experienced by their group is due mostly in part to the Democratic Party.

It's terrific that you mention Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice because I find it amusing that it took a Republican President to appoint a black man and black woman to the highest ranking positions in Washington ever held by a person of color. Not so in the administration of the "first black President", Bill Clinton.

The appointment of a Latino (Alberto Gonzalez) to be Attorney General, the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the U.S. was also done by a Republican, not a Democrat. As for Democrats having a lot of racial diversity among its state and federal elected officials, these politicians of color are mostly elected in districts where the population hails from the same ethnic group. The state or Congressional Democratic leadership which is always white usually assigns these token minority politicians to relatively powerless committees. Besides, these token minorities champion the same causes of the Democratic Party, causes which ultimately set people of color back.

How many governors of color are currently in office? When white Republican New York Governor George Pataki was challenged in 2002 by black Democrat Carl McCall, McCall only got 33% of the vote in a state where Democrats make up the majority of the registered voters. Did the white Democrats stay home, or did they vote for Pataki? While I'm only pointing out the results of one state election, count the number of blue states and see how many of them are governed by blacks, Latinos or Asians. Even Hawaii, a minority-majority and a blue state, has only had three nonwhite Governors in its six-governor history as a U.S. state. Overall, Democrats and Republicans have had the same track record in terms of high-ranking elected and appointed officials of color, even if these records differ greatly in terms of position and sheer volume of individuals.

Democrats are not out to help minorities, and the Republicans do not seem willing, either. A third party will have to be the answer. However, the notion of a black Democrat possibly being elected to the Presidency will mark a big change in both parties.
Comment by Gray Kane on August 20, 2008 at 8:30pm
I agree with 99% of what you've written, Daniel. You make great points and are extremely articulate. As far as the Civil Rights movement is concerned, however, both the Kennedys' and Johnson's roles--and the Republican party's rapid decision to capitalize on hate--caused white southerners to switch from the Democratic party to the Republican party. JFK pissed off a lot of white southerners when he, among other things, ordered the National Guard to protect James Meridith's attendance at Ole Miss in 1962. Johnson's support of MLK finished the job.

I think your problem with the Democratic party is that you agree with its heart but not with its policies. If that's your position, then you and I are in agreement. Meanwhile, neither you nor I trust the Republican heart, and we both look forward to a viable third party--or even more than three viable parties.
Comment by JP on August 21, 2008 at 2:51pm
Well written op-ed and rebuttal Mr Cuevas!

As has been stated, the D's seem to take minorities for granted & actually do more to hurt than help, while the R's are seen as cold & unwelcoming even though they favor equality through the rule of law.

Then the question becomes, do people prefer to be taken for granted or ignored.

I think most people would prefer to be left alone than suffer through the "successes" of our govt like Jim Crow, the great society, war on poverty, stag-flation, war on drugs, Katrina preparation, McCain-Feingold, Kelo, domestic wire tapping without court review, etc.

Then again, in the interest of transparency and full disclosure, I am someone who went from non-partisan to Libertarian and I advocate a third party solution as well. The LP welcomes all who are civil enough to respect the rights of others while advocating freedom from govt coercion... an actual big tent, which is becoming more & more viable as the two current major parties implode.
Comment by Daniel Cuevas on August 22, 2008 at 12:23pm
Katie,

Thanks for commenting. If I had to label the Republicans as anything, I'd have to label them as honest, or at least more honest than the Democrats. The Republicans don't pretend to care about minorities like the Democrats do; they simply don't pay us much attention. Even when reaching out to Latinos, the Republicans only reach out to the Cuban-American community, the segment of the Latino population most loyal to the GOP. Cuban-Americans make up the whitest and the wealthiest segment of the Hispanic community, but they are also the smallest.

As for why minorities would flock to a party that doesn't seem to care about them, it's all about outreach. The power of government in this country is dominated by two political parties. Third parties are an afterthought, with most Americans, regardless of ethnicity or race, supporting one of the two parties. If one party ignores you and the other party pretends to like you, and there don't seem to be any feasible alternatives, then you understandably pick the party that at least does not ignore you.

The real problem here is the two-party mentality in this country. I've always said that a two-party system is only one party away from communism. People are so stubborn in letting go of their political affiliation to either the Dems or the GOP, no matter how disappointed or disillusioned they may be.
Comment by Daniel Cuevas on August 22, 2008 at 1:03pm
JP,

Thanks for the compliments!

I too am a libertarian. After being a liberal for many years, I finally woke up a few years ago after meeting the Democratic leadership in my own county. Whether the Democratic committee in question is national, statewide, citywide or countywide the leadership almost always consists of rich white people who always know what is best for the poor and the historically disenfranchised. Of course that leadership may consist of a few token minorities, but even then they tow the party line even when the interests of the party seriously conflict with the interests of their specific minority group.

As I met more Democrats throughout New York State I only became more disillusioned. In New York City, Puerto Ricans have a stronger alliance with the African-American community than say, Mexican- or Cuban-Americans, so their loyalty to the Democratic Party is much stronger. Most of my family members either vote Democrat or don't vote at all, the exception being my father who votes conservatively (he voted for Bush because his Reverend told him to). In New York City, it is hard to not be a Democrat because they are the overwhelming majority of city legislators. Even the majority of state legislators who represent New York City are Democrats.

I think what really drove me from liberalism was my college education. I was a sociology major, so I got my fill of Marx and Weber and Braverman and had to study all their respective nonsense. It's easy for college students to fall prey to this leftist fantasy that everyone can or should have an equal amount of all resources as long as they submit to the authority of an immense, omniscient and benevolent central government. I too, fell for it at first; can you believe I once considered myself a Marxist? I also think the Bush Administration helped to propel me towards a yearning for a smaller, less intrusive government by showing exactly what can happen when a large intrusive government falls into the wrong hands. Like Lord Acton said, "Power corrupts, and absolute power absolutely corrupts."

As for your question of whether people prefer to be ignored or taken for granted, I think your answer lies in the blind allegiance to the Democratic Party. Humans are social creatures by nature and crave human interaction above isolation. Since this is a two-party society, it's easy for many to disregard allegiance to a third party as a viable alternative, but I think that is slowly changing. In New York City, Republican politicians are a tiny minority and have allowed for the Green Party and Working Families Party to make inroads, albeit small ones. For example, one Councilwoman in in Brooklyn, Letitia James, is a member of the WF Party, but not a Democrat. And Brooklyn is probably the only county in the U.S. with more registered Greens than registered Republicans.

The biggest problem faced by third parties is that people do not usually turn to them when they are fed up with the duopoly; they simply lose interest in politics altogether, regarding all politicians as corrupt, no matter who is put into office. If libertarians could show the rest of this country that politicians would be less corrupt if government had less money and power, they might get interested in politics again.

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