Thoughtful Points By Jeb Bush on Hispanics and GOP

New York State Republicans must face the important reality that voter registration in our state becomes more Democrat each day. Yes, the gap between Democrat and Republican registered voters in New York has annually increased unabated for decades. For example, when I returned home to Westchester after law school in 1992, there were about 30,000 more Democrats than Republicans, and now there are 135,000 more.

At the same time, the ethnic group growing fastest in Westchester and New York State is Hispanics. For example, about 10% of the residents of Westchester were Hispanic in 1990, and only twenty years later that number has doubled to 20%.

How are Hispanics registering to vote? The answer is Democrat by substantial margins. So it does not take a political expert to figure out that Republicans in places like Westchester better quickly figure out how to do better with Hispanic voters.

One elected official that always did well with Hispanics was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. In today’s Wall Street Journal, he offered some thoughtful points about how the GOP could do better with Hispanic voters. If the GOP hopes to remain competitive in New York (and we barely are right now), I recommend to my Republican friends that you seriously consider Jeb Bush’s views on this subject. Here is the excerpt from the article:

Mr. Bush’s wife was born in Mexico, he is fluent in Spanish, and he lives in a heavily Hispanic state, so he has great interest in our hemisphere. He’s also had unusual success earning the political support of Spanish-speaking Americans, so I ask him what tips he has for his immigrant-challenged party.

His answer comes effortlessly. Hispanics aren’t monolithic, he says, but all immigrants—”the newly arrived and the second generation”—share one trait: “They’re aspirational.” Conservative candidates, therefore, should promote “policies that reward people who are aspirational.” That’s what he did, and 60% of Democratic Hispanic voters supported his re-election in 2002, he says. Hispanic voters are growing in number, Mr. Bush points out, and “they are increasingly the swing voters in the swing states.”

One problem for Republicans, he says, is that “the tone of our message is one of ‘them and us’ sometimes.” At least that’s what gets “magnified in the press,” with immigration policy being the flash point. It’s “a shame,” he says, because Republicans and immigrants have a lot in common. “But if you send a signal that we really don’t want you as part of our team, they’re not going to join.”

Yet might today’s recent immigrants be natural Democrats, as they were in the 20th century after arriving from Europe? Democrats promise more entitlements, and immigrants tend to be on the lower economic rungs. Mr. Bush couldn’t disagree more. “There are people who believe in expanding the welfare state across the spectrum of races and ethnicities and creeds,” he says, but that’s not a common value among Hispanics. “If you had to pick the values that would be held dear to a broad number of Hispanic voters, access to opportunity would be a higher value than guarantee of security, particularly amongst the newly arrived, meaning the last 20 years.”

His insistence on engagement is not a call for multiculturalism. Quite the opposite: “The beauty of America—one of the things that so separates us [from the rest of the world]—is this ability to take people from disparate backgrounds that buy into the American ideal.”

With regard to assimilation, he says, Hispanics have much to be proud of. “Second-generation Hispanics marry non-Hispanics at a higher rate than second-generation Irish or Italians. Second-generation Hispanics’ English language capability rates are higher than previous immigrant groups’.”

The former governor says immigration is fundamentally an economic matter. “I would argue that if we can’t figure out how to control our border and move to a much more provocative and 21st-century immigration policy, the problems we face will become incredibly difficult to solve because we are not going to grow.” Coming from the mild-mannered Mr. Bush, I take this to mean that government needs to grow bolder—not necessarily more confrontational—in its search for immigration solutions.

The country needs “younger people with energy and aspirations,” he says. Without them, we could end up looking like Old Europe: What should be annual GDP growth of 3.5% could instead be 1.5%. After 10 years, that would amount to a difference of $3.8 trillion in economic activity. “So to me the immigration issue is an economic competitiveness issue, and we’re missing it because we are incompetent in the government.”

Mr. Bush would like to see “a very aggressive guest worker program that ebbs and flows with demand.” He also wants to expand the H-1B visa program aggressively, allowing high-tech companies and others to recruit “highly educated, highly motivated people” from around the world.

To deal with the problem of illegals already in the country, meanwhile, Mr. Bush likes proposals that acknowledge the rule of law but also “give them a chance to change their status. If they learn English, pay a fine, accept a waiting time and have a clean record, some system like that makes sense to get people to come out of the shadows.” Going forward, he thinks employer sanctions are justified because the E-verify system—an online government system that allows employers to check the legal status of job applicants—seems to work.

The nut of the problem is competency at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “If you have to deal with our friends at ICE, it’s like a Kafka novel. Files just disappear,” he says, speaking from personal experience with constituents and relatives.

For the full article, here is the link:

County Legislator
Jim Maisano


About Jim Maisano

County Legislator for New Rochelle and Pelham and attorney for litigation, real estate, wills/probate. If you need my help with legal or legislative matters, call me at 914-636-1621 or email me at:
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One Response to Thoughtful Points By Jeb Bush on Hispanics and GOP

  1. warren gross says:

    I like this. I have spent a good amount of volunteer time with the Hispanic community in New Rochelle on both english as a second language and preparation for citizenship. most have been of mexican or assorted central and south american extraction. there was a work ethic and family context that I found in earlier immigration groups. I am not expressing a view on immigration policy; rather supporting the rationale that by no means should the GOP write off these people. Many share core values that would be welcome in the centrist part of the GOP and many share work values and love of family and community that we hold dear in our community.

    The problem I have noted too often is that the GOP literally assumes or hands off certain voting blocs without really examining the prospects of appealing to eligible voters for these populations.

    A side point; if you notice as I do the casualty lists from our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, you will see that many, many young men and women from various Hispanic communities have given their all or are wounded int he service of our nation. That means a lot to me and I am sure to Jim as well as Jeb Bush.

    Good posting. warren gross

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