Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Thursday, January 17, 2019

It’s striking that in a presidential season with two viable Latino contenders, discussion of Hispanic voters has been negligible.

This will change as the primaries move to states with larger Latino populations, Nevada being first up. In those states, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will come under questioning for ethnic loyalty.

This scrutiny will do them no favors. While some may imagine that Cruz or Rubio would get a boost in the general election from being the first Hispanic presidential nominee, either one would only help to hand the White House to the Democrats. The reason is simple: They continue to spurn other Hispanics.

Here we have two children of immigrants trying to get elected by demonizing immigrants. Indeed, Rubio and Cruz embody a reality that they and their party deny: Latinos become Americanized very quickly.

Both men are very close to their immigrant roots, one generation away. Yet both men are highly assimilated. Rubio’s love of rap music and respect for Pitbull, N.W.A., Tupac and Nicki Minaj, is often cited. Cruz, raised in Texas and the son of an evangelical preacher, has a penchant for Western attire and after 9/11 switched his preference from classic rock to country music.

This is not exceptional for Latino families, whether they are legally in the United States or not. Assimilation happens; it’s an unstoppable force of our society.

Neither man speaks with an accent; only Rubio is bilingual. Latino immigrant families shift from Spanish, becoming monolingual in English by the third generation. They follow the same pattern, the same fluid rate of language acquisition, as previous immigrant groups, be they European or Asian. In fact, some studies suggest that language shifts are now occurring faster for Latinos, due to technology.

But to appeal to a GOP base that is positioned as anti-immigrant, these two have taken to casting other Latino immigrants as the outsiders, as resistant to becoming Americanized, as unworthy of opportunities to right their immigration status, whether that be by legislation or executive order.

On the campaign trail this year, only one message is permissible to Republican candidates: Latinos are to be feared and deported. Build the wall! Secure the borders! End birthright citizenship!

Never mind that migration from Mexico has dramatically slowed and that illegal migration peaked nearly a decade ago.

Some ascribe Rubio’s and Cruz’ lack of sympathy to being of Cuban descent. Cubans enjoy a huge advantage over other immigrants. If they can reach U.S. soil, they have an easy path to permanent legal status within a year. It’s a leftover policy from the Cold War, when many were fleeing the persecution of communist repression, although that wasn’t the case with either of the senators’ families.

Increasingly, that connection to yesteryear is fraying. Cuban-Americans are moving away from their once steadfast ties to the GOP.

Interestingly, Rubio probably got a taste of the non-Cuban immigrant experiences. He spent a portion of his teen-age years in Las Vegas, where his father found work as a bartender. The young Rubio was often assumed to be Mexican-American and counted many Mexican-American schoolmates as his closest friends. It reasonable to assume that he knew kids who had parents or other family members who were in this country without legal status.

Perhaps that experience is what led Rubio to join the Gang of Eight, a group of senators who authored the last sane proposal for immigration reform, in 2013.

Now he tries to scrub that fact from his record.

A record 27.3 million Latinos will be eligible to vote this election cycle. Nearly half, 44 percent, will be millennials, according to Pew Research Center. Data crunchers believe that the eventual winner of the 2016 presidential election will need to draw at least 40 percent of Hispanic votes.

Immigration obviously isn’t the only issue of interest to Latinos; it isn’t even the most important. Jobs, the economy, education rank very high too.

However, it is a kind of gut-level test about attitudes. Rubio, especially, with his shifting to attract right-wing votes, has jilted Latino voters who would like to like him.

Given their current posturing on immigration, neither Rubio nor Cruz has a chance.

The backlash is coming. A group of high-profile Latino celebrities, including Benjamin Bratt, America Ferrera, George Lopez and Zoe Saldana, organized to call on the GOP presidential candidates to end their anti-immigrant fear-mongering.

Guitarist Carlos Santana, in a statement, underlined the plea this way: “It’s never too late to graduate from the university of fear!” Sadly, it may be if you are seeking the Republican nomination.

(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via e-mail at


Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidates and U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (L) and Marco Rubio shake hands and talk at the end of the debate held by Fox News for the top 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates in Des Moines, Iowa January 28, 2015.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria 

  • Share this on Google+0
  • Share this on Linkedin0
  • Share this on Reddit0
  • Print this page
  • 57

11 responses to “Latino Voters Not Loving Cruz, Rubio”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    Latinos supporting Cruz and Rubio may prove to be as elusive as African-Americans voting as a monolithic block for Hillary. The days of swaying ethnic minorities by playing the sax at the Arsenio Hall show are over. Minorities expect tangible results and specific solutions, not promises of deportation, insults, and threats.
    Trump and Sanders are more likely to get the minority vote than Cruz and Rubio. Hillary may benefit from the endorsement of black leaders, but many African Americans are well aware of Bill’s record: including signing a crime bill that resulted in a disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos in jail, and the welfare reform. They also remember Hillary’s enthusiastic support for these bills. In will not be long before we find out how strong ethnic appeal is, whether or not it translates to a vote, or how much the African American and Latino communities remember and listen to what is being said.

  2. Otto Greif says:

    This should be surprising to no one. Most Latinos are Democrats, most Latinos are Mexicans, Cruz and Rubio are Cuban Republicans.

  3. The lucky one says:

    Typical behavior for people like Cruz and Rubio, pull the ladder up after you’ve used it to climb out.

    • Bob Eddy says:

      They probably believe, like their hero Ronald Reagan, that a rising tide lifts all boats — so it’s vitally important that they control who gets to own a boat.

  4. Bob Eddy says:

    Listening in on a Latino based TV program a few weeks ago gave me some perspective on this matter. After discussing their utter distain for Trump, they went on to talk about how sad it was that the first two Latino candidates from a major party were, in their words, “disgusting right wing whack jobs.” Cruz is just repugnant. Rubio has the same problem Romney had in that, like Romney and his universal health care for Mass, Rubio will have to run away from his only notable achievement, his support of immigration reform.

  5. Sterling Harris says:


  6. itsfun says:

    This just shows Latinos only care about power and the Democratic Party. Groups bitch and complain about not enough diversity in Government. This isn’t their real complaint. They just want their political ideas in power. They are just saying Cruz and Rubio are not Latin enough, like some black groups say a politician is not black enough. The feminist groups proved this when they gave Bill Clinton a free pass for his behavior because he bought into their agenda’s. Its not about race or gender its all about power. Race and gender are just a card to play in politics.

    • That’s some odd-ball logic you use to make such a incredulous and sweeping assessment—it reminds me of the failure that’s a part of “stereotyping”.
      You would do well to divest yourself of such “rags”.
      But, I suppose “its fun” for you.

  7. Rubio and Cruz, among other immigrants to these shores— rather they be from the West coast of Africa, from Europe, Asia, or the Americas—show a phenomenon where many in the less dominant groups(e.g., “arrivals” from elsewhere) seek to identify with the dominant group, forgetting their linkage for the sake of convenience in the process whenever it serves to better their position in the new environment.

    Take the case of Hamed bin Muhammad(aka “Tippu Tip”) of Zanzibar: His mother was a very dark-skinned African woman who was a concubine of an Omani Arab.
    Tippu Tip completely, and conveniently, ignored his mother’s ancestry in order to project himself as purely Arab, in order to derive the perks of being “Arab” rather than “African”. (It is customary in Arab culture to identify more with the father’s ancestry than the mother’s). He went to the extreme of becoming one of the major players in enslaving his African “cousins”(men, women, and children) and facilitating their forceful removal from Africa to Arab and South Asian realms—often under more brutal circumstances than those who were forcibly removed from West Africa.

    His features clearly showed an immediate African heritage, which he was reminded of by a European explorer on one occasion, and to which he expressed great displeasure at the mention of such a connection.

    The Swahili with mixed Arab heritage, in Kenya and other places along the “Swahili Coast” of East Africa, also show a desire to divorce themselves from their darker-skinned cousins of the interior regions, and align more with their Arab heritage as a form of severance from their roots in order to be considered “members” of the perceived dominant culture.
    (The book “The Edge of Islam” demonstrates this social phenomenon most clearly and accurately).

    Rubio, Cruz, Carson, “Step-n-Fetchit”, “Uncle Tom’s “, etc. show similar forms of amnesia/denial in their quest to align themselves with the group with power, and which they yearn to be associated with in order to be “accepted” as equals with the dominant group.

    Just an observation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.