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Sunday, December 4, 2016

With Attacks On Secretary Of Labor Nominee, GOP Latino Outreach Efforts End On Day One

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In the GOP’s “autopsy” of the 2012 election, the party’s problem with non-white voters is put in blunt terms: “Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country.”

On the same day the report was released, Republicans immediately freaked out at the president’s announcement of Thomas E. Perez — current assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ’s Civil Rights division — as his nominee to head the Department of Labor.

A longtime civil rights attorney, former staffer for Senator Ted Kennedy, member of the Clinton administration and former Secretary of Labor in Maryland, Perez has exactly the credentials you’d expect a Democratic president to look for in his labor secretary. The nomination was praised by groups like Jobs with Justice, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the AFL-CIO.

Just moments after the president introduced Perez as his nominee, Republican senator David Vitter of Louisiana put the nomination on hold. And the GOP wonders why minorities roll their eyes.

This overreaction from the right wasn’t a surprise. Republicans held up Perez’s nomination to the Department of Justice for seven months, but it is telling that even after Mitt Romney’s disastrous performance with Latinos in 2012, the GOP is intent on letting its ideological fringe continue to attack Latino leaders in a way that seems to purposely alienate minority voters.

As White House communications director Daniel Pfeiffer tweeted:

Why does the right oppose Perez? As the head of the Civil Rights division, he’s been relentless in fighting for… civil rights.

Perez fought capricious voter ID laws, put a new focus on defending members of the LGBT community and investigated the killing of Trayvon Martin and the strange activities of Sheriff Joe Arpaio — exactly the kind of stuff the GOP was afraid he was going to do.

Among the many charges the right has lobbed at Perez is that he’s discriminated against white people by enforcing the Voting Rights Act, which is designed to help minorities who have been historically prevented from voting. They’ve also accused him of being a member of an extremist group, which was actually a mainstream immigration rights group, and enabling Islamo-fascism by supporting non-discrimination policies at airports.

Perez in many ways activates the right’s “worst fears.” As the demographic realities that challenge the GOP as a national party become more real, he is a powerful, respected Latino who can use what is left of civil rights laws to prevent the right from waging its never-ending war on minority voters.

Nowhere in its “autopsy” was the right’s failed attack on the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor or the unprecedented voter suppression campaign that began in 2011 ever mentioned. But in these direct challenges to participation in our government, Republicans send their clearest message to the Latino community: You are not welcome here.

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