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Republicans’ Hispanic Outreach Effort Off To A Rocky Start

Memo Pad Politics

Republicans’ Hispanic Outreach Effort Off To A Rocky Start


In January, not long after President Barack Obama trounced Mitt Romney by 44 percent among Latino voters, the GOP-aligned Hispanic Leadership Network issued a new set of “tonally sensitive messaging points” for Republicans to use when engaging with Latino and Hispanic voters. The idea behind the memo seemed to be that, if Republicans won’t attract Hispanics with appealing policy proposals, they should at least try to stop driving them away with racially charged language.

Clearly, Representative Don Young (R-AK) didn’t get the message.

Congressman Young went disastrously off-script during an interview with Alaskan radio station KRBD, released Thursday, when he used a racial slur to describe the workers on his father’s ranch.

“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” Young said. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

Quickly realizing that he had made a tremendous error, Young issued an apology of sorts late Thursday night.

“I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California,” Young said in a statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

Putting aside the question of what context Young thinks could possibly make the term “wetback” acceptable—or for that matter, not disrespectful—his explanation clearly fails to undo the damage done by his offensive statement.

With an eye towards damage control, Republican leaders quickly blasted Young’s comments.

“Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement. “I don’t care why he said it—there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.”

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus concurred, saying “The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party,” adding, “Offensive language and ethnic slurs have no place in our public discourse.”

Indeed, it was Priebus who just last week released a report urging that “if we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity.” In just 10 days since that report, Young labeled Hispanic workers as wetbacks, Senate Republicans started a racially charged campaign against President Obama’s only Latino cabinet nominee, and North Carolina governor Pat McCrory unceremoniously shuttered his state’s Office of Hispanic/Latino affairs. And that’s not even touching the Conservative Political Action Conference, which featured birther jokes and a minority “outreach” panel arguing that slavery was good for black Americans.

So much for showing sincerity.

Ultimately, the biggest problem with the GOP’s minority outreach program is simple: Most Republicans seem to have very little interest in actually appealing to minority communities. Polling suggests that Hispanic voters align much more closely with Democrats than Republicans on a wide range of social and economic issues. But instead of working to find common ground on these policy splits, Republicans chose to simply soften their rhetoric — and they haven’t even done that successfully.

If Republican politicians cannot even uphold their own “stop using racial slurs” rule, then their chances of making real inroads with minority communities seem more remote than ever.

Henry Decker

Henry Decker was formerly the Managing Editor of The National Memo. He is currently an Online Associate at MRCampaigns.

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  1. bpai99 March 29, 2013

    These GOP stumbles on minority outreach would be funny if they weren’t so appalling.

  2. old_blu March 29, 2013

    Hahaha, holy crap you can’t make this sh!t up these guys are doing some of the dumbest unclassy things I have ever seen, “I meant no disrespect” no you didn’t mean any disrespect that’s just the way you and most of your party really believe and so you think it is okay. *rolls eyes*

  3. DezJimmar March 30, 2013

    As Ann Richards said: “They can’t help it… they were born with a ‘racist’ foot in their mouths.”

  4. howa4x March 30, 2013

    The problem is there is a large segment of the white republican party that is racist, so from time to time they are going to say insensitive things like this. I guess having signs with the president sitting on a mud floor in a grass hut with a bone in his nose, the kind that appeared regularly at anti health reform rallies wasn’t deemed racist by the republicans. This is the undercurrent of the party, the base which is made up of older whites, mostly southern and mid west who grew up with racist expressions, and see nothing wrong with saying them. Like Bill Maher says: Not all republicans are racists, but if you are one you’re going to be a republican.

  5. Siegfried Heydrich March 30, 2013

    A party of Forrest Gumps without the appealing good manners and common sense . . . Stupid is as stupid does . . .

  6. JDavidS March 30, 2013

    And to think I was worried that after Newt “We’ll colonize the moon” Gingrich wandered off that there’d be no more laughs from the GOP…Silly me.

  7. dtgraham March 30, 2013

    I’m with old_blu. Holy sh!t that’s funny. Yeah alright, so wetback may not be exactly “tonally sensitive messaging” but look, ya gotta start somewhere. Like the alien said to Eleanor Arroway in Contact…small steps Ellie, small steps.

  8. Dirk Baker March 31, 2013

    Some of the comments here,
    Should be Listed as “Nuclear Meltdowns”
    (and NOT Because they are “of One Party”) !!

    To Make “Equal”,
    ALL References to Bias,
    NEED to be REMOVED.

    This “Article” is JUST FULL
    of Bias Garbage !!
    These are of the
    “Original” Reported Comments;
    The “Report” on the “Original” Comments;
    COMMENTS about The Article.

    Some Samples, Include:
    “a Black member”
    (as that is worse than any other ??!!??);
    “of the KKK”
    (Definitely the worst Group ??!!??);
    “more Kenyan”
    (And they are ??!!??);
    “than American”
    (As Americans are so much ??!!??);
    “not have a high I.Q.”
    (Don’t EVEN get Started !! 🙁 🙁 🙁 )
    “the Hispanic vote”
    (What was the Original Problem ??!!??);
    “the Elephant Party”
    (Do NOT KNOW of any Party of that NAME !!)
    and still much more.

    1. disqus_CmPS82g3vc March 31, 2013

      Off your meds? Your response is incomprehensible.

  9. silas1898 March 31, 2013

    They are sincerely racist. They just can’t help themselves. Dumbya fooled enough people with his lies about being “compassionate” and “humble” to steal the 2000 election. Thankfully enough people remember. This is who they are.

  10. Dominick Vila March 31, 2013

    The worst part of what Rep Young said is that he articulated what is in his heart. Latinos and Hispanics are well aware of how the Tea Party advocates feel about them, and what their record is. The same goes for African Americans. That’s the reason the GOP has already concluded that their outreach efforts are bound to be futile and that it is time to switch to Plan B, changing the allotment of Electoral College votes to guarantee GOP wins in 2016 and beyond. They “own” rural America, especially throughout the Confederacy and the Bible Belt, and that’s where their focus is going to be in the future. Their biggest challenges are women and the young.

    1. barbarahugh April 1, 2013

      that is true !!! we should start expanding by moving to the south and bible belt to balance those areas

  11. charleo1 March 31, 2013

    Republican leaders are outraged! How dare he talk in public the same way
    we talk to each other in private! Dumb Arkansawyer!

  12. jarheadgene April 1, 2013

    HA HA HA….What a TOOL !!!! Don Young. Why he should be the NEXT P.O.S.G.O.P. Presidential Candidate. He speaks his mind, which matches exactly what the party stands for. And those like RUBIO, bought and paid for. His post SoTU speech was a carbon copy of Herr RYAN’s. And Mr. Young, whose back is more wet? Those who crossed oceans to get here, or those who crossed a river. And let’s not forget, in some cases, like my familiy’s, the Big River crossed us. Here we were a people, in TEJAS, helping in the cause to become TEXAS, only to find we would become 2nd class citizens in our OWN country, thanks to people like Mr. Young. If you are Latino and you’re net assets are not $1,000,000.00 or more you are STUPID….YES, I said STUPID to vote Republican. And if you are Latino and your net assests are over $1 Million, then you should vote Democrat just on sheer principle.


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