Jeb Bush could be the GOP's hope for a Latino future.

By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Facing re-election in the midst of a brutal recession in 1994, then-California GOV. Pete Wilson did what so many politicians had done before, do today, and will doubtlessly continue to do in the future:

Rather than take responsibility for any of the problems, Wilson found an issue that most people feared and didn’t understand. And he blamed all of California’s woes on that problem.

The issue was illegal immigration.

“They just keep coming,” Wilson’s TV ads solemnly declared, as video rolled of Latinos being chased through brush.

The ads were clearly appealing to the fear many Californians, particularly white, middle-class Californians, felt during those difficult economic times: growing waves of dark-skinned people were coming to take your job. And “they just keep coming.”

Sound familiar?

Despite outrage — even protests — in the Latino community, Wilson was unbending.

If there’s anything modern political campaigns have taught us, it’s that fear works.

Wilson won re-election by 15 points. And the man who entered the governor’s office as a moderate Republican left it as an icon for hard-line immigration conservatism.

But the Republican Party’s relevance in California was effectively over.

In this midterm election, two-thirds of California Latinos voted Democrat, and led that party to a sweep of state offices. Meg Whitman, a California gubernatorial candidate for whom Wilson made a TV ad about immigration, had 63 percent of the Latino vote go against her.

Nationally, 60 percent of Latinos voted Democrat. In 2006, it was 69 percent.

That’s also the percentage who voted for the Democratic candidate in Nevada, where Sharron Angle played the Wilson illegal immigration card and lost the Latino vote 69 to 27 percent.

The one exception to Latino’s Democratic lean has been Florida, where the Cuban-American vote has traditionally gone Republican. In this pro-Republican election, Florida Republican candidates got about half of the Latino vote.

And if Republican Gov.-elect Rick Scott follows through on his primary pledge to push through a hard-line immigration law such as the one passed in Arizona, things might become even dicier between him and his Latino constituents. Because although many Cubans identify themselves as Republicans, they definitely see themselves as immigrants.

As Wilson and California Republicans found out, the illegal immigration focus can be a winning strategy — in the short term. Long term it could turn lethal in some of the fastest-growing states in the country.

So it’s not surprising that Florida is where Republicans are trying to turn around their dysfunctional relationship with the Latino community.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, with a Mexican wife, Cuban business partners and a degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas, is the party’s marriage counselor.

Perpetual presidential prospect Newt Gingrich is also trying to step into the Latino Republican vacuum. He has started a bilingual webpaper with a conservative tilt and the awkward title, The Americano, which focuses on Latino issues and Hispanic Heritage. Gingrich and the paper have also sponsored a national forum for conservative Latinos.

But the effort seems as forced as Gingrich’s walk-the-fine-line approach to immigration.

Jeb, on the other hand, appears to do and say the right things effortlessly. He either truly understands the Latino perspective. Or someone really savvy is guiding him to be The Republican Alternative of the Future.

Bush seems to understand that Latinos and Republicans could be made for each other.

Free enterprisers? Check.

Religious? Check.

Distrustful of government? Check.

It’d be an almost-perfect marriage — if not for the mistress called immigration.

Bush’s understanding of that could be his ticket to a future Republican presidential run.



4 Responses

  1. Stephen

    No more members of the Bush crime family! This country has had enough of political dynasty families. Jeb is a slicker version of W.

  2. Francis

    Has anybody thought about the aftermath of the Dream Act if the bill is enacted? It’s the amplification of Dream Act provisions, that when students become naturalized, that in reality is another-AMNESTY, which causes a CHAIN MIGRATION of immediate family members. A projection of 800.000 students could be eligible, but they could then sponsor their parents, brothers and sisters, grandfather and mother. That could even escalate more as other siblings, would have their own babies and the never ceasing chain immigration would be never ending nemesis. This has happened with each of the six amnesties since the 1986 Reform and Control Act, which after each law has passed, millions of family members have been sponsored, as long as their sponsor promises to financially support them. This is an empty promise because this is generally dropped after each family member is admitted, as the feds are under staffed for this massive task.

    The initial sponsor could also find themselves jobless or neglect to carry out through with subsidizing that relative. In conclusion to the whole irrational situation, the oldest family members who are unlikely to have health insurance or not enough have no choice but to fall on the compassion of the hard pressed taxpayer. Any immigration law, whether the Dream Act or a mass Immigration reform has monolithic financial consequences on all Americans. Any person only has to gaze into the overcrowded classrooms of big cities, full to the rafters with non speaking foreign alien children. Go to any major city or even some towns and it’s evident that illegal immigration is rampant, as one only has to observe the crammed county hospital s, over exerted by a larger majority of foreign nations seeking help. Even the community food banks are now subject, to the destitute who came from across the Southern border, or stayed in the US after their visa expired.

    We just cannot afford to subsidize every person who trespasses in this country without permission. We cannot afford yet another unnecessary tax and spend amnesty of any kind forced on us by Liberal Democrats as it has became a major obstacle in revitalizing this nations sinking economy. The Dream Act if passed will become another financial weighty trouble to this nation, from the obvious rise in overpopulation growth from chain migration. An example the rising costs attributed to the instant citizenship given to children of illegal aliens as then the Mother can then collect a wide range of benefits, including food stamps, section 8 housing under that child’s name. There is a hope within the Republican Party that this law will be amended, and only able to benefit the baby with one parent a citizen. The Tea Party will exercise their power against any politician who panders to the Student Dream Act, until the whole text of the act is re-assessed as it copious with bad policies. Tea Party members should expand their anger at Senators such as Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) who helped the Democrats salt down the E-Verify illegal labor verification program and cutting funding to the doubleelectrified border fencing. Each day more and more average Americans have seen through the corruption spawned in Washington and signing onto the membership of the TEA PARTY. This includes blocs of major minorities, who came to America through the front door, who are also completely enraged at the illegal immigration invasion.

    BOMBARD your Senators with your furious words and your Members of Congress to oppose the DREAM Act Amnesty — 202-224-3121 NumbersUSA for details. NumbersUSA will inform you of the truth.


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