The ‘they don’t vote for us anyway’ school of thought

THE ‘THEY DON’T VOTE FOR US ANYWAY’ SCHOOL OF THOUGHT…. A few weeks ago in Texas, an anti-immigrant state lawmaker defended his brutal agenda, including a drive to deny citizenship to children born in Texas to immigrant parents*.

“Most Hispanics right now do vote Democrat; there’s no question about it,” Republican state Rep. Leo Berman said. “So what vote are we going after? We’re going after a vote that doesn’t vote Republican anyway.”

As recently as 1998, George W. Bush won a second term as governor with nearly half the Hispanic vote in Texas. Now, GOP officials feel unrestrained in pursuing an anti-immigrant agenda, since Hispanics “don’t vote Republican anyway.”

I thought of this after seeing the latest move on Capitol Hill, where House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has decided to scrap the bipartisan tradition and won’t host a Cinco de Mayo reception.

Leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus reached out to Boehner earlier this month urging him to host the reception. It has been an annual event since at least 2003, when Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert was the House speaker.

On Thursday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) added her voice to the chorus. Boehner’s Democratic predecessor sent him a letter saying that she had held the event every year when she was speaker and offered to assist in planning it again.

“Members of the House and Senate, Walter Reed Hospital wounded soldiers and their families, and other invited guests attended this reception, which included a brief speaking program with Mexico’s Ambassador and Members from both sides of the aisle,” Pelosi wrote.

There are some non-offensive explanations for Boehner’s reluctance. For example, he may not want to take money out of his budget to host the reception, and Congress is scheduled to wrap up work early on May 5.

But under the circumstances, it’s hard to blame those in the Hispanic community who are feeling snubbed. After all, there’s a fairly consistent pattern here in which Republican leaders, in recent years, have been less than tolerant when it comes to racial and ethnic diversity.

Granted, the Cinco de Mayo event is more of a symbolic gesture, but it also comes against a backdrop in which Republicans also refuse to even consider comprehensive immigration reform.

Taken together, Republicans appear to be borrowing a page from James Baker’s script, and concluding, “[Forget] the Hispanics; they don’t vote for us anyway.”

* edited for clarity