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The Straw that Could Break the Elephant's Back

The risk of Republicans ignoring Latino issues and voters.

By Jim Estrada
Published on LatinoLA: August 21, 2012


The Straw that Could Break the Elephant's Back


It seems the United States of America's two-party political system could be undergoing a major metamorphosis. The weight of change and diversity could be the straws that break the back of our nation's second oldest political party.

The Grand Old Party was established in 1854 to combat the expansion of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska territories and in 1860 elected Abraham Lincoln, who led the North to victory in the Civil War and abolished slavery. Initially, it consisted mainly of northern White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) businessmen and professionals, along with a smattering of blue-collar workers, farmers and freed slaves.

Through a coalition of Whigs, Free Soil Democrats and the anti-immigrant, nativist American Party (a.k.a. the "Know Nothings"), Republicans quickly established majorities in nearly every Northern state. In its early years it was pro-business and supported banks, the gold standard, railroads, and tariffs to protect industrial workers and industry. From its birth their core values dominated U.S. politics up until 1932.

The GOP temporarily lost its grip on national politics following the Great Depression. As a result of the "New Deal" coalition (Democratic state party organizations, local city political machines, organized labor and blue collar workers, members of racial, ethnic and religious minority groups, farmers, white Southerners, the nation's poor and a growing number of the country's intelligentsia) Democrats controlled national politics under Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to1945 -- and into the middle 1960s,

Republicans returned to national power, winning seven of the 10 presidential elections from 1968 to 2004, mainly due to high voter turnout of older socially conservative and white Evangelical Protestants in the South. By 1980, the Party's symbolic leader became Ronald Reagan, whose conservative policies called for reduced government spending and regulation, lower taxes, and a more assertive foreign policy. These core values still drive much of today's GOP leaders, who in efforts to conjure up visions of idyllic days of yore invoke Reagan's name and policies that resonate with supporters.

For the past two years, the Tea Party has introduced considerable unrest that is again transforming Republican politics. Their movement calls for the party's rededication to "financial, moral, spiritual, ethical, political, social and family foundations." The reduction of the federal deficit, cutting taxes, and changing "business as usual" political practices by politicians in our nation's capital, would result in "Taking our country back."

The Tea Party's influence was felt in the 2010 elections, resulting in victories in state legislatures across the U.S. and Congress. Despite those results, GOP voters may have to support Mitt Romney -- the former Massachusetts Governor, Harvard-educated technocrat and healthcare proponent whose approach to the presidency may not be too different from that of Barack Obama. The Tea Party, Republican leaders and the Super PACs that support them share a common goal: To oust Obama from the nation's highest office, regardless of who replaces him.

In spite of anti-immigration, voter photo identification, repeal of national healthcare, the ban of ethnic studies curriculum and reductions in public school financing initiatives promoted by predominantly Republican elected officials and their supporters, taking the country back to its salad days may be wishful thinking on the part of conservative, aging U.S. Americans,

The U.S. population, now estimated at 308.7 million persons, has more than doubled since its 1950 level of 152.3 million. The population has also become qualitatively different from the "Leave it to Beaver" era of the 1950s. Consider the increasing number of "majority-minority" cities, regions and states where members of racial and ethnic groups have become the majority.

Across the country, improved high school completion rates -- especially among Latino youth -- have resulted in them becoming the largest nonwhite ethnic group on college campuses and a fourth of the total U.S. public school enrollment. Not only are they the largest segment of the USA's student population, they are also the fastest growing potential voter: Every 30 seconds in the USA a Latino turns 18, the legal voting age.

According to Steve Munisteri, chairman of the GOP in Texas, if the Republican Party does not significantly increase its share of the Latino voters in Texas in the next few years it will become "toast" as a governing party. The election of Hispanic Republicans to high image posts -- New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida were positive first steps.

However, unless the GOP recognizes and incorporates the interests of the fastest-growing consumer, employee, student, taxpayer and voter groups in the USA, it too may go the way of other political dinosaurs.

"Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative."

About Jim Estrada:
Founder/Partner of Estrada Communications Group, Austin, TX. A SoCal native and former TV News Reporter, Corporate Marketing Executive (McDonald's & Anheuser-Busch) and author of "The ABCs & Ñ of America's Cultural Evolution."
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