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The Party Of George 'Doble Ve'

June 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved.

Republican members of Congress and their staff members can now take intensive Spanish courses, courtesy of the Republican National Committee. Rather than the usual language-class exchanges about buying a train ticket to Madrid, these classes presumably focus on such lines as "Hola, me llamo John y quiero su voto."

The Spanish word for "coattails" would also be relevant. Polls show President Bush making substantial inroads among Hispanics, the nation's fastest-growing slice of the electorate. A recent survey suggests that if the 2000 election were replayed now, Mr. Bush would win 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, a 10-point leap from his 2000 performance and a big leap from Bob Dole's 21 percent in 1996.

However, the same survey shows an overwhelming preference among Hispanics – 53 to 23 percent – for Democrats as Congressional candidates. In an effort to help channel the president's popularity into Congressional races, the Republican Party has started producing a half-hour Spanish television show called "Abriendo Caminos," or "Forging Paths." It is shown in electoral battlegrounds with high concentrations of Hispanic voters.

The program is a mix of news, consumer updates and interviews with administration officials aimed at providing viewers with information about the initiatives of President George "Doble Ve" Bush. The first show's news highlights included a clip of Trent Lott screaming "Viva Estrada" at a pep rally for Miguel Estrada, a Bush nominee for appellate judge. Mr. Estrada is one of several conservative jurists whose confirmation hearings are being delayed by Senate Democrats. Viewers of "Abriendo Caminos" are led to believe that Democrats object to Mr. Estrada because he is Hispanic.

The idea to reach out to Hispanics voters in Spanish is laudable, although the heavy-handed television show could backfire among viewers who resent being treated like naïve immigrants susceptible to propaganda. Indeed, one of the aspects about American life that newcomers from Latin America find refreshing is the accessibility of uncensored news and information.

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