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Hispanics And The GOP


11 December 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved. 

More Hispanics may have voted for President Bush in 2004, but the perception that the Hispanic vote has shifted is misleading.

Much has been made about the apparent swing of Hispanic voters from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Various exit polls claim that, nationally, 44 percent of Hispanic voters chose Bush over Sen. John Kerry. By comparison, 35 percent voted for Bush over then-Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

There is no unanimity, however, in this figure. Zogby International, for instance, disputes the 2004 total. The polling firm believes that the correct percentage for Hispanic support for Bush was somewhere between 33 percent and 38 percent.

But whatever the exact number, we need to get over the assumption that there is one monolithic Hispanic community with a common historical experience and political agenda. Some Hispanics have emigrated from Latin America, while others have come from the Caribbean, Europe or elsewhere.

What's more, the Bush campaign focused on battleground states such as New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Florida that have sizable Hispanic populations but are not exactly bastions of liberalism.

On this year's ballot, Arizona voters passed one of the most Draconian anti-immigrant initiatives in recent history. And Florida became a concern for the Bush team, which had relied on anti-Castro Cubans, only because of an increase in non-Cuban Hispanics in central Florida, particularly in fast-growing Orlando.

What may be a cause for concern for the Democratic Party, however, is that some polls show that in nonbattleground states, the Hispanic vote for Kerry was down 12 percent from 2000.

According to political pundits, the moral-values factor supposedly weighed heavily in the Republicans' favor since most Hispanics are Catholics. But the tilt toward the Republicans may have more to do with increasing numbers of new Hispanic arrivals who may never have gotten the dignity of a union job or benefited from federally funded programs. These are benefits traditionally received under Democratic policies.

The Republican tilt may also be explained by Hispanic small-business owners who won't come to grips with the fact that the Bush administration is all about big business.

And if nothing else, the Republican inroads reflect how well Hispanics are assimilating into America's misinformed, attack-ad political culture.

Increasing numbers of Hispanics, like the rest of mainstream America, have apparently capitulated to the Bush administration's post-9/11 fear-mongering. They have bought the claim that Bush is a worthy military commander-in-chief -- even though their sons and daughters continue to return home dead or wounded from Iraq in growing numbers.

And many Hispanics, like their Anglo-American counterparts, are not making the connection between tax cuts for the rich and increasing unemployment, decreasing real wages, lack of health insurance and a spiraling federal deficit.

The trends revealed by some exit polls do not necessarily mean that Hispanics have permanently shifted to the GOP. They mean that many Hispanics, like mainstream Americans, have been duped into voting against their own interests.


Ed Morales is a contributor to the Village Voice and Newsday in New York.

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