Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | June 17, 2002

Latino voters and the GOP

References to this poll have made the rounds in DC. In essence, the poll shows growing support for Bush amongst registered Latino voters. Republicans have seized on the fact that if the 2000 election were held today, Bush would draw 44 percent of the Latino vote (which is 9 points more than the 35 percent he drew in 2000).

However, the poll doesn't really indicate a mass migration of Latino support to the GOP, and recent events (such as the CIA-backed coup attempt in Venezuela) may already render some of the poll results invalid.

In short, I draw attention to the following questions:

Who is better at improving relations with Latin America, Bush or congressional Democrats?
Bush 53%
Democrats 30%
This question is a non-sequitor. Congress does not make foreign policy. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the Constitution would have to answer 'Bush', whether s/he agreed with the president or not.

Yet despite the silly question, Bush is barely above 50 percent. A great deal of that 50 percent most likely comes from Mexican-Americans who witness Bush's infatuation with their country, and the Cuban Americans who approve of Bush's irrationally hard line against Castro.

Given the dominant position of those two groups in the US, I would argue that Bush's numbers should've been in the 70's, alongside Bush's approval rating in this poll. Why are they lower?

In large part, there is some concern in the Latino community that Bush's Latin American interests do not extend past Mexico or Cuba. And when he does look further south, it's not for benevolent reasons. Bush took a huge hit over his unsuccessful coup attempt in Venezuela. A large percentage of the US Latino population (including yours truly) have had first-hand experience of US meddling in Latin America, from coups throughout the hemisphere to the support of murderous regimes and rebel groups. Bush's Venezuela action shook many of us deeply, and that anger made its rounds throughout the US Spanish-language media.

If the congressional election in your district were held today, would you vote to elect the Democrat or the Republican?
Democrat 53%
Republican 23%
Despite Bush's popularity among Latinos, Congressional Republicans are polling at less than a quarter. That indicates that Bush has zero coattails. Latino support for Bush is Latino support for the human being called Bush. Not his party, not his agenda.

And, the GOP continues to put forth an ugly front against Latinos, as witnessed by the Texas GOP state convention last week. (This is particularly significant because Texas Latinos are more inclined to support Bush than any other non-Cuban Latino constituency in the US.)

Finally, the poll suffers from one last major flaw -- it doesn't address the effect of the economy. As the economic recovery fizzles, Latinos (and other minorities) are disproportionately affected, and economic distress breeds increased anti-immigrant sentiments. And, just as anti-immigrant initiatives killed the California GOP, it may well do the same in Texas, the Southwest, and the industrialized Midwest. Bush has little sway among his party's anti-immigrant wing.

So, should the Democrats dismiss this poll altogether? Obviously not. The Democrats cannot continue to presume Latino support. If nothing else, Bush's popularity may depress Latino voter turnout. Nothing motivates people to the polls more than fear, and Bush is effectively putting a happy face on the GOP within the Latino community.

Posted June 17, 2002 11:48 AM | Comments (1)


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