Now that the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is past, this might be a good time for Politisite readers to hear some of the more personal perspectives that were offered by some prominent CPAC attendees. Our third Politisite – ”Echoes of CPAC” interview will be with Alphonso Aguilar, Executive Director of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.
By Jennifer Williams
Alphonso Aguilar is the former Chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship under President George W. Bush. Before joining the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security in 2003, he served in numerous high-level government positions in the Bush Administration and the government of Puerto Rico. Mr. Aguilar has a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and a J.D. from the University of Puerto Rico. He writes a bi-monthly Op-Ed column for the daily La Opinion of Los Angeles, CA and frequently appears as a guest policy analyst in many radio and TV shows across the country.
KW: In the past, why have Conservative principles or the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement not been able to have more success in the Latino communities… which seem to be Democratic strongholds?
AA: I would argue that we’ve had success with Reagan in 1980. Actually, in 1984 as well. And with George W. Bush. We haven’t had success in the past eight years, I think because of our position on Immigration. The rhetoric has been horrible. The policies have not been constructive. I think it’s a gateway issue. I think Latinos, if you don’t get that issue right… they’ll agree with you on the other issues, but they’ll just tune you out. So, that is one of the reasons. The second reason is that we haven’t engaged Latinos. The Reagan Campaign and the Reagan Whitehouse… and the George W. Bush Campaign and White House had very proactive campaigns towards Latinos. To talk about issues and we’re not doing that anymore. That is something very basic in the community, no one is going to vote for you.
KW: And how did that come about? Because that is a similar thing with the Black Community and Urban communities in general… that the Party’s just fully disengaged and its’ not even there to make a handshake.
AA: Well, I think it is an assumption that because they’re fed this misinformation that Latinos are “big government Liberals.” So, they’re saying why am I going to bother to go after the Latino vote if they’re going to vote for a Democratic candidate? And that’s a whole thing. We can win over Latinos. And we’ve done it. Recently. It is just a matter of realizing that there is a number of issues where they just totally agree with us. So, I think that is the main reason. We’ve listened to folks who I think are anti-Immigrant and who are feeding these lies that Latinos cannot vote for Republican candidates and will not support the Conservative Movement.
I’ll give you an example… Proposition 8. We’ve been discussing that this month, we are going to hear the oral arguments at the Supreme Court at the end of this month. Fifty-three percent of Latino voters in California voted for Prop 8 compared to 48% of the rest of the population of California. And those are the more Liberal Latinos in the country! If we want to advance the cause of Marriage, if we want to advance the cause of life… at the March For Life every January, you’re going to see a lot of Latinos and a lot of undocumented Latinos marching for Life and the Dignity of the Human Person. I think that it is not about moving to the center… It’s not about being weak or mainstream. It is about being strong Conservatives. But again, I think for the past six years, we’ve been listening to the naysayers who just want to give this impression that they can never win over Latinos. That we should have or restrictionist position. And I would argue that being restrictionist goes against the very principles of Reagan Conservatism.
KW: Is there a “Silent Majority” of Latino Voters who would be fully amenable to the Republican Party if overtures were really made and advertising and real uses of Media were made. Because that seems to be really difficult (with the Republican Party).AA: Absolutely. I agree that
we have to engage Latinos and again, it’s not just having Marco Rubio or Raul Labrador talking to Jorge Ramos at Univision. I’d like to see Mitch McConnell… I’d like to see Jim DeMint on Univision. But again, they just give up and say “Why am I going to do Univision?” Well, I think they should aggressively do it to show that we have an appeal that appeals.
It seems to me that there’s been a
defeatist mentality of “well, we’re not going to win them over.” Well, the reality is that the Country is changing demographically. It’s not about changing principles whatsoever. It’s about modernizing the way we communicate and it can be done.
KW: Do you have some quick suggestions for that? Are there some ways that they could modernize?
AA: I think there has to be a continuous outreach effort to go into communities. I think we also have to go beyond the Hispanic Business elites who are always going to vote Republican. We have to go to the community, use the Evangelical Churches and the Orthodox Catholics in different parts of the Country. Organize townhalls. Not only do it during election years, but throughout a term to talk about our issues. Not only talk to Hispanics on Immigration, but talk to them about the Sequester. Talk to them about National Security, talk to them about Life and Marriage. That’s how you create a presence. Engage Hispanic Media. Every week, talk about the issues.
KW: Is there a fear of Latino Republicans?
AA: I think there is. I think there is a fear of… that opening the Conservative Movement or the Party to Latinos [means] that we are giving up on our principles. Look, we’re for a free-market, we’re for Marriage, we’re for National Security. I’m a Latino who thinks we should have sound monetary policy. Go back to the Gold Standard. That’s Conservative, I think. I’m for Immigration, but based on Conservative principles. I don’t believe that we should move to the center. I think if we’re for the free-market, if we’re for the Family, we should be for Immigration Reform.