The Latino challenge

The Republican Convention made apparent the complexity of the community's diversity

One of the lasting impressions of the recent Republican Convention was the very visible role played by a number of senior-level Latino politicians. Clearly, the presence of a new generation of Hispanic Republicans who reflect the diversity of opinions within our community challenges long-held stereotypes.

There were not many Latinos on stage, and far fewer among the delegates themselves, but those at the podium held sufficiently high positions that they warranted key convention spots. For example, Senator Marco Rubio introduced the presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez did the same for the vice-presidential running mate, Paul Ryan.

As might be expected, Democrats considered this little more than window-dressing that doesn’t reflect the reality between the GOP and Latinos. While this is correct it doesn’t negate the fact that there are two Latino governors -Brian Sandoval in Nevada and New Mexico’s Martinez, the first Hispanic woman to ever hold this position-– and in the Senate, there will also be two Latinos with the expected victory of Ted Cruz in Texas and, of course, Florida’s Rubio.

The noteworthy thing about these Latinos is that they garnered support outside of the Hispanic community in order to win their elections. They can’t be accused of simply being tokens used to attract Latinos because they actually needed much more than that to make it to the Senate or the governor’s seat.

It is precisely the political orientation shared by Rubio, Martinez and Cruz that won all three of them the support of the Tea Party.

This is what makes it so doubtful that they will actually draw large numbers of Latinos to the Republican Party. Martinez’s passion for the right to bear arms, Rubio’s fierce belief in American exceptionalism, and Cruz’s anti-government convictions are so far afield from the interests of the average Latino.

It was the Tea Party’s politics that lifted Rubio, Martinez and Cruz to where they are today. But it is the extremist ideology, reflected in the party’s platform, which continues to be the biggest obstacle in the efforts to attract the majority of Latinos.

Many conclusions can be drawn from this but what is irrefutable is that the diversity within the Latino community will continue to be a challenge for political parties.