Jackson: Marco Rubio has potential to draw Latino votes for GOP

Let me be honest, I can picture a President Marco Rubio.

Rubio is the hotshot senator from everyone’s favorite sunshine state, Florida. His success has been a mixture of “right time and the right place,” along with his charismatic and handsome personality. He’s not a bad speaker — quiet but aggressive in demeanor — but he has one thing the GOP needs if it wants to survive: the Latino vote.

Latinos are the U.S.’s fastest growing demographic and their increasing political power is beginning to show slightly. There are more political ads in Spanish and, despite Congress still being a horrible representation of racial demographics, there are more Latino politicians in office than ever before. I believe Marco Rubio can help the GOP win the Latino vote in a sense, but the entire way the GOP is going about it has some flaws.

For one, even though Marco Rubio is Latino, his views and policies aren’t very popular with the demographic. The GOP has always had this problem of assuming that minority groups will vote for anyone who looks like them, which isn’t true — just look at Herman Cain.

The GOP also must remember that Rubio’s popularity only appeals with Cuban Americans. We can’t conflate Latinos as if they’re one group. Rubio’s often controversial story of escaping the totalitarianism of Fidel Castro’s communist regime only really identifies with Cuban Americans. While Rubio speaks Spanish and is Latino, he won’t win votes because of these traits alone.

What Rubio is good at is appealing to issues that Latino Americans deem important; his proposed bill on immigration is a key example. According to a poll by Latino Decisions, “54 percent of Latino voters said they’d be at least ‘somewhat likely’ to vote for him, if the bill becomes law and unauthorized immigrants are offered a path to citizenship.” That is a sizeable chunk that the GOP could potentially obtain, but that assumes the GOP wants those votes. The GOP frequently supports things like border control and Arizona’s laughably racist laws against Latino Americans.

One thing that hinders Rubio is that he has to fight his own party at times. For example, he was stabbed in the back by the GOP during the immigration debate of 2013, after they deemed his bill to be too lenient. Even Rubio ended up voting against his own bill, just to stay popular with many Republicans. This was unfortunate, as a plan on immigration is very popular amongst Latino Americans.

The Public Religion Research Institute reported in a November 2013 study that, “55 percent of Hispanics thought immigration should be a priority for the President and Congress, a significantly higher number than non-Latino whites (38 percent) and non-Latino blacks (39 percent).” Rubio’s popularity is tied to the decisions of the GOP — if they think border control is more important than a plan to fix our immigration system, then there isnot much he can do.

Finally, the prejudice in his party also hinders his effectiveness. The GOP has members of its party like Don Young (R-AK), who referred to Latino Americans as “wetbacks” in 2013 and then tried to justify the use of the word since that is how he has always referred to them.

The public has seen Rubio’s potential to win Latino votes for the GOP. The question is, does the GOP actually view Latino votes as important? We all saw the Mitt Romney and John McCain political ads that were in Spanish, but we also see the GOP time and time again ignore the issues that Latino Americans deem relevant. It’s going to be interesting to see the direction the party takes.


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