How Right-Wing Media May Have Already Scared The GOP Away From 2016 Latino Outreach Efforts

Washington Post Report: Only One GOP Candidate Out Of 13 Showed Up To Event For Latino Leaders

Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

Only one Republican presidential candidate reportedly made an appearance at the 32nd annual National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) convention, despite Republican National Committee and several GOP presidential hopefuls committing to reach out to Hispanic Americans. The snub comes after years of right-wing media's demonizing Hispanics and urging the GOP to take extreme positions on immigration.

The Washington Post reported on June 17 that of the more than one dozen announced and likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates, "only one -- retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson -- showed" up to the convention of elected federal, state, and local Latino leaders.

According the Post, many of the campaigns blamed "scheduling conflicts" for their absence, while "at least 13 GOP candidates plan to be in Washington this week to address the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to the Majority' conference, the latest in a busy series of presidential cattle-call events for social conservatives." The article continued:

"All I can say is that schedules reflect priorities," said Arturo Vargas, NALEO's executive director. "Of course they should be here."

Made up of federal, state and local elected officials, including mayors, law enforcement officers and school board members, NALEO is nonpartisan, although many of its members are Democrats. Prominent Republicans have addressed the conference in past years, including Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and the last two GOP presidential nominees, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

GOP leaders have urged the need to engage the Latino community for years, arguing that Latinos will be key to winning the presidency in 2016. After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election to President Obama, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told The New Yorker that "if Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community ... in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority party in our state." Cruz also asserted that "the Republican Party would cease to exist" if it did not do more to reach out to Hispanics.

In 2013, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus stressed that the party must reach out to minority voters. And in March of this year, presidential candidate Jeb Bush told a gathering of Tennessee Republicans that "the next Republican president that will win will reach out to the Latino community."

Similarly, in April, GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio told NPR that reaching out to "people from minority communities," like Latinos, is imperative for the Republican party because "if you think someone doesn't care or understand people like you, no matter what your policies are, it's going to be difficult to get them to listen to you, much less vote for you."

And in May, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), another Republican presidential candidate, appeared on Fox to push the importance of minority outreach, saying that he is "willing to show up" for minority communities.

Despite the rhetoric, GOP candidates may fear the ire of right-wing media, which has repeatedly demonized Hispanics and urged the GOP not to moderate their positions on immigration.

Fox News contributor and radio host Laura Ingraham has repeatedly attacked Republicans for supporting immigration reform by threatening to blame them for terrorist attacks and suggesting such support could be "the end of the road" for their political careers. Rush Limbaugh explicitly urged the GOP to ignore the Hispanic vote while mocking candidates who do reach out to the Latino community. Limbaugh's idea of connecting with Latino voters includes playing "Feliz Navidad" on the radio, while Fox host Andrea Tantaros mocked Hillary Clinton's dinner at Chipotle as her attempts as "Hispanic outreach."

In 2013, The Week's Joe Gandelman outlined right-wing media's deep influence on the GOP, explaining that "[t]o truly rebrand, the GOP must extricate itself from a talk radio political culture that glorifies and rewards confrontation, brinksmanship, snarkiness, over-the-top verbal demonization and division -- and considers consensus oh, so 20th century, and compromise as something akin to treason." Gandelman continued:

The goals of the conservative media and conservative politicians don't always mesh. And herein lies the GOP's problem.

[...]

Limbaugh rapidly became less funny and more partisan. He impacted elections and created the model for partisan talk radio. When Fox News debuted in 1996, it grafted talk radio onto news. Talk radio is today as important in keeping the 21st century's divisive incarnation of conservatism intact as Republicans redistricting in many states is in ensuring a Republican House and convincing House GOPers to reject compromise if they want to avoid right-wing primary challenges.

[...]

So what can we expect? Some slight tempering of official rhetoric, maybe. But nothing more.

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