Rachel Campos-Duffy has written a great piece for American Spectator. She makes the case for how and why the Republican party should approach the way we try to attract Hispanics differently. Campos-Duffy is one of those acorns that fell from the Jack Kemp tree. The former star of MTV’s The Real World is and has been a star within the party for some time now. Her advice, and her story in general, are worth knowing and worth sharing.
I hate to minimize the column to three excerpts, but I think these are well worth focusing on:
Jack Kemp, it turned out, shared some of my roommates’ concerns. Long before the Hispanic vote became a favorite topic for pundits and talking heads, he profoundly understood that changing demographics created consequences for the GOP if it failed to aggressively and continually engage minorities in ideological debate.
Today, Harry Reid says he doesn’t understand how anyone Hispanic could be a Republican. Actor John Leguizamo claims that Hispanics voting for Republicans are like roaches voting for Raid.
But when Kemp was alive, he specifically and exuberantly made the case that Hispanics belonged in the GOP. He passionately argued that the work ethic and entrepreneurialism of Mexican Americans is quintessentially American—and very Republican. He understood that our parents and grandparents came north for economic freedom, not more government. He recognized that Hispanics are inherently pro-life and very traditional in their principles and values.
Jack Kemp is the reason I became interested in Empower America, and the reason I brought my roommates and the MTV cameras with me on that beautiful afternoon. Later, I received a handwritten note from “Old #15” that I still have framed in my home office. It reads: “Rachel—I’m sure glad you made it to M.T.V. They need a young (beautiful), sharp, conservative ‘bleeding heart’ Hispanic woman from Arizona.”
What Jack didn’t say in that note, but knew to be true, was that the GOP needed me too.
Which brings us to another problem: The Republican Party has a shockingly shallow pool of Hispanic surrogates. The left successfully grooms Hispanic talent at the local level, with the understanding that the fruits of the effort may not be visible in the next election. Julian Castro, the young mayor of San Antonio who gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, is an example of this.
Republicans have an extraordinary representative in Marco Rubio, who can sell American exceptionalism with the clarity of Reagan and the enthusiasm of Kemp. In New Mexico’s Susana Martinez, they have a relatable Mexican American governor who grew up around a family business.
But Martinez is being under-utilized, and Rubio cannot do it alone. The Republican Party needs to work harder to find, train, fund, and empower Hispanic conservatives who can go out, particularly during the off years, to present our principles and our values.
Engaging Hispanics in issue-by-issue conversation is the way to win over those who are already inclined to agree with so much of our party platform. A natural gateway is school choice, the civil rights issue of our day, which clearly demonstrates the stark differences between what the two parties offer minorities and those seeking upward mobility. A conservative community organization, modeled after La Raza, that helps families fight for access to good schools would earn the trust and political allegiance of parents by showing them, firsthand, who is really on the side of the poor.
We can win Hispanics over—at least enough to remain electorally competitive. But doing so is a generational task. Reagan did it with my dad. Kemp reinforced it with me. And now every one of my siblings is a proud Republican, raising more Republicans (14 grandkids in all!).
It’s high time the GOP gets its act together, stands up, and boldly reaches out to its most promising and natural constituency. We came to America for the American Dream. Convince us that you are the party preserving that dream for our children and grandchildren, and you will win our hearts and our votes. I stand ready to help.
You can find the entirety of the Campos-Duffy column here.