Texas Republicans sound their own death knell - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Commentary Texas Republicans sound their own death knell

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Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2010 8:07 am

HOUSTON - Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour warned delegates to the Texas Republican convention in Dallas June 13 not to let purity be the enemy of unity.

"It's a big party," he told delegates, "and we need everybody who is on our side."

"Our side?"

Texas Republicans had just approved a platform that proposed copycatting Arizona -- usurping federal authority on suspect immigrants who are "intentionally and knowingly" in the state.

If you are undocumented, the best thing to do is to have a map of Canada in your back pocket or pretend to be asleep.

The Republicans want to regulate educators and limit the amount of bilingual education to three years, while making "American English" the official language.

That raises a multitude of questions. Try "Do East and West Texas dialects qualify as American English?" Or Where is twang linguistically in all this? What are the implications for the 91 languages spoken in Houston? Does that mean the Vietnamese characters on some downtown streets have to come down?

More realistically, the Republicans' Texas platform intends to define the state's Hispanic heritage and population as foreign.

Besides being simpleminded, the measures are beneath the dignity of a major 21st century political party. Later, when Republicans choose to undo the damage, they will find it's already too late for them.

The reasons are quite simple. The purging was concluded at the March Republican primary when Texas Railroad Commissioner Víctor Carrillo, the last statewide elected Hispanic official, was turned out in favor of a little-known challenger. Carrillo wasn't reticent to point out the Republican "built-in bias" regarding his Spanish surname.

With the state political ethnic cleansing concluded, purification rites, like those of the Inquisition, are now being performed about who ought to be a Republican. And that's why its time to say bye-bye to the state party as a lasting electoral force.

Lionel Sosa has said as much: "Democrats have the right message and Republicans have the wrong message." That from the original architect of how Republicans even became a state majority in the first place.

Back in 1978, Republican Sen. John Tower won by only one-half of one percent of the vote when Texas was a majority Democratic state. For the first time, a Republican presented a coherent message to Hispanic voters. The Democratic Party was portrayed as having double-crossed Latinos and could not be trusted to uphold important bedrock values, translated into family (economic stability and education) and conservative fiscal issues. Sosa engineered the message, as he did later for Ronald Reagan, both George Bushes, and John McCain. Altogether he participated in seven presidential races with five wins and two losses.

Sosa shared with a Houston Chronicle reporter that if Texas turns Democratic, "We'll never elect a Republican president again."

The reasoning is obvious. Hispanics make up 20 percent of registered voters in Texas and 12 to 14 percent of the total voter turnout. But voter turnouts increased by 31 percent between 2000 and 2008. Today, incumbent Gov. Rick Perry is facing a formidable challenge from Democrat and former Houston Mayor Bill White.

Political analyst Richard Murray projects that a Democratic victory formula needs only the Hispanic contribution to increase to 15 percent of the total and 70 percent for White to turn the state Democratic.

The alienating Republican platform gives Democrats a boost. It serves like the fork in the road where the Republican side says, "Don't Vote Republican." They have now earned a jacket that will take generations to overcome, if ever.

That's what happened in California, where only 16 percent of Latinos have registered as Republicans since 2006, and 56 percent as Democrats and 24 percent declined an affiliation. That compares to 24 percent non-Latino voters who registered Republican, 44 percent Democrat and 26 percent independent.

As rogue Republican elements control state parties as in Texas, the tail wagging the dog will end up with the whole kit and caboodle under the bus. (Does that qualify as American English, or not?

Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at joseisla3@yahoo.com. For more stories visit scrippsnews.com

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