The Republican Party’s outreach to Latino voters was a tough sell before last week, but Rep. Don Young’s (R-Alaska) use of a racial slur made matters considerably worse. For GOP leaders, it’s imperative for the party to begin using smarter rhetoric when reaching out to minority communities, and Young’s bigoted language was a real setback.
What Republican need to realize, however, is that policy matters, too, and this is a problem that will be tougher for the GOP to fix.
The Kaiser Family Foundation recently published its latest national report on the Affordable Care Act and public attitudes, and among other findings, it highlighted a sharp difference of opinion along racial and ethnic lines. I put together this chart to note the “Obamacare” differences between whites and Latinos.
As the L.A. Times’ Noam Levey reported today, “As Republican leaders try to woo Latino voters with a new openness to legal status for the nation’s illegal immigrants, the party remains at odds with America’s fastest-growing ethnic community on another key issue: healthcare.”
There’s no great mystery here. Latino have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, and strongly believe public access to affordable care should be a basic societal guarantee.
In other words, most Latinos believe the exact opposite of most Republicans. The GOP wants to eliminate the Affordable Care Act in its entirety; Latino voters want it protected. Republicans want to gut Medicare and Medicaid; Latinos see both programs as critical.
“This is going to hurt Republicans,” Matt Barreto, cofounder of Latino Decisions, a nonpartisan national polling firm, told Levey. “When Republicans keep saying they will repeal the health law, Latinos hear the party is going to take away their healthcare.”
Since the 2012 election, we’ve heard repeatedly from Republicans that Latinos are a natural constituency for the GOP and, if the party could only use more effective language, Latino voters would gravitate to the conservative party. And yet, the evidence to the contrary is increasingly overwhelming.
Indeed, as Greg Sargent explained this morning, “A Pew poll last year [found] that 75 percent of Latinos want a ‘bigger government providing more services.’ And a Univision poll found that 55 percent of Latinos think the best way to help the economy grow is for government to ‘invest resources in federal projects to stimulate the economy,’ while only 31 percent favor lowering taxes. Yet the GOP remains ideologically tethered to the Paul Ryan fiscal blueprint, which would not only repeal Obamacare but would also deeply cut spending, dramatically rolling back the safety net and other government programs.”
The Republican National Committee could muzzle Don Young and somehow get its officials to stop using “illegal” as a noun, but so long as the party favors a policy that makes it difficult for Latino families to afford a trip to the doctor’s office, the GOP’s pitch is a tough sell.
Let’s also not overlook the electoral salience to this. Congressional Republicans have voted 39 times (and counting) to repeal “Obamacare,” and have vowed to keep this up indefinitely, effectively telling many Latinos with every vote, “We’re desperate to take away your health care benefits.”
It’s created an interesting dilemma for Republicans – on the one hand they think they can ride anti-ACA attitudes to electoral victories, while on the other hand, they’re alienating the fastest-growing segment of the electorate with this agenda.