Commentary: How the GOP can win over Latinos

Latinos, who needs them?

If you're the Republican Party in California, you do. But there is a big difference among needing, tolerating and identifying with.

At the moment, California is a one-party state, big "D" Democrat. The Republican Party is the Yorkshire terrier of California politics. It's there and occasionally barks, but is easily ignored.

The Republican Party's solution to irrelevance seems to be pinned on the mythical voting bloc that is Latinos. To keep it simple, let's assume Latinos are a singular group of people, and leave aside the vast geographical diversity of this group and the fact that it is made up of new arrivals and fourth-generation Americans, many of whom love Mexican food but don't speak a word of Spanish.

Here is the truth, as much as there is any truth. The Republican Party wants all Latinos. It needs all voting Latinos (see recent statewide election results). This is supposed to be the party of the big tent, after all.

But the reality is the Republican Party will never get all Latinos, and this is OK. In fact, it's a good thing. The Republican Party holds itself out as the party of principle, the party that believes an individual can make better decisions than the government about his or her life. By focusing on what the Republican Party stands for, as opposed to what it's against, the party may begin to appeal to and identify with Latinos and other Californians. Latinos, like all people, are attracted to optimists.

The current approach of pandering, placating and attempting to appeal to all Latinos is doomed to fail. There is no secret sauce. There is no one person or group that speaks for Latinos.

Latinos, like all people, want to earn a little money, raise a family and play their small role in this great American experiment. The Republican Party should be bold and return to its message of the individual and self-empowerment. This message is appealing and is not directed toward any particular race, gender or socioeconomic group.

This is the message advocated by some of the Republican Party's biggest stars, such as presidents Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan. This is the message that resonates with current Republican Party members, as well as Latinos.

The Republican Party should abandon its current recruiting efforts that are focused on skin color and surnames. This type of misguided marketing will inevitably lead to a fumbled message and party "leaders" saying something stupid that is interpreted as racist.

This type of marketing leads to the impression that the Republican Party is tolerating Latinos, which under these circumstances it is, rather than identifying with them as individuals. Forced tolerance is transparent and not appreciated.

Latinos are a hard-working people. They own small and large businesses. They are family people. They are your neighbors and co-workers. By focusing on message, the party will identify with Latinos and voters as a whole.

Latinos who choose to join the Republican Party based upon message will be loyal supporters of the party, and they will strengthen it. If the Republican Party recruits enough Latinos, the party will cease to be irrelevant and may once again look to California's future with increasing optimism.

A return to message over racial politics may even cause some of those big "D" Democrats to rethink taking the Latino vote for granted.

MICHAEL TORRES, a Republican, lives in Newport Beach, where he is assistant city attorney. His piece reflects his personal viewpoints, not those of the city.

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