In a recent post, I advised the Republican Party to tread lightly when challenging the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. As we know, the initial reaction of many conservatives had less to do with her judicial philosophy (which is a legitimate topic for debate) and more to do with her reputation as a fiery Latina.
Well, many conservatives heeded my advice (you’re welcome!). But to my surprise, a few continue to attack the woman for her unapologetic acknowledgement that she’s Hispanic. It seems as if several Republicans have their Latino-bashing setting on autopilot and can’t shut it off.
For example, Daily Kos points out that Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, brought up Sotomayor’s association with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Sessions claimed that the organization does not share an “American approach to matters” and has “taken some very shocking positions with respect to terrorism.”
I’m no expert on the PRLDEF. However, the organization apparently devotes its energy to voting and employment rights, education, housing, and other social issues that have a disproportionate impact on Latinos. I doubt that they’re chockablock with terrorists or have turned Sotomayor into a dynamite-wielding nut in judicial robes. Call it a wild guess.
And someone needs to inform Sessions that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and, as such, indeed share that fabled American approach to matters.
One would think that a political party on the ropes would recognize that it desperately needs to avoid alienating the fastest-growing demographic of voters (i.e., Latinos). Furthermore, one would assume that Republicans would look at their abysmal favorability rating among Hispanics – down to single digits, according to some polls – and say, “Let’s try not to look like xenophobes for once.”
But let’s be fair. Not all Republicans are tripping over themselves to proclaim hostility toward Hispanics. For example, this week, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina held a press conference to announce that he was positively bonkers over a Latina. Unfortunately for him, it turned out that the woman was not his wife, turning him into, as Jon Stewart pointed out, “just another politician with a conservative mind and a liberal penis.”
But should we let Sanford off the hook? After all, he may very well have been the powerless victim of the unstoppable, unquenchable Latin Lover. As I’ve written before, this archetype can take the form of an exotic beauty who beguiles the morally upright white male, who then comes to his senses and returns to his proper role as upstanding member of the nuclear family and majority culture.
At least that’s what Sanford is trying to do. In actuality, he just comes across as a guy so desperate for sex that he’s willing to skip work, ditch his family, and fly to another continent for it.
I sense that’s not the way for Republicans to win over Hispanics.