This last election cycle gave us several “firsts” for Latinos in politics. Susana Martinez became the first Latina governor of a U.S. state. Brian Sandoval became the first Latino governor of Nevada and Idaho elected its first Latino to congress with Raul Labrador. Marco Rubio won a senate seat once occupied by Sen. Mel Martinez, which isn’t a first—but being only one of eight Latino Republicans elected to congress is.
As a matter of fact, the overriding impression left by this election was that Latinos are emerging as the face of the GOP. How is this possible? Though Latinos voting trends show us overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats, our vote emerged as a crucial and unpredictable wild card throughout the 2010 election.
While Republicans may not be playing to the Latino vote with their stringent anti-immigration policies, they have given us more Hispanic faces to vote for. It illuminates the GOP’s relatively cynical policy of going after the Latino vote: Electing Hispanics to run on their ticket. Perhaps many Latinos voted on name rather than policy throughout this past election. Whatever the reason, the fact remains the same, many Latino political firsts have been won by the Republican Party, both during this election and throughout history.
There were instances in which the Republicans clearly disrespected the growing Latino voting block and lost badly. Just look at Sharron Angle’s hotly contested, but ultimately losing, senate bid in Nevada and Meg Whitman’s failed campaign for the California governorship to see what demonizing Latinos will get you. But overall, the Republican strategy did seem to work.
As the Republicans aim to shed their image as the Grand Old White Man Party, they will continue to support and advocate any person of color willing to run on their ticket. But the question remains, will their policies still reflect the anti-Latino, anti-immigrant stance they have adopted as their default?