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Monday, February 26, 2024

A conservative Latino group urges parties to reject extreme politics. Is that possible?

Conservative Latinos at The LIBRE Initiative, a Hispanic center-right organization, are urging Democrats and Republicans to stay clear of the progressive and hard-right factions of their respective political parties in order to gain ground with Latino voters in battleground states.

“We just want to bring attention for each party not to go to the extremes, one to become too populous to the right and the other one to become too extreme with this sort of progressive agenda and big growth of government,” LIBRE President Daniel Garza said about the memorandum, first obtained by NBC News, outlining what the group consider to be challenges and opportunities for Democrats and Republicans looking to engage Latino voters in states that could help decide the presidential election, such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.

The memorandum mainly calls on Democrats to “pivot to the center, especially on issues related to immigration and the economy,” which are among the top 10 issues Latinos care about, according to it.

When it comes to immigration, LIBRE believes “Republicans should work with Democrats in crafting a legislative fix that not only enhances border security but also streamlines and improves legal immigration into the U.S.,” the memo reads.

But after Republicans rejected a bipartisan Senate group’s stringent border bill, which included measures the GOP had been asking for, Latino Republican political consultant Mike Madrid pointed out on X on Monday, “Republicans don’t want to fix the border situation. ITS ALL THEY HAVE.”

LIBRE, a Koch network organization, has historically touted more free-market policies. The network built by the Republican megadonor Koch family has previously clashed with Donald Trump and has also poured money into opposing President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party’s agenda.

The organization argues that Democrats are falling short in connecting on economic issues with Latino voters who have been hit hard by inflation, high cost of living and stagnant wages, which have subsequently fueled voter frustration.

The group also said that Republicans need to do a better job at selling “pro-growth economic policies” to the American electorate, and by extension Latinos, “instead of focusing on the theatrics, including spending political capital going after political enemies,” according to the memo. It also calls for “taking risks and challenging members of their political party.”

The memo suggests that issues of “crime, divisive social policies, and reflexive and intractable opposition to educational freedom” have made some Latino voters skeptical of Democrats on the progressive side of the party who support clean energy investments, relaxing restrictions on abortion and policies addressing transgender issues, according to Garza.

However, the memo doesn’t challenge or detail the impact that ultraconservative Republicans on the right-wing side of the party — with a focus on more divisive issues such as near-total abortion bans and anti-LGBTQ policies — may have on Latino voter engagement.

It also doesn’t challenge or condemn Trump — the presumed Republican presidential nominee — on his divisive language, including that immigrants and migrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country or his language attacking individual judges and prosecutors.

Geraldo Cadava, a history professor at Northwestern University and author of the book “The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump,” said he doubts this could be a winning strategy for any party.

“We’ve seen how hard it is to pierce through just all of the nastiness,” he said. “Is it a reasonable move to try to appeal to all Latinos based on a relatively conservative economic message?”

“Latinos always say that the economy is the thing they care about the most and that means jobs and the ability to take care of their families … I don’t know, maybe it’s the best play he has,” Cadava said of the LIBRE leadership.

According to LIBRE’s memo, Latino voters can be crucial in deciding races won by razor-thin margins in counties across Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Wisconsin.

The influence of Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, helped Republicans flip the traditionally Democratic county in the 2022 midterm election. Miami-Dade is home to 1.5 million Latinos of voting age.

Since then, many Miami Republican candidates have strategically aligned with Trump and embraced his policies and some of his extreme rhetoric to win in Florida. The inroads Republicans made with the state’s Latino electorate helped Florida transition out of its previous swing-state status and become a Republican stronghold.

Armando Ibarra, chairman of the Miami Young Republicans, a group which recently endorsed Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, told NBC News that most Latinos in the county “see the Republican Party as the one that’s trying to stop these excesses” coming from progressives.

“Most Hispanics and Latinos feel like the bulk of efforts to change society in ways disagree with are coming from the left,” he said, adding that this organization has contributed to the Republican shift in South Florida by focusing on electing more than 30 young Republicans into office in the region and engaging close to 50,000 of them year-round with calls to action and events, not just for elections.

“We find that Hispanic and Latino voters are really receptive to the leadership of the next generation, particularly in a fast-growing city like this,” Ibarra added.

When Garza was asked about how to best convince Republicans who have embraced Trump and some of the extreme rhetoric LIBRE is advising against, he said, “all we can do is try to invite people to the middle to dialogue.”

Cadava said that part of the reason why some may also be dubious of this strategy has to do with just how we’ve become “so cynical and jaded.”

“We’ve come to expect the worst from politics and be a little bit surprised when anything good happens,” he said.

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