Winning California’s Latino Vote
by David Leal
We have all heard that Latinos turned California blue. According to the familiar story, Governor Pete Wilson and California Republicans played nativist politics in the 1990s by supporting Proposition 187 and other Latino-bashing ballot initiatives. The strategy was a short-term success but a long-term disaster. While Republicans made gains in the 1994 elections, the hunter became the hunted: Latinos mobilized in reaction, overwhelmingly supported the Democratic Party, and realigned California politics. As Latino and immigrant populations continue to grow, Republicans fall further behind every year.
If this story is true, then the California GOP has no realistic path to power. At best, it must hope for a quirky set of circumstances that bring an occasional Arnold Schwarzenegger to the governor’s mansion. If the story is more complicated, as this essay argues, then a political way forward exists despite the irreversible demographic transformation of the state. In short, the state GOP can attract new voters and rebuild a conservative coalition by reinventing itself in the image of Reagan, the two-term governor and immigrant-friendly optimist who championed the opportunity society.
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