As I listen to the hours of audio from CPAC, I find a rift between some in the conservative movement and the way they message. The message towards Latinos is an inviting message by some, and a closed door by others. Graham Ledger comes to the podium and makes what might seem to some as a funny quip.
“I do have some breaking news for you just out of the news room, we are no longer allowed to use the term illegal alien. We now have to call them undocumented democrats” said Ledger.
This drew cheers and jeers. He had obviously offended some in the room. Then he went on to say it was time to unify all units of the conservative movement. I understand his comments my seem benign to some, but how did it sound to Hispanic ears I wonder? I think we have to question how we message Latinos and look to Texas and emulate their strategy. When we talk immigration I think its important that we highlight the plight of folks trying to enter legally and rally their cause. Re-direct the conversation away from the ‘anti’ to the ‘pro’. Messaging is everything in this business. Hispanics have our values and long for the same American dream. They are a natural fit to the republican party, let’s reach not push.
Many of CPAC’s speakers get little notice. The non ‘rock stars’ are largely ignored by the media. But when Florida Rep. Jose Felix Diaz took to the podium I listened. Jose spoke of his father’s immigration to Cuba from Spain to mine nickel. His father had all his earnings and property seized by the government there. “They literally took everything”, said Diaz. He spoke about messaging and I found myself in agreement. Was anyone listening though? I hope so. After Mr. Diaz spoke, another conservative Hispanic enters the podium. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami-Dade school board member, spoke of messaging and conservative values. These gentlemen may very well be the next Ted Cruz, who knows? But I found myself scratching my head at the timing of what the next speaker said when she entered the podium.
Michelle Bachmann spoke firmly against amnesty and warned the room not to help Obama get his prize piece of legislation. Bachmann said “build the dang fence, we don’t need to flood the labor pool with unskilled labor”. Now I agree with every bit of what she said, but I found the timing really strange. Her rant followed the two gentlemen that I mentioned above. It had me wondering what were the thoughts of Hispanics in the room. Did her hard line approach play? It played for me but I’m not Hispanic. These are tough questions, but questions that we must answer. We have to ask of our Latino friends what they think. We must ask them how we can message better. Consider this, I believe it is safe to assume many of the Latinos in the room have relatives that are undocumented, There are 20 million in this country illegally. It is my hope that we carry a pro legal immigration message rather than an anti amnesty message. If the party is going to survive we have to be ‘pro’ something, not always ‘anti’. As conservatives I think its important we reach out and make sure our message isn’t getting lost in the weeds. Now before you start sending the hate mail, I’m talking messaging here, not policy.
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