Engagement is Critical for Conservatives!

March 21, 2012

Let me ask you a question if you were a business owner and were told you could lose up to 12 million customers this year what would you do? Or you had the chance to engage 12 million customers what would you do? You’ll see why I’m asking as you continue to read this article.

When I think of the Republican Parties ‘outreach’ efforts towards Hispanic communities’ one quote always comes to mind “short cuts usually lead to detours, which lead to dead ends”. Republican efforts to engage Hispanic communities are largely indirect as in commercial ads and mailers.  For example, I saw a mailer with an elephant wearing a sombrero, absolutely true! I even see a current Republican club using such an image as their logo on social media. That says enough, but then we have the semi-direct efforts here and there in the form of throwing a Cinco de Mayo fiesta with signs around that say “Republicans [heart] Hispanics”. Umm . . . yeah, sad.

In short, the majority of efforts is indirect, inconsistent and lack substance. And, true relationships aren’t established in such a manner. In a poll published by Latino Decision on January 25, 2012, 500 registered Hispanic voters  were asked a simple question – Which Party is doing a better job reaching out to Hispanics? 39% said Democrats were doing a good job compared to 17% saying Republicans were doing a good job.  Similarly, in a survey Texas Puentes conducted last summer 39% of Latinos said the Democratic Party was either being negative towards Hispanics or did not care, while 67% said this of the GOP. The numbers are staying consistent, I wonder why?

People often ask me why I am always speaking out about the lack of engagement instead of just being happy we are doing ‘a little’. I speak up because I care and I don’t want to see conservatives miss opportunities in engaging all communities.  “A little” effort isn‘t going to help since demographics have shifted here in Texas (also nationally).  We have NO time to waste. I want to ensure we do reach out to all and have a consistent presence. You’re always tough on those we care about and I care about the conservative movement!  This is exactly why I don’t give out free passes to anyone especially when it comes to engaging communities. Can you imagine if I just said ‘sure’ and ‘great’ to everything knowing things weren’t right. Do you let your friends get away with something that you know may harm them or carry adverse reactions in the future and stay silent? I’ve been saying it for over 10 years now, as have many others, and will continue to speak out. ‘NSE’ – Never Stop Engaging! Engagement initiatives shouldn’t end just because an election does. Unless we see the real picture, not the fluff and the ‘things are ok’ rhetoric we will not be successful. If we maintain this ‘go with the flow’ mentality how are we helping?

Many of my fellow conservatives are making the mistake of underestimating Liberals and President Obama when it comes to Hispanic communities….wake up! President Obama is still favored over ALL Republican presidential candidates by Hispanic communities. You can complain about it, make snide remarks but the fact still stands….so what do we plan to do about it? A survey published last week by Fox News Latino showed the following:

Hispanic voter support: individually

Romney 35%
Paul 13%
Gingrich 12%
Santorum 9%


This is isn’t the worst of it, “in head-to-head match-ups none of the GOP candidates would garner more than 14 percent of the Latino vote come November”. Reality check should kick in now, any presidential candidate needs 30+% support from the Hispanic voting bloc to win the White House.  In addition, Obama has had several Latino Summits in the last 12 months. He has grassroots initiatives geared towards Hispanic engagement in 12 key states. He has named key Hispanic community leaders and celebrities to education, immigration and other committees. Hispanic celebrities were very influential with young Hispanic voters in ‘08 and that helped Obama’s White House bid tremendously. Estimates here in my state of Texas are that Obama’s campaign will spend $20 million on Hispanic inclusion efforts. $20 million in one state…. Liberals want Hispanic communities votes and will ‘NSE‘.  This isn’t about ‘racial politics’, I’m not saying Hispanics should only vote for other Hispanics….that would be racial politics. I am saying reach out and engage, and share information. That’s a good thing not a bad one.

I think many have forgotten that politicians aren’t entitled to votes, votes are earned and engaging all communities via direct efforts is vital. You can’t place sole blame on communities when conservatives aren’t engaging all and discussing issues. It’s a lost cause to do so as you still have to reach out to communities so why place the blame on them. Some see reaching out as ‘pandering’ and that is unacceptable. It’s not ‘pandering’ when you are educating on issues and sharing your principles and stances. Liberals are engaging Hispanic communities and will continue to do so. If conservatives aren’t engaging then they shouldn’t wonder why Hispanics don’t respond to them at the polls. Army Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez is absolutely correct and says it the best, “if you want a conservative appeal to Hispanics you must start by affirming their intrinsic value to America.”

Melissa Salas Blair is President of Puentes Research and Communications, Inc and Founder of Texas Puentes Action, a grassroots organization. She is a proud mom, Navy veteran, business owner and former teacher. She has earned Master degrees in Hispanic Studies and Public Administration from Auburn University and a Bachelor in Business Administration in Marketing from Stephen F. Austin State University. She is bilingual and fluent in Spanish.

Sources of information for this article came from the following:









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