Lisa Falkenberg discovers discontent and denial within the GOP.
At a Mexican restaurant in the East End, Reggie Gonzales explains all the ways in which the Republican Party irks him these days: the "holier than thou" attitudes of some leaders, the second-class status he says it assigns to Hispanic members, and most of all, the harsh, xenophobic rhetoric frothing from the mouths of some party members discussing immigration.
It's the kind of talk you might expect from Democratic spin doctors or liberal columnists, but Gonzales is neither of those.
He is state chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.
"People around here, they ask me all the time, 'You're an American of Mexican descent. Why do you deal with them fools?' " he says. Lately, he's really beginning to wonder.
Hispanic disillusionment with the Republican Party appears to be growing, even in the trenches.
Polls suggest Hispanic support George W. Bush built in the past decade has eroded in recent years. Indeed, Karl Rove's parting words Monday as he announced his White House departure advised Republicans not to alienate Hispanic voters.
"All the building blocks have tumbled now," said Neftali Partida, a political consultant who has worked for Republican and Democratic candidates. "Everything they built in the last eight years has basically gone down the drain with immigration."
GOP leaders failed to understand that many Latinos, although a diverse group, remain connected to culture and community, Partida said.
"They were throwing bombs, rhetoric bombs," Partida said.
Not so, says Texas Republican Party Chairman Tina Benkiser, who is proud of the party's record of reaching out to "non-traditional" voters.
She points out the party's gains in the Valley and the unprecedented number of Hispanics appointed to commissions and boards by Bush and Gov. Rick Perry.
"If you believe like we do, you're welcome, you're wanted, you're needed in this party," Benkiser said.
She called Gonzales' comments about the party's flailing support for Hispanic candidates and dismay over immigration rhetoric "ridiculous."
Obviously, this is all fine by me. No better teacher than hard, bitter experience, right? Let 'em have a little (or a lot) of that before they figure out they need to change. Marc Campos has more.Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 15, 2007 to Show Business for Ugly People