All of a sudden every Republican is an immigrant or descendant of immigrants. Paul Ryan has been invoking his Irish roots on the stump. Susana Martinez, that girl from a border town, spoke with the hometown nostalgia that is common in political discussions.
Yet sometimes this can create some uncomfortable contradictions — like Mitt Romney’s appeal to his Mexican roots.
But if you are looking for a good sign, as a Republican, that the party is succeeding in changing the image of the party, one clue can be how the media portrays it.
For instance, Condoleeza Rice was given full exposure by the media. Maybe because she is pretty. Maybe because she has a great story. Maybe because she is an authority figure.
But maybe also because she is a shining contradiction. A black lady, giving her Republican sermon to the white masses. It’s a beautiful dichotomy with great imagery and the fact that few blacks will vote for Romney only adds to the rich irony.
But if the media likes these contradictions, why didn’t Governor Susana Martinez get the type of exposure from the media that Rice did? Is it because prominent Republicans, like Donald Trump, are good with “the blacks”. but not the Hispanics?
Maybe her story isn’t as compelling. Maybe, as a governor of a small state, she won’t resonate with a larger audience.
But maybe it’s because a Latina Republican isn’t such a contradiction in terms. Maybe the concept has life, and it is embodied by Martinez, that the GOP will recruit a Latina if they are willing to buy into the GOP vision of America.
For a group, like Hispanics, who have more flexibility in their identity, this is a possibility. A Marco Rubio has options. Ted Cruz, can stand in a room of tea partiers and not be a contradiction that lays bare the sociopathic issues of some of its Party’s members. This isn’t necessarily bad news for Latinos, but it’s certainly bad news for Democrats.
Martinez doesn’t evoke the same sense of triumphalism on the part of the Democrats because the GOP has been more successful at promoting Latinos up the ladder, and these ambassadors can be used to gain more Latino voters. But its potential is also its greatest threat. Its commonness, makes her boring. And if you are in California, or a Democrat in general, you don’t want to start encouraging the idea that this can happen.
There are two types of people who won’t like this story, Democrats and GOP racists.
When some moron throws peanuts at a black CNN worker, that’s a story. Chanting“USA, USA!” while a Puerto Rican lady is trying to speak. That’s a story. A Latina Republican giving a stump speech. Apparently, that’s not a story. The other stories reaffirm the ugliness of the GOP, while Martinez’ story is inconsistent with it. Is this to say that the ugliness is not real? Of course not. But can it change. You bet.
If you are trying to look for a sign from the heavens, that perhaps some day the Republicans will put away the daggers and welcome more Latinos into the party, perhaps this is a clue not of its current reality, but maybe of its very real potential.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.