Latino leaders in Nevada and nationwide are quietly debating whether to sever their traditional Democratic ties and form an independent grass-roots political group.
The idea, born of frustration over the party’s inaction on immigration reform and fears that as a voting bloc they’re a political afterthought, Latino leaders have discussed the idea among themselves locally and in conference calls with colleagues across the country.
The unlikely model for the movement they would like to launch is the Tea Party — not in substance, of course, but in its grass-roots organizational style. Acknowledging the source of their inspiration, Latino leaders have dubbed the proposed movement the “Tequila Party.”
These Hispanic leaders have noticed that while the Tea Party has had spotty electoral success, it has called attention to its concerns and values and put the establishment on notice.
“I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but there’s talk,” said Fernando Romero, president of the nonpartisan Hispanics in Politics, Nevada’s oldest Hispanic political group. “There’s discussion about empowerment of the Latino vote.”
Hispanics have proved to be a powerful political force in Nevada and nationally. They were instrumental in electing President Barack Obama and are credited with saving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election this month. In Nevada, Latinos accounted for 15 percent of voters in 2008 and a record 16 percent in this month’s midterm elections.
Despite, or perhaps because of, their robust turnout, many Latinos have become disillusioned with party politics. Their efforts haven’t led to the changes in policy they would like to see.
Hispanic Republicans complain that party officials court their vote but often advocate policies that marginalize the community.
For example, Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval, the state’s first Hispanic governor, reached out to Latino voters while also embracing Arizona’s controversial immigration law. GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle aired campaign ads on illegal immigration that portrayed Mexicans as menacing criminals. A spokeswoman for Angle, who is also the chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Hispanic Caucus, was put in the awkward position of denouncing her own candidate’s ads.