Jeb Bush is right about the GOP’s Hispanic problem

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Let’s face it: The Republican Party has a Hispanic problem. And much of it is self-inflicted

As Jeb Bush recently urged: “Don’t just talk about Hispanics and say immediately we must have controlled borders. Change the tone would be the first thing. Second, on immigration, I think we need to have a broader approach.”

Not all of Bush’s advice has made as much sense. But on this, he is right. We should stress the fact that welcoming immigrants is consistent with our values. America isn’t about building walls, but tearing them down. The fact that others want to come here is something Americans should note with pride.

In many ways — such as religiosity, work ethic, industriousness, and the centrality of the family unit — Hispanics should be a natural Republican constituency. The fact that they’re clearly not speaks to why Bush is right about changing the tone.

A lesson in life: If people think you don’t like them, nothing else matters. They won’t vote for you — even if that means going against their own self interest. (That is why the rural guy in Mississippi who loves social security and Medicare can’t stand limousine liberals — and it is probably why the Hispanic mom who never misses Mass pulls the lever for Democrats.)

All politics is personal. And while tone might be the most important first step, Bush is also right to advocate for broader policy approaches. There are many worthy ideas that don’t constitute amnesty or abandoning core principles, or ignoring the rule of law. For starters, conservatives should seriously consider backing common sense solutions such as Marco Rubio’s DREAM Act.

If you remain unconvinced, here’s a paragraph that perhaps constitutes the perfect encapsulation of American values. The emphasis is mine, but the man who said these words has earned the right to have the final say:

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.

Matt K. Lewis