By Alex Gonzalez
Who will be the “Hispanic” GOP candidate? Yes, Jeb Bush will be one of them
It all started when Politico published a piece saying Jeb Bush identified himself as Hispanic on a 2009 voter registration form; and it is possible that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – who is expected to announce next week he is running for president – don’t want to be the “Hispanic candidate,” especially in the GOP primary. But what is a “Hispanic,” or what will be a Hispanic candidate. Or perhaps, is it possible that there is some non-Hispanic Republican candidates who are more suitable to be “Hispanic candidates.” The answers is yes.
We know that politicians from both parties pander to ethnic or religious groups if they are from districts where the predominant ethnic group overwhelmingly support certain policies. This is apparent in the sought after Cuban vote from Florida, as those who support the Cuban embargo, and the Puerto Ricans in New York who support Puerto Rico’s effort to gain independence. These Puerto Rican voters show their desires when they vote on it here in the US, to stay as common wealth territory to avoid paying federal taxes. So if you are non-Hispanic candidate running in Florida you have to support the embargo to get the older “pre-Marielito” Cuban vote; or if you want to be elected in New York you need to take a position on the “associated free-state” of Puerto Rico, and thus, by default you have become Hispanic candidates since your role in Congress is to represent the interests of your constituency.
So what makes you a Hispanic candidate, if you are not genetically Hispanic and you do not have an Hispanic surname? Then you must be engaged in the issues important to particular groups you seek to represent. Or in this case represent the interests important to Hispanics such education.
Marco Rubio speaks eloquently of his Cuban roots. For example, in his book An American Son, Marco Rubio invokes his story as the child of Cuban migrants, saying that without American social mobility, he would probably have grown up a “very opinionated bartender.” In addition, in 2010 in his victory speech Rubio uttered the type of words only Cubans can feel emotional about. Rubio exuded pride in his heritage when he proclaimed in his victory speech that “I will always be the son of exiles.” In his books, Rubio also states that “I am the son of exiles.” “I inherited two generations of unfulfilled dreams. This is a story that needs no embellishing.” Thus, in his political career, and idiosyncrasy, Marco Rubio is a Republican and Cuban-American Politician that embellishes his Cuban roots and finds comfort in his ethnic identity and utilizes his post as a politician to support the Cuban Embargo. As s result, Rubio’s political views match his identity as a Cuban Republican candidate. But his views as a Cuban-American do not necessarily mean he has to be a “Hispanic candidate.”
Rubio’s political identity was shaped by an older class of pre-Marielito militant Cubans who refused to compromise on terminating the antiquated Cuban Embargo that even conservative find outdated. When Rubio ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010, Rubio sought the support of the Tea Party groups more than the younger generation of Cubans who are now moving to the Democrats side because they no longer share the views of the old Cuban class of Republican voters. In fact, there has been among older Cubans and some Cuban-American Politicians to join the Tea Party group. It is possible that the purpose of the allegiance is to prevent any changes to the status quo on the Embargo.
Similarly, Ted Cruz in Texas was elected running as a Tea Party anti-establishment candidate but delicately touting his Cuban ethnic identity by selling his father’s story as a hero. However, Ted Cruz, to his credit, never made his surname part of his campaign and never claimed to be a “Hispanic candidate” and took very tough views on immigration. So we cannot expect Ted Cruz also to be the “Hispanic candidate” because he never made his Hispanic identity part of his campaign but disguised it as “my father emigrated from Cuba.” However, his political views are also similar to Rubio because Cruz also vehemently opposes any changes to Cuban Embargo or the wet-foot dry-foot program, that grants illegal Cuban immigrants a path to citizenship and other benefits if they flee Cuba and touch US soil.
Therefore, both Rubio and Cruz are natural Cuban candidates because they embellish their parent’s past, which have shaped their unwavering political views as Cuban but not as Hispanics; and they will use their vote in Congress to protect the interests of Cuban-Americans. But this Cuban cultural worshiping does not mean they want to, or need to be, Hispanic candidates because they never campaigned on it, nor do they support many of the issues important to Hispanics outside of Florida. Ted Cruz even had Cuban activists in his camp in Texas telling Hispanics not to be Hispanic while Cruz flaunted his father’s Cuban accounts as “hero.”
Conversely, there are other non-Hispanics that actually embrace becoming the “Hispanic candidate.”
President George W. Bush often comes out retirement to help Republicans sell immigration reform. And there has not been another Republican politician that has touched the hearts of Latinos and Mexican-Americans more than W. Bush. More importantly, Bush has never vacillated in using emotional wording when addressing issues important to Latinos. For example, in a speech in support for immigration reform in 2013 he told the audience that:
Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas. They fill a critical gap in our labor market. They work hard for a chance for a better life. America is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have helped build the country that we have become, and immigrants can help build a dynamic tomorrow. Not only do immigrants help build our economy, they invigorate our soul. Growing up here in Texas, like many in this room, we’ve had the honor and privilege of meeting newly-arrived. Those whom I’ve met love their families. They see education as a bright future for their children. Some willingly defend the flag.
It is unfathomable to think that Ted Cruz would speak with such compassion and passion in defense of Latino immigrants in Texas. While, W. Bush, has for years worked to bring Mexico and the US together under a legal frame-work such as free-trade alliances and magnifying the historical and cultural contributions of Mexican-Americans to Texas. And he did so unapologetically. Thus, W. Bush has spoken about Mexican-American, and other Latino groups with the same deep devotion that Marco Rubio has about Cuba and His Cuban-American roots. Additionally, President Bush developed a series of policies to promote the interests of Mexican-Americans in politics, education, and wanted to help Mexico and other Latin-American nation to achieve democracy, political, and economic reforms as the means to achieve stability. Hence, in theory and practice, W. Bush was an ideal “Hispanic candidate,” even if he was not Hispanic. As a result, every single word that W. Bush has made about Latinos has made millions of Latinos want to be Republicans and promote compassionate conservatism.
The fact that Cruz and Rubio are Cuban-Americans is the main reason why they may not want to be the “Hispanic candidates”. In 2013, the same week President W. Bush gave his speech immigration, Greta Van Susteren interviewed New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. My Though the achievements of Susana Martinez are clear, in cutting the deficit, and creating a surplus, Martinez always dodged the obvious question of what does it mean to be a Latina Republican Governor, and instead, she opted for usual political talk, or makes little reference about her Mexican-American roots. In other words, she does not have the same adoration or passion for Mexico as Marco Rubio has for Cuba and his Cuban-American roots. Consequently, and unfortunately, the lack of zeal from Gov. Martinez does not arouse the same passion that W. Bush continues to capture among Latinos and Mexican-Americans.
So what is a “Hispanic candidate” you ask? It is someone who will address the issues important to Latinos. It is someone whose political convictions emanate out of family experience, therefore, he/she develops an emotional bond with his/her community. A “Hispanic candidate” is someone who has a desire to help all Latinos equally–even if his/her last name is not Hispanic—with policies aimed at creating opportunities for the future generation of Latinos.
Thus, anybody can become part of ethnic group’s Diaspora when you embrace their Diasporatic cause or political interests. It is no secret that right-wingers like Ted Cruz and Mike Huakabee will be fighting to be most Israeli candidates by making tough remarks in support of Israel to woo Evangelicals and conservative Jewish voters, albeit neither one is Jewish. So yes, Jeb Bush can be the “Hispanic” candidate, He has all the credentials to so.
As governor of Florida, he wa a staunch supporter of free trade with the Americas, he was governor of a state where Latino have strong political cloud so he embraced them, he is married to a Mexican-American woman that engages in philanthropy and social advancement for women and Latinos, and Jeb Bush has been an apologetic supporter of all issues Hispanics such Education, Immigration and closer ties with Latin America through a series of free trade agreements and legal immigration frameworks. So in his heart, Jeb Bush might be already Hispanic, and he embraces that identity with gusto.
Therefore, Rubio and Cruz are not the “Hispanic Candidates” as much as they are Cuban Candidates, and we need to give them credit for that because they will do what they have to in Congress to protect the interests of Cuban-Americans in the U.S. While, Susana Martinez and Gov. Brian Sandoval, do not yet feel comfortable enough to embrace the “Hispanic Candidate” identity. The adoration for their culture and history is something that Rubio embraces but Martinez and Sandoval avoid. When Rubio uses the term Hispanic, he means in general sense to try to connect with other Latin Group. But when he is in Florida and he calls himself “I am the son of exiles…I inherited two generations of unfulfilled dreams, his whole persona shakes with jubilation because in his core being he is Cubano. It would be difficult to see the Rubio or Cruz exuding such passion and adoration for the unfulfilled dream of Mexican-Americans in the Southwest. Thus, if Rubio or Cruz, rightfully, can reject the idea that they have to be the “Hispanic candidate.”
On the other hand, the Republican Party has “Hispanic candidates” like Jeb Bush who share an emotional and personal connection with Mexican-Americans and unapologetically adore and embrace his Latino, or Mexican-American, identity. And they do so by supporting bills that help for the future of Latinos in the Texas and the Southwest.
So in my book, Jeb Bush is in fact the real “Hispanic GOP candidates.” I wish we had a Mexican-American who spoke so eloquently about his/her Mexican past like Rubio does about his Cuban history, enough so that it would stir the passion of Latinos, but we don’t, yet. So Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio don’t have to be the Hispanic candidates because for now, and Bush is our best non-Hispanic “Hispanic candidates.” So For now Jeb Bush might have gone to be “honorary Hispanic” only, as Jeb Bush Jr. quickly played it out on twitter, because of primary immigration politics, but we know how he feels about being Hispanic.
Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote