Latino Republican Voters In Texas
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
As GOP candidates dance around or embrace the president's message ahead of the midterms, we are now going to look at a community that is directly affected by his rhetoric on immigration, specifically his new promise to get rid of birthright citizenship. Latinos are a key demographic in many states this election. And one of them is Texas, where some data shows that Latino turnout has more than doubled in early voting this time since the 2014 midterm. Artemio Muniz is the chairman of the Federation of Hispanic Republicans in Texas. And I asked him how he thought things were going for the GOP.
ARTEMIO MUNIZ: Well, I think in Texas, the chances to hold power are good. But the people I talk to, especially fellow Republicans who are of Hispanic heritage - we're very concerned about the future prospects of the Republican Party.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you expand a little bit on that? What exactly is of concern? What are voters telling you?
MUNIZ: Well, right now I think that the biggest story, of course, is the birthright citizenship. I mean, I call myself an anchor baby. I was born to illegal immigrant parents here. And I'm proud of being a U.S. citizen. I value it. And I don't like when people threaten my citizenship in any manner.
And I'm a hardcore Republican operative. I'm a donor. I've done everything I can for the Republican Party. And I'm totally upset about this. And I can imagine the independent voter. I can imagine a Blue Dog Democrat Hispanic voter, who we could win in the long run, being upset, as well. So - and this is just one of many things that have happened here in the past few months that I think is beginning to chip away at the established relationship between Hispanic Republicans in Texas and the Republican Party.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. Pew just released a study saying two-thirds - or 67 percent - of Latinos in the U.S. say Trump's policies have been harmful to Hispanics. A majority - or 54 percent - of Latinos say that it has become more difficult in recent years to be Hispanic in the United States. And nearly 4 in 10 Latinos say that they've experienced some sort of offensive incident during the Trump administration. So you're seeing that on the ground. People are telling you that they are feeling targeted.
MUNIZ: Absolutely. And on the ground, in the community - I'm from Houston - you're going to hear from a lot of the professional Hispanic class, the Republican Party, who carry the water, that everything is OK, that it's jobs in the economy.
Look. That's a recipe for failure into the future. And we've got to wake up. All we got to do is look to the West Coast - to California - as to what happened. A former Republican state where the great Ronald Reagan came from. And then when Proposition 187 came out, there was a total collapse of the relationship between the Hispanic community and the Republican Party.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that was a proposition that was aimed at taking away some of the rights and access of undocumented immigrants to social services.
MUNIZ: It was. And the way it was perceived by the Hispanic community - that it was a policy targeting the growing demographic.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Artemio, you sound like you're upset. And you're hearing from people that they're upset about the rhetoric about some of the policies enacted by the Republican Party. So I'm asking, what is your pitch, then, when you go out and talk to the community and say, vote Republican - you know, we've got your back?
MUNIZ: Well, what I've done here in the last few years is I pick and choose the candidates that espouse what I believe in, that are still Reagan conservatives, that are still compassionate conservatives.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There are fewer and fewer of them in the Republican Party, though, now.
MUNIZ: There are. But they're out there. And the thing is they've exited the grassroots and the party mechanism. But they're out there. And as soon as they see a movement back towards that type of branding and messaging, I think they'll come out of the woodworks to once again, you know, revitalize the party.
And, you know, with the words that I'm having with friends, I think it could happen. I think after this election, if you see some - if you see Houston and Dallas further go blue, I think you're going to see a lot of people wake up - donors and true Republicans who are concerned with the long-term position of the Republican Party in Texas. You're going to see movements to try to bring it back towards that compassionate conservatism, 2.0 as we say. And Texas need to step out and protect its interests. I think a Republican Party Texas leadership is too much, you know, in the same boat with Donald Trump.
And on immigration, Texas has its own culture. It has its own story. And we don't need Steve King out there, you know, from way up there telling us what to do on immigration. We don't need people who have no idea what that means or the history behind Texas. We need to have our own brand. And I think we need to start now. If not, it's going to be too late.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are you seeing a lot of Latino voter enthusiasm? I mean, if you're saying not for the Republicans, then for the Democrats?
MUNIZ: Well, what I see is Hispanic voters who are sort of having to pick the lesser of two evils. I think both parties have dropped the ball on immigration. And I think both parties have disrespected the Hispanic community. But in general, the - I believe the Hispanic voter the - kind of the general voter tends to lean conservative. And I think they're waiting for the perfect formula. I think it's a conservative approach - center right. And also, do right what's on immigration. And if you're able to do that, I think we can approach numbers of George W. Bush, who, in Texas, was able to obtain 50 percent of the Hispanic vote when he ran for president. So I think that's the perfect blueprint. And currently, the political climate doesn't allow us to approach that. But we're going to keep fighting and try to build that movement within Texas. And hopefully, we can keep Texas red.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Artemio Muniz, chairman of the Federation of Hispanic Republicans in Texas. Thank you very much.
MUNIZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.