Editor’s Note: Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist, a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
Maria Cardona says Sen. Marco Rubio will not be the GOP's salvation in 2012
She says Latinos will be put off by fudged details of his life story, but mostly by his record
She says on issues like immigration, health care he's not helping Latinos
Cardona: On Dream Act, the Census count and SB1070, Rubio on wrong side for Latinos
Repeat after me, GOP: “Marco Rubio will not be our savior with Latinos in the 2012 election.”
It has nothing to do with whether the U.S. senator from Florida lied about the year his parents came to the United States, though let’s pause on that for a moment anyway: It should be fully explored, as it goes to his credibility.
I asked my father, a Colombian-American, what year our family came to the United States. He said in 1966. I said that was impossible because that would have meant I was born here and I wasn’t. He then recalled the correct year. Which led both of us to ponder that maybe Marco Rubio’s story of mixing up the dates of when his parents came to the United States was plausible.
Except it isn’t. My dad went on, “Mijita, if we had come to this country, as many Colombians have done, after surviving a kidnapping in the family, the moment of our arrival would have been burned into our memories forever.” He is right. It is the same with real political exiles from Castro’s Cuba: They never forget the moment their families made it out and entered the United States. But these discrepancies are not the reason why Rubio is not suited to deliver the Latino vote to Republicans.
The reason is his record. Latinos, both immigrants like my family, and those whose families have been here for centuries, do not vote surnames. Newsflash: We actually look at the records of those who are running. That is why Marco Rubio – a potential GOP vice presidential nominee – will not be the “bridge” that Republicans so desperately need with the Latino community. His record is abysmal when it comes to issues that many Latinos care deeply about. Let’s take a look:
The economy – This is the number one issue for Latinos, indeed for all Americans. Marco Rubio, like the entire GOP led by the Tea Party, is adamantly against the president’s American Jobs Act even though many of its provisions have had Republican support in the past. According to independent analyses, Obama’s plan would create 1.9 million jobs. An overwhelming 78% of Latinos support the jobs bill.
Health care - Given that the Health Care Act has given/will provide health care access to an additional 9 million Latino citizens, it is no wonder that a majority of Latinos are against repealing the law. Rubio is in lock-step with the Tea Party ideology of repealing “Obamacare,” in effect stripping millions of Latino voters and their children of the health care coverage they currently or will enjoy.
English-only – Marco Rubio is for it. He does not believe that keeping Spanish alive and providing services to elderly Latinos who have not been able to learn English is important. In this, he is going against the majority of what Latinos believe is a cultural and societal necessity in order to have vibrant and healthy Latino communities. According to a recent poll by B&A International, 83% of Hispanic Americans oppose English-only legislation.
An anecdote that my friend, and one of the premier Latino pollsters in this country, Sergio Bendixen, shared with me says it all: In a focus group he once did about English-only, a Hispanic gentleman exclaimed, “What? English-only? If I can’t speak Spanish, I can’t have sex!” While a blushingly funny story, it underscores for many Latinos who hold our Spanish dear – as well as to many English-dominant Latinos whose abuelitas would not be able to read their Medicare pamphlets or be able to vote if English-only were adopted – just how much the language ties to culture identity and societal necessity.
The Dream Act - Tough to say where Rubio is on this one. He is taking a page from the Romney Political Flip-Flop Manual on this issue. In the Florida State Senate, Rubio supported giving children of undocumented immigrants in-state tuition. Now that he is a rising national figure, his position has changed, saying he “doesn’t think someone who is here illegally should benefit from these types of programs…” .
The Census - Marco Rubio came out against counting undocumented immigrants in the 2010 Census. Which is ironic since this is about as “anti-U.S. Constitution” as you can get.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform – On perhaps the most important issue - alongside jobs and the economy - critical to Hispanics, Marco Rubio is on the wrong side. He opposes granting any path toward legalization under any circumstance to any undocumented immigrant ).
SB 1070 - Initially, Rubio expressed concern about Arizona’s draconian law, which would allow local law enforcement to arrest anyone if they had a “reasonable suspicion” they were here illegally. But after bowing to pressure from the Tea Party, Marco Rubio came out in support of the immigration law that has caused so much turmoil in the Latino community because it would legalize racial-profiling.
Sonia Sotomayor – Her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court was perhaps the greatest and proudest moment for the overwhelming majority of Hispanics everywhere. Many still get misty-eyed thinking about it. Marco Rubio wrote an op-ed opposing the confirmation of the nation’s first Latina, doubting her ability and her training to be a fair and impartial jurist.
Latinos will not soon forget Rubio’s anti-Latino record. And they will not forgive Rubio just because he has a Latino last name. They may even discredit him for belittling economic immigrants while embellishing his “exile” credentials. It is because of his record that Latinos will not see him as the redeemer of a party in desperate need of redemption.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Maria Cardona.