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Ruben Navarrette: Democrats and Republicans both disrespect Latino voters

From the commentary: Who says Republicans and Democrats can't cooperate? When it comes to offending Latinos, the parties inadvertently come to each other's aid by saying or doing something boneheaded just as the other is floundering.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Unite and Win Rally in support of Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano at the Wyndham Hotel on Aug. 19, 2022, in Pittsburgh.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Unite and Win Rally in support of Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano at the Wyndham Hotel on Aug. 19, 2022, in Pittsburgh.
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/TNS
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SAN DIEGO — In choosing between Democrats and Republicans, Latinos usually pick the lesser of two evils.

Ruben Navarrete column logo
Ruben Navarrete column logo
Kit Grode / Tribune graphic
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But in this midterm election year, there's a twist. Now Latinos have to decide which party they find less offensive.

It's going to be close. Democrats and Republicans are racing to the bottom. Both parties want the support of Latino voters, but neither deserves it.

Latinos care about three things: family, work and respect. Democrats and Republicans are both baffled by that last one. Both parties need us, but neither respects us.

Democrats don't understand why a constituency that they've taken for granted for more than 60 years doesn't fall back in line. Republicans don't understand why, if Latinos are so disgruntled with Democrats, those votes don't just fall into their lap.

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The parties deflect attention by pointing out each other's flaws and flubs. They change the subject and engage in "what aboutism."

Who says Republicans and Democrats can't cooperate? When it comes to offending Latinos, the parties inadvertently come to each other's aid by saying or doing something boneheaded just as the other is floundering.

This makes it tough for Latinos to decide which party is el mas menso (the most stupid).

For the last several months, Republicans appeared to have the competition locked up. After all, they already had such an atrocious record of using race to scare up votes from White people. More than 50 years ago, Richard Nixon used to his great advantage the party's cynical "Southern Strategy," which stirred up White voters by appealing to racism against Black people.

Even today, in 2022, the GOP still specializes in fearmongering over everything from inner-city crime to critical race theory to affirmative action. And, of course, a favorite boogeyman for Republicans is immigration.

Who knew that the movement of desperate and battered people across borders could also be a punchline? Three GOP governors — Greg Abbott of Texas, Doug Ducey of Arizona and Ron DeSantis of Florida — wiped their feet on the jurisdiction of the federal government, poached groups of legal immigrants who were awaiting adjudication of their asylum claims in the United States, and turned these human beings into a publicity stunt by shipping them off to Democratic-controlled cities.

Oddly enough, these Republican governors - who whine about the "burden" of immigration - did not also send along a fleet of trucks filled with the millions of dollars that migrants pump into the economies of their respective states by taking jobs that Texans, Arizonans and Floridians won't do and then paying taxes. So much for the GOP mantra about not getting something for nothing.

This disgraceful relocation of would-be refugees — most of whom were Latino — as part of a cheap political trick has made the Republican Party intensely unlikable to a significant portion of America's largest minority.

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That's when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came to the rescue. The Democrat was trying to pull off a "twofer" by criticizing DeSantis for sending migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, while also praising the contributions of immigrants. Instead, she said something dumb, insensitive, even racist. At the very least, her comments were elitist and condescending.

"We have a shortage of workers in our country," Pelosi said. "[I]n Florida, some of the farmers and the growers [are] saying: 'Why are you shipping these immigrants up North? We need them to pick the crops down here.'"

If you were being charitable, you might say that Pelosi simply said the quiet part out loud. It's true that a country battling such a severe labor shortage should not be so anxious to keep out or run off migrants. It makes no sense.

But I'm not feeling charitable. Pelosi prefaced her comments by noting the contributions of immigrants, and she couldn't get beyond farmworkers? It's not surprising that a San Francisco liberal whose net worth is valued by some sources to be as much as $120 million is so clueless about immigrants and their contributions to America that she clings to a stereotype. But it is ironic. Much of Pelosi's fortune came from lucrative investments by her husband in Silicon Valley tech companies — places where you'll find plenty of high-skilled immigrants who are writing code rather than picking crops.

Pelosi was wrong to say what she said, especially in the way she said it. Just as Republicans are wrong to pounce on her remarks to cover up their racial missteps.

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The film version of our politics used to be "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Today, it's "Dumb and Dumber."

This commentary is Ruben Navarrette's opinion. He can be reached at ruben@wctrib.com.

© 2022, The Washington Post Writers Group

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