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Cepeda: Hearing lots of ‘Hispandering’ from both parties

First Published Aug 04 2014 10:11 am • Last Updated Aug 04 2014 10:11 am

CHICAGO • Whenever immigration matters heat up, a stream of "what it means" articles about potential Hispanic voting behavior is sure to follow. I suspect this happens because news outlets know that anything relating to the Latino vote is sure-fire clickbait.

With recent speculation that President Obama might issue an executive order expanding his 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program so that other illegal immigrants could get two-year deportation reprieves — and the Republican backlash — the rush is on to predict how many Hispanic votes the GOP won’t get in the 2016 presidential elections.

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"How badly is GOP damaging itself among Latinos for 2016?" says one headline. "Republicans Know How to Win Over Latinos. Why Won’t They Do It?" asks another.

How patronizing.

Why are journalists so stuck on trying to pigeonhole a diverse population of U.S. and foreign-born people into one little box that is defined exclusively by illegal immigration?

Who really believes that the 28.2 million Hispanics who are estimated to be eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential race will go to the polls with a single-minded determination to elect someone based exclusively on a candidate’s immigration stance?

This is lunacy. Lunacy that the Democrats are desperately trying to ingrain in people’s minds through "war on women"-like scare tactics that treat Hispanics as clueless victims.

In a recent Fox News Latino op-ed titled "Why Democrats’ Agenda Is Better For Latinos Than Republicans’," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, writes in reference to the border crisis: "Republicans are using these children as political pawns to further their own agenda."

And the Democrats aren’t? They aren’t using the children to frame Republicans as nothing short of Latino-hating monsters? The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee isn’t rolling immigration into their fundraising appeals?

But what really gets me is that the current conventional wisdom of these Hispanic voting pattern soothsayers assumes that any party taking a permissive stance toward illegal immigration will forever own the blind loyalty of Hispanic voters.

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Actually, Hispanics who are eligible and registered to vote aren’t idiots. And they don’t crave open borders as much as they do consideration and respect — two key modes of communicating with Hispanics that both parties fail at miserably.

Consideration certainly isn’t the Democrats’ weakness — but their attentiveness is of the paternalistic variety, sometimes to comic effect.

A few weeks ago, the Democratic National Committee fired off a terse email expressing indignation that a Republican National Committee spokesperson "coined" the term "Hispandering," which the DNC described as "a silly and offensive phrase that demeans issues important to Latinos."

I guess they couldn’t find a single Hispanic on staff or in an advisory role to tell them that "Hispandering" is a nonpartisan term that Hispanics themselves adopted and are just fine with, thank you very much.

As Victor Landa, founder of NewsTaco, an online Latino News site, put it: "The use of the word Hispandering is reserved for the Hispanderees. It’s a label that Hispanderees use at their discretion. ... You have to earn the right to sling the word; you can’t use it in the way a third-grader in a schoolyard would insult their best friend’s enemy."

I’m not saying the Republicans are any better — they can’t seem to get the respect part of the equation.

They have any number of thoughtful, high-ranking, border-state Hispanics in their ranks who could speak about the challenges of the child migrant crisis in a sympathetic, level-headed manner. But who is their headline-grabbing de facto spokesperson on immigration?

One of them is the infinitely quotable Rep. Steve King of Iowa. He made headlines last week with a tirade about Obama inviting his impeachment over immigration executive actions. "And we will put tens of millions of illegal aliens into America who are undocumented Democrats, and we will start the process to document them, and thereby convert America into a leftist state, in perpetuity," he predicted.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the RNC or any other high-profile Republican to repudiate King’s daffiness.

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