Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Comentarios from Maria: Conservative Myopia and the Latino Vote


My followers might be surprised to hear me list things I appreciate about political conservatism. Every summer, I admire the national parks that might never have been preserved without the vision of Teddy Roosevelt. I appreciate that Eisenhower stood up for social security, and am especially grateful for the Clean Air Act that Nixon signed into law in 1963. In each of these instances, Republican leaders took the long view, and moved to conserve what was worth conserving.

Today’s historic Clean Power Plan offers an opportunity for leaders from both parties to do just that: to safeguard our environment, economy and health from catastrophic climate change. Obama’s standards for power plants are the most important step our government has ever taken toward reducing the carbon pollution that drives global warming and climate disruption.  Given that any progress we make fighting climate change will help maintain a global status quo- “conserving” our rainfall patterns, sea levels, air pollution levels, and so on- someone new to American politics or used to old-school conservatism might think that Republicans would support such a commonsense policy. Just the opposite is true.

Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell launched a preemptive campaign against these standards long before their release, urging governors to refuse compliance with the law. Legal experts predict that around 25 state governments, mostly those with Republican leaders, will join a suit against the standard to delay or block their state’s transition to cleaner energy and a greener economy.

Republican opposition to the Clean Power Plan further confirms the GOP’s reputation as the party of privilege, and highlights how out of step they are with low-income and minority voters. Poll after poll shows that Latino and Black voters support decisive environmental action to limit air pollution, boost our green economy, and curb climate change. According to a recent survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Latino Decisions, an overwhelming 80% of Latinos support presidential action to curb carbon pollution.

In my experience, Latino communities have an especially visceral sense of the threat posed by climate change for both current and future generations. Latinos and other communities of color are disproportionately likely to suffer from environmental health issues such as asthma, or to experience devastating consequences after a disaster like Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina. Those who have limited income, work outside, lack adequate medical care, or have preexisting health conditions are particularly vulnerable.

The Clean Power Plan is a crucial step toward a durable, international climate agreement, and Republican opposition to the plan is only compounding the struggles that the GOP already faces in attracting the Latino vote in 2016. Donald Trump’s abhorrent characterization of Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists” is still the best-known GOP quote of the campaign for nomination. The other candidates’ responses to his comments were lukewarm at best. In the past few years, Republicans have sabotaged Obama’s attempts at comprehensive immigration reform, attacked the Affordable Care Act, opposed the normalization of relations with Cuba, and essentially alienated Latino voters in almost every major policy arena.

Republican attacks on Latino interests, from the Clean Power Plan to immigration reform, will not help them win the 40% of the Hispanic vote that Latino Decisions calculated to be necessary for a presidential win. In each of these cases, I see nearsightedness holding them back. These Republican leaders cannot see beyond their dogma and short-term gain to understand what truly matters to voters, particularly voters outside of their ethnic or social demographic. Latinos will not stand for these attacks or buy into empty Spanglish slogans and false messaging in the absence of meaningful commitments.

Whether it is our country’s transition to a clean energy economy or to a multicultural society, Republican resistance to progress is steeped in fear of the unknown. When the GOP lets this fear act as a guiding principle in the face of challenges like climate change, they risk our interests as a nation as well as their continuity as a party.

This article originally appeared in Spanish in the Washington Hispanic.