I've written before on what it's like be conservative Republican in the halls of state government. Let's just say that part of the reason it surprises people that I work for the state is that there is a stereotype about conservatives--not to mention state employees. I'm not fond of those stereotypes, and I take them on whenever possible. Recently, for example, I tried to engage a young relative on a friendly debate on the topic of abortion, but I was astonished at her lack of even a hint of an open mind on the issue. There was no interest in understanding the other side.
She derisively mocked the pro-life position as just my politics, adding that I could not "convert" her; she couldn't be more wrong on my motivation. My Pro-Life position may be best embraced by the Republican Party (the same party that brought the end of slavery if you might recall), but I would consider myself a Catholic first and a Republican second. Accepting abortion as a tremendous evil and honoring the sanctity of all human life are positions at the heart of a life lived in faith, a life endeavoring to see beyond oneself and to others.
For some reason, our exchange got me thinking about stereotypes and their influence upon our thinking on political issues. While a lot could certainly be written on this, I'd like to focus today on the Republican Party and changing US demographics. As you'll see from the most recent Census reports, our Hispanic population is growing much more quickly than other demographic groups: Caucasian, for example. The face of the United States is changing, and it's time that we recognize and embrace what that change means and what it entails. When it comes to the Republican Party, why is it that our party seems to communicate so poorly with the Hispanic population? After all, speaking broadly in terms of faith and culture, we share many of the same values. We value hard work, the importance of family, as well as agree upon the cherished importance of faith in our lives.
Yet, it seems that these shared values aren't enough to bridge the gap. In speaking recently to a Latina on this topic, we agreed that the reason most Hispanics by far decide to vote for the Democratic ticket is because they are scared away by the incendiary rhetoric on the issue of immigration which sometimes is associated with our party. I oppose illegal immigration as much as anyone, but we need to be more careful in our broad assertions, our generalizations, and our stereotypes. We're alienating more than the illegal alien; we're alienating the legal citizens of Hispanic heritage and culture as well. It's time we show them who we really are and destroy the negative stereotypes. Let's endeavor to bridge the divide between us, because I think we will all find that we have much more in common than we realize.
*For more on this general topic, please also see "Lost in Translation."