I laugh pretty easily, but I very rarely guffaw. But I did today when I read the following, “In Florida, the GOP’s state director of Hispanic outreach, Pablo Pantoja, has resigned his position, left the Republican Party, and changed his party identification to ‘Democrat.'” I’m not quite sure why I found it so funny. I guess it is the extreme nature of changing party affiliation. It is not surprising that someone working for GOP outreach to Latinos would quit in disgust. But to be so disgusted he changes party? That’s funny!
It also goes along with what I’ve been saying for months: immigration reform is necessary but not sufficient for the Republicans. Passing an immigration law (that is primarily a giveaway to large corporations anyway) is not going to do much to repair relations when the Republican Party is not prepared to do anything else.
The Florida Nation has published a letter from Pantoja in which he explains why he has decided to change parties. Basically, it all comes down to his feeling that the party is based upon racial intolerance. In particular, the Jason Richwine controversy, where it turned out that the researcher at the Heritage Foundation had some The Bell Curve like ideas of Latino intelligence. Pantoja noted that Heritage distanced itself from Richwine, but that in general, the conservative reaction has been a collective yawn. “Other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo.”
I’m glad that Pantoja has realized what the party he worked for was all about. However, I can’t but wonder how it took him this long. This is, after all, the party of the Southern Strategy. The party of Willie Horton. The party of “reverse” racism, self-deportation, and Macaca. It is also the party of The Bell Curve and the argument that minorities are poor not because of sociohistorical reasons but because they are stupid. But Pantoja is young, and I’m afraid that inside the conservative bubble, much of this information about the true nature of the Republican Party is filtered out.
What I find strange about all of this is why more Republicans don’t move over to the Democratic Party. As it is, the Democratic Party is no less conservative than the Republicans were in, say, 1970. In fact, it might be more conservative. So what is it that stops conservatives from embracing the Democrats? I think there is a clue from Pablo Pantoja: he was in the military. And despite Democrats being excessively pro-military and highly belligerent in foreign policy, people still think the Republicans are the pro-military party. (How they can think that when the Republicans so casually march them into war, I’m not clear.) I think there is a strong tendency to believe that “real” men vote Republican. But hopefully Pantoja’s realization is a sign that even these fundamental forces are giving way to all the bad things that the Republican Party does and stands for.