Harry Reid Misreads Hispanics

Harry Reid Misreads Hispanics

By Ruben Navarrette - August 15, 2010

On behalf of all Hispanics, let me just say this: Muchas gracias, Harry Reid.

These days, many Americans are pressed for time. So I was glad to hear that the Senate majority leader is willing to relieve me and every other Hispanic in the United States of the crushing burden of having to think for ourselves and make our own political decisions. No more slogging through the mundane work of reading up on issues, attending candidates' debates and having to reach our own conclusions. Reid is kindly offering to do all the heavy lifting for America's largest minority and decide whether we should vote Republican or Democrat.

And, to make things easier, as far as the Nevada Democrat is concerned, there is only one choice for Hispanics. Guess who? The Democratic leader of the Senate is trying to win re-election by courting Hispanics in his home state. But instead of flowers and chocolates, Reid showed up at their door offering only insults and condescension.

I'm not surprised. While other members of Congress are busy trying to learn social media, Reid still hasn't mastered social skills. He has an unrivaled gift for saying the wrong thing when it comes to race or ethnicity.

According to the book "Game Change" by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, Reid said privately during the 2008 election that Barack Obama could win because he is "light-skinned" and speaks "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." A year later, Reid accused Republicans of being on the wrong side of health care reform - just as they were "when this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery." (Actually, it was Democrats - particularly Southern Democrats - who were on the wrong side of the slavery debate.)

No doubt about it, Harry needs a filter. And he proved it again recently when addressing Hispanic supporters in Las Vegas. Declaring that Hispanic immigrants should not be treated any differently than previous waves of newcomers from Europe just because "their skin's a tone darker than ours," Reid criticized Republicans for being hostile to Hispanic concerns.

"I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican, OK," Reid said. "Do I need to say more?"

Yeah, Harry. Actually, I think you should. Those patronizing remarks sound as if they came from the overseer of a hacienda. And while you're at it, you might try doing something that you seem to have trouble doing: telling the truth.

To substantiate his repugnant argument that Hispanics should be one-party voters, Reid slammed Republicans in Congress for allegedly blocking immigration reform.

I say "allegedly" because what Reid said wasn't true. With so few seats in Congress, Republicans don't have the power to block much of anything as evidenced by their humiliating defeats on health care reform and, most recently, approving a new and massive $26 billion stimulus package - nearly half of which will go to save teachers' jobs and keep teachers' unions happy. Instead, those of us who followed the immigration debate closely in 2006 and 2007 know that, in fact, it was Reid and other Senate Democrats - including a freshman named Barack Obama - who killed promising immigration reform legislation at the behest of their patrons in organized labor. While fine with legalizing the undocumented since they see them as future members, unions oppose any bill that includes GOP-friendly language calling for guest workers.

Harry Reid can wonder all he wants about why any Hispanic could be a Republican. I've been wondering something myself: In light of such flagrant condescension and an obvious lack of regard, why would any self-respecting Hispanic - in Nevada or anywhere else - support Harry Reid?

Ruben Navarrette

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