Opinion: If Mitt Were Latino

PHOTO: Romney speaks to Latino voters in Florida.

Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

OPINION

In one of a series of secretly recorded tapes from a Republican campaign fundraiser that leaked yesterday, Mitt Romney joked that it would help him to win the election if he were Latino.  In a race where Latino voters hold more sway than ever, Romney referred to his father's roots in Mexico and noted that if he were actually Hispanic he’d have a “better shot at winning.” 

 George Romney, Mitt’s father,  “was born of U.S. citizens who were living in Mexico at the time, and was not Hispanic. He never spoke Spanish, nor did his parents,” Romney told Univision last year.

In the secretly recorded tape, Romney said that if he were “born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot at winning this."   "I mean, I say that jokingly," he added.  "But it would be helpful to be Latino.”

Since he brought it up, we also wondered what Mitt Romney might be like if he were a Mexican-American living in the United States. We’ve developed some rough guesses of how Mitt might be different if he were actually Hispanic -- based on national population data from the Census Bureau and the Pew Hispanic Center. 

If Mitt were Latino, he’d likely worry that he, a family member, or a close friend could be deported. According to a 2010 Pew Hispanic Center survey, more than half (52 percent) of Latinos say they worry “a lot” or “some” that they, a family member or a close friend could be deported." Furthermore, Latinos of Mexican descent are even more likely to know an undocumented immigrant intimately than other groups of Latinos. 

If Mitt were Latino, he’d be much more likely to live below the poverty line.  According to a 2011 Pew poll, 26.7 percent of Latinos in the U.S, and 32.4 percent of immigrants who are not U.S. citizens, live in poverty, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.  In contrast, 10 percent of whites live in poverty, and we’re pretty certain Romney doesn’t belong to that group.  Furthermore, if Mitt were Latino, his children would likely have been hit harder the by the economic downturn.  “ In 2010, 37.3 percent of poor children were Latino, 30.5 percent were white and 26.6 percent were black,” according to  the Pew Hispanic Center.

If Mitt were Latino, he’d be more likely to be unemployed. The Latino unemployment rate sits a full two percentage points higher than the national average. 

If Mitt were Latino, he’d be more likely to be dependent on services that would be cut by the Ryan budget. Senior policy advisor for the economic and employment policy project at NCLR, Leticia Miranda, argues that the “Ryan Budget” would “make the ax fall hardest on the most vulnerable in our society.” Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, and programs like Head Start and Pell Grants would also disproportionately affect Hispanics.

Also in the leaked tapes from the campaign fundraiser, Romney said that 47% of voters are “dependent upon the government” and “believe they are victims.” This group of voters, Romney said, believe they are  “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

If Mitt were Latino, he’d be more likely to support the DREAM Act. 91 percent of Latinos support the DREAM Act, a measure Romney vowed to veto during the primary season,  according to a 2011 study conducted by the Pew Research Center. 

Romney has since walked back his position on the DREAM Act, saying he would replace Obama’s deferred action policy with his own form of relief for young undocumented students. Romney has said his program would affect those who have served in the military, but has not discussed any futher details of his program.

If Mitt were Latino, he’d be more likely to vote for Obama.  Despite Romney’s post-convention bounce with Latino voters, President Obama still maintains a large lead  with 66% of likely Hispanic voters saying they support Obama, and 29% expressing support Mitt Romney, according to the most recent Latino Decisions poll.

Mitt’s statement -- that he would benefit from being Latino or have a “better shot” at winning his Presidential bid -- reveals a somewhat simplistic view of ethnicityand what it means to be Latino in America.  While surely politicians aren’t only shaped by their population statistic, to presume that he would be the same Mitt Romney he is today if shaped by the Latino experience in the U.S. is similarly short-sighted.

Romney’s comment  also echoes the RNC’s choice to showcase its racial diversity in Tampa this year, by asking many minority candidates to take stage. Still, the party itself, is not as diverse as their speaker selection. According to the Pew Research Center, 87 percent of registered Republicans are white.

43 of  our nation’s 44 presidents have been white males, just like Mitt Romney. His assertion that it would be easier for him to be elected as a Latino man seems to forget the history of privilege in our country thus far and belittles the accomplishments of those Hispanics who have risen to political prominence despite these barriers.

Simply put, if the Mitt Romney had been brought up as a Mexican-American in the U.S. today,  chances are he would not be the same Mitt Romney.

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