Hispanics want to jump ship from the Democratic to the Republican Party, GOPisForMe Director and Founder Duke Machado told attendees at Tuesday’s Johnson County Republican Women’s Club luncheon. But they don’t want to jump from the frying pan into the fire, he said.
“[The Republican Party] has to create an environment through real and tangible things,” Machado said. “Until then we’re just a bunch of hot air talking about outreach.”
Hispanics, Machado said, are generally more aligned toward the Republican and conservative viewpoint.
“Think about it,” Machado said. “Hispanics overwhelmingly believe in God. Sixty-four percent are Catholic, which makes the majority of us a perfect match for the Republican Party. The reason so many remain in the Democratic Party is that they don’t yet feel comfortable in the Republican Party in part because of historical and media perceptions through the years. But it’s time to change that narrative and break the mold.”
Successful outreach to the Hispanic community faces multiple challenges, however, from within and without the Republican Party, Machado said.
While some Republicans realize the urgency of outreach efforts, others remain resistant, he said, something that is not a problem for Democrats.
“We’re under assault by the Democrats, who want to take over in Texas and are willing to fight and get dirty,” Machado said. “Which is the Republican’s Achilles’ heel because we’re Christian and conservative and tend to turn the other cheek.”
Republicans also approach the opportunity and challenges of outreach incorrectly at times.
“We tend to put the cart before the horse in most cases,” Machado said. “First we have to work on getting to know people and earning their trust, then we can bring the message. Because now, if you go into a Hispanic or black neighborhood and ask for their vote, well, they don’t know you because Republicans have never been in those neighborhoods so anything you say is going to go in one ear and out the other because of how they perceive Republicans because of media and other perceptions. So we need to outreach successfully, get to know the communities first and let them know Republicans aren’t evil.”
To that end, Machado, who said he wasn’t particularly politically active until Obama’s election, decided to get involved. Meeting a mixture of acceptance and resistance from the local Republican Party in his area, he and others decided to do it themselves and founded GOPisForMe, a Hispanic Republican initiative that became an auxiliary of the Republican Party of Texas in 2011.
One of the organization’s main goals involves outreach through mentoring Hispanic youth, mainly middle and high school-age children.
“Like everyone else, our kids are our No. 1 priority and there’s nothing we can do better than to help locally,” Machado said. “You see, we can hold our elected officials accountable, but while they’re fighting those battles in D.C. and Austin, who’s doing the ground battle to begin the conversion of Hispanics to the Republican Party?”
The answer, Machado said, is through volunteering and mentoring, using an educational initiative developed by Dr. Walter Bradley, a former professor at Baylor and Texas A&M universities.
The program focuses on speed reading and study and memorization skills among other things to help children succeed in school and beyond.
“It’s not an overnight change,” Machado said. “But these are things kids in private schools get and skills Dr. Bradley said it’s hard to get through school and college without. And we’ve had success. We’ve even had some mothers of children mentored who have said they want to go to college now because they realize it’s possible.”
Another challenge, Johnson County Republican Party Chairman Henry Teich said, is that Democrats want people to be dependent on the government and it’s tough to break that cycle of thinking.
“And that’s where the outreach comes in and getting to know people,” Machado said. “How do you talk to someone you don’t know about your views? They’re not going to care, not going to listen until they know and trust you.”
Former Cleburne Mayor Justin Hewlett asked where they find students to mentor.
“It varies from one area to another,” Machado said. “Some areas we work with the schools, some just going into neighborhoods. Believe me, when word gets out, it spreads through the community because here you have someone coming in at no charge spending time with children and with a service that’s important, that actually helps their kids improve and excel in school.”
The program is spreading but has no presence in Johnson County, Machado said, encouraging anyone interested in learning more to visit www.GOPisForMe.com.