Los Republicanos

Republicans are good at the empty gesture, but winning Latino support is about policy.

How capable is the GOP of winning over some of the Latino vote? I think not very, for now.

The GOP will make the shallow and cynical symbolic gestures. The Republicans are great at cynical gestures. They'll have mariachi bands at Lincoln Day dinners. They'll shove every Latino state legislator they have out in front of the national cameras to make it look like they have more than five Latinos in the party.

They might even find a Latino to be the next RNC chair. They're really good at that sort of thing. The new Miguel Steelio. The thing about gestures like these is, while everyone playing at home sees right through them, the stupid media always play along: "As a symbol of their renewed commitment to Latino outreach, Republicans today named..."

Then they'll try the told "Latinos are natural Republicans because they care about God and family" thing. That can get them from 27 percent to 37 percent. Tops, actually.

But Latino people, like people generally, aren't stupid. Allegiance comes from substance. It's pretty simple. It doesn't come from symbolism or rhetoric. As I got in the car yesterday morning, I heard a guy on NPR talking, didn't catch his name, and he was talking about Republicans and blacks. He said basically: If Republicans want people of color to vote for them, they have to change their policies. They've been saying to blacks, for example, get off that Democratic plantation and join us. Well, that's absurd. Democrats' didn't get the allegiance of women by hectoring them, by saying take off that apron, GOP housewives, and join us. They won it with policies.

Same thing here. This means changing their whole posture on illegal immigration and a path to citizenship. Period. Until they do that, Latinos are going to be at least two-thirds Democratic.

Will their base tolerate that? Eventually, yes. They'll start to see they can't win Florida (a majority of whose Latinos are not Cuban) at all, and eventually Arizona. But soon? Color me skeptical. These habits of rage can't be quickly unlearned. And even if they do superficially embrace some version of the policy, it'll be a generation before the support comes across to a majority of Latino people as anything other than calculating.