Henican: Sonia stance hurts GOP with Hispanics

¡Adios, Latinos!       

Republican senators have just driven another huge wedge between their party and the fastest-growing voting bloc in America, resoundingly dissing the first Hispanic nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Leave for another day the debate, if you can call it a debate, about whether Sonia Sotomayor is a highly impressive jurist or an over-politicized emoter ready to undermine the Constitution she’s sworn allegiance to. I’m talking politics now, not personal temperament or American jurisprudence.

You can take this much to the voting booth: This grown-up child of the Puerto Rican Bronx embodies the dream of every Hispanic family in America — that talent and hard work can carry anyone’s child to the Ivy League and the highest heights of her chosen field, toppling historic barriers for her people along the way.

¡Sigua adelante, Sonia!

Is there a Mexican-American, Dominican-American, Caribbean-American, Central American, South American or Puerto Rican family on this side of the border who can’t connect with that?

Of course, every U.S. senator has an absolute right to vote for or against any Supreme Court nominee. And every Hispanic voter for the next generation or two has an absolute right to remember who voted how.

It didn’t have to be this way. Republicans, urged by John McCain and George W. Bush, were making real inroads among Spanish-speaking immigrants. And why not? In large measure, these were hardworking, family-oriented, Roman Catholic, upwardly mobile folks — ripe pickings, you’d think, for the Republican message of low taxes, strong defense and social conservatism.

But that was before the immigration debate got ugly. It was before Republican congressmen wrecked Bush’s reform plan. It was before conservative talk radio became a giant megaphone for cries of “Build a high wall with barbed wire” and “Send the illegals home.”

And it was before three-quarters of the Republican members of the U.S. Senate looked at a soft-spoken Harvard Law graduate who had more judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in the past 100 years — and voted “no” on the walking embodiment of a deeply embedded dream.

“¡Adios, Latinos!” those senators might as well have said out loud.

“¡Ahora seran Democratas!”

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