The Real Reason Republicans Can't Win Latinos and Women

The belief that women don't care about contraception and Latinos don't care about immigration shows how ignorant the GOP is.

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In this Aug. 16, 2012 file photo, Missouri Republican Senate cadidate, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., talks with reporters in Sedalia, Mo. This is the convention prelude of the Republicans' dreams _ their nightmares, that is. Mitt Romney wanted to preside over a made-for TV gathering showcasing his economic credentials and GOP unity. Instead, he's heading to Tampa with the national debate focused on rape and abortion and with the divisions within his party on full display.

The smartest comments on the GOP's looming demographic troubles come from veteran Republican consultant Dan Schnur, who had this to say to the Los Angeles Times about his party's predicament with women and Latinos:

National Republicans have made a calculated decision, for about 20 years now, that it's worth writing off states like California in exchange for a secure base of support in the South and in the near West [Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states]. But California's demographic makeup isn't nearly as unique as it was in the 1990s. Romney's advisers make the case that Latinos are much more interested in the economy than in immigration. That may be true. But if voters don't think that you respect them as human beings, they're not going to listen to what you have to say about the capital gains tax or start-up loans for small business.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Schnur's blunt comments brilliantly explain the folly of insisting that women don't really care about reproductive freedom or how they're treated as rape victims, and that Hispanics don't care about immigration as much as they care about getting a good job. The issues are all important, and it's not just a matter of practical impact. It's a function of how we are all seen as people.

Women, for example, were widely horrified at Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments about how the "female body" has a way of preventing pregnancy during a "legitimate rape." Yes, many, many Republicans denounced the comments and urged Akin to get out of the race. But some of them have also pushed for legislation referring to "forcible rape," instead of just rape. And some want to fore women to undergo invasive gynecological procedures before they are permitted to have an abortion. This has offended a wide swath of women, and not just women of child-bearing age. That's because it's not an issue of practicality; it's a question of insulting an entire gender. Does any candidate really believe he can say, oh, all you unmarried pregnant ladies are just a bunch of lying hussies, but why do you care if we think that of you, as long as we are giving you a tax cut?

[ See a collection of political cartoons on immigration.]

And yes, a number of Latinos, particularly those whose families have been here for generations, don't like the idea of someone breaking the rules and immigrating illegally. But if lawmakers and candidates press an agenda based on the assumption that someone who looks Hispanic is automatically suspect as an undocumented immigrant, that's a personal insult. Offering minority business loans doesn't make up for it.

This country has undergone a lot of social and demographic change in the last century, and even in the last decade. Insulting entire categories of voters is not only offensive, but it will lose elections.