There has been a constant effort in the Republican Party since losing the 2012 election to make outreach towards groups that helped President Barack Obama win re-election a priority. In particular some analysts have said that Hispanics are a key demographic that need to be sought out to prevent the GOP from falling into demographic irrelevance. That task got harder as Pablo Pantoja, the state director of Florida Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee, outright changed his party to Democrat due a "culture of intolerance" in the GOP.
Pantoja, a former National Guardsman who served in Iraq, MA graduate from Florida State University, and 2008 Republican volunteer who got promoted to outreach director, wrote a letter that is very direct in his dissatisfaction with current GOP methods . His change in political party only highlights how much of the rhetoric surrounding the immigration debate and race in general has the potential to turn desperately needed minority voters off from the Republican Party entirely.
Pantoja pulls no punches in his letter. He refers to Jason Richwine, the recent coauthor of the Heritage Foundation’s anti-immigration reform paper, who argued in previous research that "No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."
To this Pantoja says, "Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance."
Pantoja also argues the Republican Party is filled with intolerant rhetoric, saying "discourse that moves the Republican Party is filled with this anti-immigrant movement and overall radicalization that is far removed from reality."
He points to several examples, such as conservative pundit Ann Coulter writing, "In California, a majority of all Hispanic births are illegitimate. That’s a lot of Democratic voters coming." He also cited the incident at the Conservative Political Action Conference where Scott Terry, a white supremacist, went to a panel designed to increase minority outreach among Republicans and shouted,"For giving him food and shelter all these years?," when the moderator explained how Frederick Douglas wrote his former slave master that forgave him of "all the things you did to me."
Pandoja wrote, "When the political discourse resorts to intolerance and hate, we all lose in what makes America great and the progress made in society."
Pandoja also addressed the idea said by some lawmakers that legal immigrants such as himself would feel "cheated" if undocumented immigrants were given a path to citizenship. He wrote, "Although I was born an American citizen, I feel that my experience, and that of many from Puerto Rico, is intertwined with those who are referred to as illegal. […]Puerto Ricans, as many other Americans still today have to face issues of discrimination in voting and civil rights."
Pandoja’s letter and change in party serves as a warning to Republicans who seek to expand their voting coalition away from the primarily white base that it has. If they cannot ramp down the alienating rhetoric the Republican Party may lose the Hispanic vote through the simple talk of their members.