For any clear-eyed observer it’s been easy to see that Republicans and Democrats are growing increasingly polarized. Pew Research put a finer point on the phenomena in a recent survey, which found that Democrats have been moving to further to the left, and with greater unity, than Republicans have been moving right.
In some ways this appears to be the result of a cycle that will be difficult for Democrats to break. As Doug Sosnik writes for the Washington Post:
Democrats are increasingly self-selecting where they live and whom they choose to live near. President Trump carried 84 percent of U.S. counties, but the remaining areas, located largely on the coasts as well as urban areas in the middle of the country, voted overwhelmingly for Clinton. As much of the country moved to the right to elect Trump, the geographic areas that voted for Clinton moved further to the left. This shift is leading to the election of more progressive political leaders in the Democratic Party as these strongholds have become the political frontlines in the war against Trump.
That trend towards partisanship was on display this month after Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo requested, but was denied, to join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“As the son of Cuban immigrants, husband to the daughter of an immigrant family, and father to two little girls who are aware and proud of their Hispanic roots, I share the Caucus’s commitment to advancing the interests of America’s Hispanic community,” Rep. Curbelo wrote in his application letter. “Together, I believe we can help shape legislation on a variety of issues like compassionate immigration reform, economic growth and opportunity, and better education.”
“I am very hopeful that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will send a strong message to the country that it welcomes all Hispanics and that it rejects the petty politics of exclusion and discrimination,” Curbelo concluded.
Curbelo’s hope was misplaced. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus quickly denied his request, arguing that “Rep. Curbelo and his record are not consistent with [the Caucus’] values.”
In reality, his political affiliation is not consistent with the rest of the Caucus’. But what should that matter? Hispanic Americans are not uniformly Democrat, nor do they hold uniform views on health care or tax reform—two of the issues cited in Curbelo’s exclusion from the group. And what of Rep. Curbelo’s other policy stances, such as his advocacy for Venezuelan and Cuban refugees, health care for Puerto Ricans, immigration reform, undocumented immigrant youths, and even climate change? Are these not in line with the “values” of the Hispanic Caucus, and more importantly, Hispanic Americans broadly?
“I thought it would be very important for Hispanic Americans to come together and speak with one voice,” Curbelo said. “We’re fighting for a lot of the same things … yet we’re not in the same room, talking strategy, thinking together, figuring out what the best way forward is.”
Sadly, that appears to be just the way that Democrats want it. But the Hispanic Caucus’ attempt to convince themselves that conservative Hispanics either don’t exist, are irrelevant, or worst of all, aren’t “authentically” Hispanic, only does damage to their purported mission of “serv[ing] as a forum for the Hispanic Members of Congress to coalesce around a collective legislative agenda.”