With the midterm elections approaching, liberal Democrats have a simple strategy for reaching out to Latino voters: fear and loathing.
The idea is to convince them to fear Republican candidates by telling them that the GOP loathes them.
It's insulting. Here you have a constituency that has, in every presidential race dating back to the "Viva Kennedy" campaign of 1960, handed over the majority of their votes on Election Day to Democrats. And all they get in return is an outreach effort that says, "Hey, the other guys are so bad, you have to vote for us."
Republicans give them plenty of material to work with. Consider Tom Tancredo, the former Republican congressman from Colorado. In a recent speech to tea party activists, Tancredo again waved the white sheet in discussing President Barack Obama. According to Tancredo, Obama was elected by "people who could not even spell the word 'vote,' or say it in English."
In red states, the red meat is a call to close the border, declare English the national language, deputize local police to round up illegal immigrants, end racial preferences, etc. To many Latinos, each of those gestures is considered hostile.
Yet, given my experience, I see that there are liberal Democrats who also hold Latinos in contempt. The contempt seeps out when liberals are provoked by criticism from what they consider ungrateful members of a minority group that -- in their view -- owes everything it has accomplished in the last 50 years not to its own hard work but to the generosity of the left.
Take it from me. I'm provocative -- and, according to critics, ungrateful. So, when I criticize any Democrat at any time for any reason, I get an earful.
When I criticized liberalism for trying to assert control over people's lives, a reader wrote: "So u are against the old school liberalism? Even the affirmative action program that got u into Harvard? I am not criticizing affirmative action, just hypocrites like u ... " Note: I got into Harvard on merit -- just like my white roommates did.
When I praised the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts as a repudiation of Obama's policies, a reader fired back: "When I read your diatribes against President Obama and his administration, I rage with anger that YOU would negate your own ethnic background and join the party of old white men who would never have let you or your parents come to America if they could have stopped it." Note: My parents were born in the United States.
And when I criticized Obama, a reader said: "You do understand that you are an affirmative-action hire. If you ever supported the President or showed one ounce of courtesy to Democrats, you'd be out of a job so fast it'd make your head spin. ... Think about this and remember that the Democrats are the people who support your rights and will fight for your equality. We're on your side. Why aren't you on ours?" Note: If this is what it's like to have someone on my side, I'd rather stand alone.
For all their supposed enlightenment, liberals have much to learn. Here are five items for their crib sheet:
Racism takes many forms. Rather than lazily scaring voters away from the other party, you should inspire them to support your own. Defending peoples' "rights" also means defending their right to think for themselves. There is no use advocating for someone if you don't respect them. And condescension is a more effective repellent than bug spray.
Navarrette's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE