The Huffington Post web site noted yesterday that Rick Perry’s biggest career donor, Bob Perry, has not yet contributed to the governor’s presidential campaign. A likely reason is Rick Perry’s support for legislation that adversely impacts Latinos, such as Voter I.D. laws and sanctuary cities policies. Perry flip-flopped on his position regarding sanctuary cities, having previously said that law enforcement personnel should be chasing bad guys instead of immigrants. Bob Perry, of course, is a major home builder whose business (presumably) depends heavily on immigrant labor.
Bob Perry’s disappearance from the list of Rick Perry’s supporters lays bare the conflict in the Republican party between anti-Latino elements like the Tea Party and party leaders like Karl Rove, who see Latinos as potential Republican voters, due to their strong family ties and pro-life values. Governor Perry used to be on the right side of this issue, but he cratered when his Republican rivals began attacking him for providing the children of immigrants with tuition benefits at state universities. Rove is not pro-immigrant out of the goodness of his heart; he understands, as the Tea Party does not, that Latinos are the fastest-growing population group, and that Republicans target them at their peril. Republicans once had the black vote in this country, because they were the party of Lincoln, and they lost it by failing to support the civil rights movement. Republicans have always done pretty well with the Latino vote in Texas; Bush won upwards of 40% in 2004, and Perry has usually been able to count on at least a third of the Hispanic vote.
This past week, however, marked a canary-in-the-coal-mine event. The Houston Chronicle blog reported that Lauro Garza, who led the nation’s largest conservative Latino group, Somos Republicans, had left the Republican party, citing politicians, especially Herman Cain, he of the electrified fence, of fear-mongering over the immigration issue and “likened himself to Ronald Reagan, who left the Democratic Party when he felt like it betrayed him.”
I suspect that a debate is about to begin, inside of the ranks of the Republican party, about whether the Tea Party is the salvation of the GOP or its destruction. And Rick Perry is on the wrong side.