Hispanic Caucus Leader Rips Conservative Columnist for "Rambling" Piece on Latinos

Rep. Gonzalez says Ross Douthat is wrong about Latinos "assimilating downward"

ByABC News
November 20, 2012, 11:55 AM

Nov. 20, 2012— -- The chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) has lashed out at conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat for writing in an opinion piece that Democrats are winning over Latino voters because they are "assimilating downward," and thus experienced economic and family difficulties.

Here is Douthat, writing in the Times this weekend in a column titled "The Liberal Gloat":

Consider the Hispanic vote. Are Democrats winning Hispanics because they put forward a more welcoming face than Republicans do — one more in keeping with America's tradition of assimilating migrants yearning to breathe free? Yes, up to a point. But they're also winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren't assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.

Douthat goes on to say that President Barack Obama's coalition of minorities, young people, and women is "created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear."

Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), the retiring CHC chairman, dismissed Douthat's piece as a "rambling" misunderstanding of Latinos.

"Ross Douthat's column is a rambling piece which reflects his lack of understanding of the diverse Latino community and reaffirms the obvious reasons that Republicans lost Latino support," he said in a statement Monday. "Hispanics are not a separate part of America. We are engaged in every facet of American society and successful Latinos ensure a more prosperous America. "

Douthat did not immediately respond for comment.

Gonzalez pointed to an uptick in Latino college enrollment and the rapid expansion of Hispanic-owned businesses over the past decade, rejecting the notions that Latinos are assimilating downward and that immigrants come to the U.S. "out of laziness."

"Latinos seek assimilation, which requires equality with and inclusion in the dominant and established American community," Gonzalez said. "The Republican agenda and policies offered neither and that's why Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate."

While Gonzalez took issue with Douthat's assumptions about why Latinos voted for President Obama by a whopping 44-percentage point margin, Douthat urged Republicans to adapt to Latinos' economic concerns rather than dismiss them with contempt.

"This is a crisis that the Republican Party often badly misunderstands, casting Democratic-leaning voters as lazy moochers or spoiled children seeking 'gifts' (as a certain former Republican presidential nominee would have it) rather than recognizing the reality of their economic struggles," he wrote.