There's a fascinating bit in this morning's Marshall Independent article about the Café Con Leche Republicans, Activist: Let there be voter ID, just don’t make it racial issue:
Bob Quasius isn't against a stricter voter ID standard in Minnesota. In fact, he supports it and sees it as an important component in restoring voters' trust in the electoral system.
He just doesn't want it to become a racial issue.
Quasius, who was treasurer of the Lyon County Republican Party at one time, is the founder of Caf [sic] Con Leche Republicans, a six-month old, Marshall-based national Republican group that strives to build a more immigrant-friendly society through political activism, "in-reach" and education within the party. Quasius and his group was behind the push to get Minnesota Majority to remove the controversial political voter ID cartoon that depicted, among others, a Hispanic man in a mariachi costume and a black man in prison garb standing in line to vote. The group's efforts prompted Minnesota Majority to edit the cartoon and eliminate its racial overtones.
"It's an example of Democrats trying to inject race into this," Quasius said. "We don't believe that it's racist to require voter ID. We didn't like the cartoon; we thought it was a bad idea. It's about perception. If people perceive this as racist they're going to be offended. There is no evidence at all that undocumented people are voting in elections. If there is fraud, it's more of the garden-variety type. Voter ID has less to do with the possibility of undocumented immigrants voting than people voting multiple times or dead people voting."
Bluestem thinks that statement (and the history of the controversy) needs to be unpacked, because Quasius' statement seems a bit confused.
Back in February, the Café Con Leche Republicans wrote that the image had racist overtones and issued an open letter:
The original cartoon featured a dead body, a ghost, a superhero, a Hispanic man in mariachi costume, and an African-American in prison uniform standing in line to vote. The cartoon was in poor taste and had racist overtones. Over 25% of undocumented immigrants are not Hispanic, and 81% of U.S. Hispanics are either U.S. citizens or legal immigrants. 62% of U.S. Hispanics were born in the U.S. We’ve not seen a credible study that shows undocumented immigrants have been voting in U.S. elections.
The same issue applies to showing an African-American man in prison garb. The vast majority of African-Americans have never been in prison, and surely more than a few take offense at this cartoon.
The press release then goes on to fault TakeAction Minnesota for "injecting race in the debate."
Bluestem takes a somewhat different view: Minnesota Majority stacked the deck with racial imagery, dealt out these cards, then squealed "playing the race card" when people saw the cards it laid on the table. Minnesota Majority, not groups like TakeAction or Café Con Leche Republicans, brought these cards to the discussion. And remember, at the time, CCLR wrote that the image had "racist overtones" though now it seems merely "tone deaf" to the group's spokester in Marshall.
But most surprising is the claim--then and now--by CCLR taking credit for getting the offending images removed:
Yesterday and again today, we privately asked Minnesota Majority leaders Dan McGrath and Jeff Davis to remove the controversial cartoon from the web site WeWantVoterID.com. To their credit, they heeded our urging and revised the cartoon to remove the racial overtones.
The City Pages reported in Minnesota Majority scrubs race-baiting imagery from website:
Minnesota Majority received a lot of free publicity yesterday because of a race-baiting banner illustration on its website, but today the pro-voter ID group decided that wasn't the type of publicity they want to receive.
The controversial banner illustration has been removed and replaced with a "politically correct version for the hypersensitive."
So were the Café Con Leche Republicans pleased that their private request for images without "racist overtones" was met with a public slap, an image sans a Latino stereotype, but labeled, "Politically Correct Version for the Hypersensitive"?
Or was the CCLR just happy when that second image too was scrubbed? The third iteration certainly allows the local newspaper to play along with the revisionism.
Also curious: if one reads Minnesota Majority leader Dan McGrath's statements about the figure in mariachi costume, one learns that for McGrath, Latino identity is intrinsically bound to unauthorised status:
McGrath explained the person in the mariachi costume is "supposed to be an illegal immigrant, and it's kind of difficult to convey that."
And the CCLR's claim that it was responsible for Minnesota Majority's pulling of the banner? Other than its own website, this claim appeared nowhere else--not at conservative blog sites, not in traditional media.
A Nexis search of the phrase "Café Con Leche Republicans" yields sixteen hits, beginning with a post on the November 4, 2011 Burnt Orange Report:
Latino Conservative Group Somos Republicans Splinters - The conservative group that sprang out of Arizona, Somos Republicans, seems to be splintering as its founder, Dee Dee Garcia-Blase, notes big changes in the group, and former Executive Vice President Bob Quasius resigned last week. Quasius and others are forming the Cafe Con Leche Republicans, which he told NewsTaco would also be a PAC (political action committee).
Most of the articles cover CCLR and its members' support for Gingrich.
The Independent article explores Quasius' support for Gingrich, based on the Georgian's support--such as it is--against mass deportation or self-deportation of undocumented workers.Quasius is the only member of Gingrich's National Hispanic Leadership Team from Minnesota. Gingrich finished a distant fourth in Minnesota's caucus, in which a plurality supported Santorum.
Beyond CCLR revisionism on the photoID banner, it's fascinating to watch the group give cover to Minnesota Majority, given the latter group's staunchly pro-deportation stance. Minnesota Majority continues to ask visitors to its website to sign a "tough on illegal immigrants" petition.
The issue here isn't that a conservative Latino/Latino-friendly group that favors something very close to comprehensive immigration reform can't support photoID. The problem is playing apologist for Minnesota Majorty, a group which routinely throws a whole deck stacked with race cards on the table, complete with a couple of anti-immigrant jokers.
The hypocrisy for CCLR lies in getting Minnesota Majority's back--an organization with a long history of supporting Arizona-style "reform" positions and racial demogoguery about "racial purity" that's run by Dan McGrath, the former campaign manager for an insurgent, from-the-right primary challenge against Pawlenty and Molnau by Sue Jeffers and Ruthie Hendrycks. According to the Minnesota Majority website, Jeffers has contributed research to the group.Hendrycks, of rural Hanska, heads MinnSIR and is the leader of the Minnesota Minuteman Project.
Both women hosted the now-famous "Tea Party Against Amnesty Rally" in November 2009.
Just as interesting: when opining on the original kerfuffle in his February 25, 2012 column, Editor's column: Tasteless, yes, but racist?, the Independent's editor makes no reference to the Café Con Leche Republicans.
However, after a March 18, 2012, comment by Quasius, the current article appears in the paper, with the CCLR assertion that its effort caused the offending art work to be pulled. The rest of the uproar is simply dismissed as "Democrats injecting race into this."
All of this has made Bluestem wonder about Bob Quasius' authority within Minnesota's Latino communities. What does Bob have to say about Minnesota Majority's anti-immigrant history? Bluestem has had to look a bit more closely at Bob's biography, because the Marshall Independent doesn't seem one bit curious.
In What is Cafe Con Leche and Why Call Ourselves Cafe Con Leche Republicans?, Quasius writes:
I am white, of European descent, while my wife is Honduran, of Mayan extraction. You might say we’re a “cafe con leche” couple. Native Americans and descendants of Europeans, Asians, and Africans, have been assimilating into a new culture in Latino America for centuries, and the term refers to the blending of the cultures.
He writes more about his experience in a contributor's note at Bold Nebraska, a group that wants to expand the range of political discourse in the Cornhusker State beyond conservative:
Bob Quasius is the Midwest Outreach Director for Somos Republicans, a grassroots Hispanic Republican organization based in Arizona and rapidly expanding nationwide. Bob has been active in the Republican Party for more than 20 years and has been a GOP candidate in NJ, active in CT and CO, a party treasurer in Minnesota, a central committee member in the Sarpy County Nebraska GOP and more recently one of the early organizers of Somos Republicans.
Bob has been married to Aida, a legal immigrant from Honduras, and through his experiences first with the immigration system and also the Hispanic immigrant community, has come to view immigration reform as essential to the United States. He believes enforcement-only strategies not only ineffective but harmful to both the U.S. and the immigrant community. Bob is spearheading the Nebraska Compact, using the successful Utah Compact as a template to build a broad-based coalition of community, political, religious and business leaders in Nebraska.
Bob is an engineering project manager by profession, with 30 years of engineering leadership experience in several industries. Bob and his wife Aida have four children, from two to 29 years of age, and live in Ankeny, Iowa.
Bob's blend Republicanism and family life leads him down some curious avenues. For instance, Bob is a birther, but so not with those nativists like that racist Sheriff Joe. At least Bob has the wherewithall to spot folks like Sheriff Joe and kindred in Nebraska. Locally, he's having a little trouble.
There's much to be said for a white man of European descent to declare himself an ally of Latino communities. However, Bluestem did a little checking, and it's not standard practice for calling those folks Latino leadership, or Hispanic, as the case of Bob's membership on the Gingrich National Hispanic Leadership Team. This particular Café Con Leche Republican's a bit heavy on the leche.
Images: Before and after banners at Minnesota Majority's We Want Voter ID site (a third version of the banner is now visible)