Jonah Goldberg
"A friend of mine, a Hispanic entrepreneur, asked me a question some time ago. He said, 'When is the last time you saw a Hispanic panhandler?' I think it's a great question. I'll tell you, in my life I never once have seen a Hispanic panhandler, because in our community it would be viewed as shameful to be out on the street begging."

That was Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas on "Fox News Sunday." He went on to make the case that Latinos are culturally conservative and economically entrepreneurial.

Just for the record, I've seen a Latino panhandler or two. Or at least I think they were Latino -- I don't usually quiz panhandlers about their ethnic backgrounds.

But Cruz is right that there do seem to be fewer Latino beggars than other ethnicities (though in my experience, Asian-Americans are the biggest shirkers when it comes to creating an ethnically diverse lumpenproletariat), and I think Cruz's pride in this fact is refreshing -- and helpful.

I've been saying for a while now that this is the last presidential election in American history where the GOP will benefit from having a boring white guy as the presidential nominee.

This is not a point about racial animosity toward Barack Obama, perhaps the most exaggerated issue of the last four years. The key, as it relates to 2012, is not the white part of that formulation, it's the boring part. The operatic nature of Obama's campaign in 2008 and his inability to live up to the expectations he set for himself have created a market for bland Mr. Fixit types.

But going forward, the GOP needs to figure out a way to become more appealing to new constituencies, particularly younger voters and Latinos.

Boring white guys aren't great for that project. But candidates like Ted Cruz are.

It's hardly a novel insight that the GOP needs to deal with America's changing demographics. Inside the Beltway, the conventional explanation for how Republicans should do that tends to boil down to pandering and capitulation. For instance, Hispanics care about immigration, we're told, therefore Republicans should adopt the same policies as the Democrats.

The substance of those policies aside, there are political problems with this thinking. First, Republicans rarely if ever win such bidding wars.

Second, there's a faulty assumption here: that various ethnicities, and young people generally, are both monolithic and hardwired to support certain policies and are therefore immune to persuasion.

But young people almost by definition believe in things they eventually grow out of. The same goes for Latino voters, who are not monolithic in almost any sense: racially, ethnically, religiously or ideologically.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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