Note from Editor Kevin Cate:
I’ve known Pablo Pantoja for years. We were both in the same graduate program at Florida State University. We bonded because we were both also state employees at the time. However, Pantoja had another, another job. He was a National Guardsman, having already served in Iraq and Kuwait, winning numerous accolades.
I have a lot of respect for Pantoja, and that respect didn’t diminish one bit as he climbed the ladder of Republican politics. On my list of things I don’t do in politics: try to persuade military men and women about whom to support in the free elections they provide us.
Pantoja has a long, impressive political resume, but most recently he was the State Director of Florida Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee. Not any more. Pantoja is now a Democrat.
In his own words (shared with permission):
From: Pablo Pantoja
Subject: From Republican to Democrat
Date: May 13, 2013 5:57:11 PM EDT
Yes, I have changed my political affiliation to the Democratic Party.
It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today. I have wondered before about the seemingly harsh undertones about immigrants and others. Look no further; a well-known organization recently confirms the intolerance of that which seems different or strange to them.
Studies geared towards making – human beings – viewed as less because of their immigrant status to outright unacceptable claims, are at the center of the immigration debate. Without going too deep on everything surrounding immigration today, the more resounding example this past week was reported by several media outlets.
A researcher included as part of a past dissertation his theory that “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ.” The researcher reinforces these views by saying “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”
Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance. The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten.
The complete disregard of those who are in disadvantage is also palpable. We are not looking at an isolated incident of rhetoric or research. Others subscribe to motivating people to action by stating, “In California, a majority of all Hispanic births are illegitimate. That’s a lot of Democratic voters coming.” The discourse that moves the Republican Party is filled with this anti-immigrant movement and overall radicalization that is far removed from reality. Another quick example beyond the immigration debate happened during CPAC this year when a supporter shouted ““For giving him shelter and food for all those years?” while a moderator explained how Frederick Douglass had written a letter to his slave master saying that he forgave him for “all the things you did to me.” I think you get the idea.
When the political discourse resorts to intolerance and hate, we all lose in what makes America great and the progress made in society.
Although I was born an American citizen, I feel that my experience, and that of many from Puerto Rico, is intertwined with those who are referred to as illegal. My grandfather served in an all-Puerto Rican segregated Army unit, the 65th Infantry Regiment. He then helped, along my grandmother, shatter glass ceilings for Puerto Rican women raising my aunt to become the first Puerto Rican woman astronomer with a PhD in astrophysics (an IQ of a genius as far as I’m concerned). Puerto Ricans, as many other Americans still today have to face issues of discrimination in voting and civil rights.
Regardless of what political affiliation people choose, my respect for some remains. I don’t expect all Hispanics to do the same (although I would hope so) but I’m taking a stand against this culture of intolerance.
I am also making a modest contribution (here: http://bit.ly/12uF3g8) to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for the efforts in helping protect the rights of immigrants and civil liberties in general.
With warm regards,