Republicans put hate at the center of their campaign.
In Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, and Florida, especially, anti-immigrant, anti-Latino campaign ads and rhetoric ruled – even from Latino candidates. Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle in Nevada described Latinos as "illegal aliens" as coming in "a wave" and then told one audience that she couldn't tell if they were Latinos or Asians. The message her campaign drummed out was that Latinos are illegal, they aren't real Americans, they do not deserve the social benefits of living in our society and that politicians who support equality are dangerous. Fortunately, Angle was defeated with the aid of Latino voters in Nevada who came to Sen. Harry Reid's rescue (a bright spot for future Democratic victories).
Tea Party-backed Florida Senator-elect Marco Rubio, a Cuban American, presented two messages to voters, In English he viciously attacked Latino immigrants demanding they speak English and supporting racial profiling laws like Arizona's SB 1070. Ironically, in Spanish-language ads Rubio highlighted his immigrant heritage. In other words, to white, English-speaking voters, Rubio said one thing, and to Spanish-speaking voters, he said another. A split in the progressive and centrist vote between expelled Republican Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek aided Rubio's victory.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, presiding over the worst economic downturn in her state since the Great Depression, offered no economic solutions. She offered a racial profiling law that would target Latinos, SB 1070. She portrayed Latino communities as crime-ridden – though police chief's of major cities across the country say immigrant communities have lower crime rates than communities of the native-born – and accused Democrats of registering undocumented immigrants to vote.
Habitual "john," Sen. David Vitter, R-La. rode to reelection also portraying Latinos as illegal immigrants stealing jobs and sucking up resources. In a YouTube ad, Vitter's campaign depicted people who appeared to be Latinos cutting through a fence (these images were enacted). The ad was pulled after Getty Images threatened to sue his campaign for stealing a copyrighted picture. Apparently Vitter used a photo of three Latino farmworkers with serious looks on their faces to depict "illegals" who were likely angry criminals coming to steal jobs.
There is some speculation that Democrats will make a final push in the lame duck session for some immigration reform policies, such as the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for tens of thousands of immigrant youths, but comprehensive immigration reform is off the table for at least two years.
There is no doubt that racially-motivated hatred of President Obama was central to the Republican and the Tea Party campaign as well. Republican Party leaders fomented attacks on the President about his nativity and his racial background, and Tea PArty activists all-too-eagerly followed suit. Missing the big picture, too many on the left, unfortunately, un-self-critically lent credence to right-wing claims about his competence and leadership with their simplistic and divisive calls for "criticism" of the administration.
Republicans also continued the attack on LGBT people and equality. They used homophobic hate speech to block an attempt to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and used hatred to stir up their base of voters.
While the GOP's handling of immigration and LGBT equality did not present solutions or even touch on the central concerns of the vast majority of voters – job creation – Republicans were all too eager to use hate and divisiveness to win the day.
Without a doubt the election proved the necessity fo building unity by people who know better, rather than fostering or aiding in the promotion of division – no matter how high-minded they think they are.