Forget the Tea Party – now it's time for the Tequila Party

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If the political frustration felt by many Hispanics in the United States is enough to drive them to drink, one Republican member of Congress understands it – it's how DeeDee Garcia Blase is hoping to recruit them to the Tequila Party.

This sounds frivolous, but it could be more so. There is, after all, another political movement in the US that also uses a beverage in its name which, although it has no formal national structure and no single leader, has re-crafted the American political landscape. The Tea Party folk have, of course, been accused by some of espousing racist doctrines, particularly when it comes to the debate over immigration control. It's partly in response to that that the Tequila Party is making its stand in Tucson, Arizona, where Ms Garcia Blase has her congressional seat.

Her movement is also an indication of how poorly the two traditional parties are faring with a block of voters that becomes more critical with each election cycle. Hispanics make up the fastest growing minority in the US. There are 50 million of them: 16 per cent of the population.

The purpose, according to Ms Garcia Blase, is not to create a third party but rather to influence the debate on immigration and galvanise Hispanics to vote. While the Tea Party is aligned with Republicans, the Tequila Party aims to be non-partisan.

That it has sprung out of a border city in Arizona is hardly a surprise, given the state's recent attempts to enact a new law that would compel police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. Georgia has since tried to introduce similar legislation, but in both cases the laws are being challenged by the federal government in the courts.

The Tequila Party's first major event is scheduled for later this month in Kansas, a state far from the border, but which has generated its own share of immigration-related headlines, not least when a member of the state legislature publicly suggested that illegal immigrants be shot at the border "like pigs".

For Republicans, Hispanic support has long been elusive. While George W Bush made inroads, the party today has no prospective presidential candidate with credible ties to the community. With the exception of Cuban-Americans in Florida and New Jersey, most Hispanics would be expected to tilt towards the Democrats.

But President Barack Obama has flat-out disappointed many of them in particular because of his promise in 2008 to enact comprehensive immigration reform with his first 12 months in office. But almost nothing has been done.

Ms Garcia Blase says that she is not building the Tequila Party as an anti-Obama movement per se.

"We're not going to bash politicians like the Tea Party does. This is about voting and why we're in the situation we're in," she remarked recently.

As for the name, the Tequila Party, a consultant helping to build it, Augustin Garcia, says it's an attempt at levity to make the movement accessible. "We are a culture that likes humour," he told CNN.

"We're not Puritans. Humour is part of our politics as well. We could have called it the Cafe con Leche Party. You have to laugh because there is no logic in racism."

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