Immigration is only part of the problem Republicans have with hispanic voters - Spectator Blogs

8 November 2012

Lord knows there are plenty of people to blame for Mitt Romney’s defeat. One chap has not been mentioned often enough, however. Step forward and take your medicine Rick Perry! The Governor of Texas, who once persuaded otherwise sensible folk (and me) he was a more than plausible contender for the GOP nomination, played an important part in securing Barack Obama’s re-election. Perhaps the President should send him a set of Presidential-seal embossed cowboy boots. There are bound to be some left from the Dubya days.

It was Perry who insisted that, if you had a heart, you should support Texas’s policy of not preventing the children of illegal immigrants from getting a college education. These kids, in Texas at least, are treated like any other kids in the Lone Star State. If you live in Texas you should not be charged out-of-state tuition fees for college even if your parents are in the United States illegally.

The humanity of it was too much for Mitt Romney. Sensing that Perry might be a problem the Mittster made it clear that Texas’s let’s-face-the-facts-and-not-victimise-the-kids approach was the sort of soft-on-immigration approach up with which he would not put.

Well, how did that work out? Not very well, frankly. On Tuesday, Romney won less than 30% of the hispanic vote. Cue a thousand blogposts and newspaper articles focused upon the Republican party’s latino problem.

All of which is fair and reasonable. The GOP does have a problem with hispanic voters! There are good reasons for that but it is also the case that it is not going to be easy to find a way to solve these problems. They are deep and not liable to go away immediately even if the GOP makes a concerted effort to address the problem.


And there are, it should be remembered, compelling political facts that make it difficult for the Republican party to reverse-ferret on hispanic immigration.

Suppose, for instance, there were a vote in Congress to pass some kind of amnesty to grant a path to citizenship to the 12 million or so “illegal” immigrants presently residing in the United States. Who’s going to get the political windfall from that? The party that controls the House of Representatives or the party that controls the White House. Yeah, I think we know the answer to that.

Factor in the fact that millions of those newly-enfranchised bona fide Americans will be earning fewer than $50,000 a year and, hence, be more likely to vote for Democratic candidates than Republican hopefuls and you can see, I think, why political imperatives suggest the GOP would be crazy to endorse such a notion. It asks them to do something that is not in their political interests.

Sure, in the longer-term these new citizens might be the kind of strivers who could make up a refreshed Republican coalition. But short-lived politicians are understandably wary of notions that won’t produce any benefit before those same politicians are past their sell-by date. It takes a brave chap to say to hell with that, let’s do it because we should.

There’s a question of moral hazard too. Republicans remember how Ronald Reagan signed what was essentially an amnesty bill. All that did, however, was kick the can down the road for another generation. It did not solve the problem. Now perhaps this is because the problem, alas, resists solution. Nevertheless, the conservative view that once bitten, twice shy is neither stupid nor necessarily reprehensible.

So I don’t disagree with Max Boot when he says it would be useful if Republicans thought again about the DREAM Act but I think doing so will not be enough to solve the GOP’s hispanic problem.

Because it is not just about immigration. It is about belonging. It is about respect. It is about being part of the American family. As Matt Yglesias observes –  in a characteristically excellent post – the GOP doesn’t understand this. Remember the brouhaha over Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court? Conservative snake-oil salesmen rushed to portray her as an “affirmative action” pick who was, anyway, some kind of racist because she had the temerity to suggest that her own background might prove a useful qualification for a place on the court.

You don’t need to be an illegal immigrant to be annoyed by that. Sure, being hispanic may have helped Sotomayor in as much as Obama selected her rather than another just as equally-qualified judge but so what? Only idiots would choose to suggest or imply that the only way a hispanic woman could get to the Supreme Court would be if the barriers for nomination were lowered. Yet that is what many of the noisier elements of the conservative movement suggested. And they are surprised that latino voters were listening and remembered this? Sheesharama.

More, much more, than this however is the fact that the GOP cannot pander its way to success with hispanic voters. It needs policies that work for hispanic voters and it needs to trust that hispanic voters will be smart and sufficiently self-interested to appreciate that GOP candidates offer a better way ahead. That means that while immigration is important it is not everything. The GOP needs to reconnect with ordinary, anxious Americans earning between $40,000 and $80,000 a year. If it does and if it can moderate the tone it uses when speaking about immigration and other latino-related issues then it can begin to do better.

Are hispanics part of the American brotherhood or not? I suspect many think the GOP thinks they are not “real Americans”. But they are. And until the Republican party persuades them they are part of the American fabric it is going to be in trouble.

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  • Roy

    It doesn’t follow that following an election defeat all its policies are wrong. Neither does it follow, just because Britain follows a policy of open slaver for immigrants of all casts and persuasions it is a policy to be followed through by all and everyone.

  • james higham

    Sam – quite right [first paragraph]. Gaining power is easy if you’re unprincipled and don’t care for your country. If you do, it’s a far harder road. The GOP should choose it’s traditionally conservative line and stick with it.

    The US is a nation of immigrants though and if they integrate and succeed – good. If not – goodbye.

  • privatine

    Illegal is illegal, end of story, else there is once rule for one section of society and another for the other.

    Like Diane Abbott with her “block only” constituency meetings!

  • JEB

    Alex, conservative pundits didn’t object to Sotomayor’s nomination because she was Hispanic, they objected to it because she said that her ethnicity made her a good judge. That bothered conservatives because they think that judging is about reading legal text and applying its meaning to the case at hand, not whether one’s parents spoke Spanish. Regardless, none of this had anything to do with the election, assuming, which I think we should, that most Hispanics, like many members of other ethinic groups, did not know who’s on the supreme court.

  • Baron

    If you missed it, here’s an analytical stab at what has helped the messiah, the argument’s valid not only vis-a-vis the presidential count, the point has general validity in things other than election, explains for inst. why the pseudo-liberal tossers will never surrender the BBC, will always go for a full destruction of any communication conduit outside their control.’s-new-coalition-elites-has-thrived

  • FF42

    You should not be charged even if you’re parents are in the United States illegally? Oh dear, Alex.

  • Augustus

    I suspect that many conservatives are quite willing to discuss allowing paths for illegals to become legal, once the border is made more secure. And the security of the border has virtually nothing to do with preventing people who wish to come to America from going there. It is fear of the narcotics gangs, easily gained access by terrorists, and rampant corruption of the Mexican government. Secure the border, then discuss the remaining illegals and how to assimilate them. Maybe the answer is to actually make it easier to become legalized, but crackdown on the companies hiring the illegals. But it does stand to reason that the American Hispanic community shares many of the same values as conservatives and wonder why the GOP hates them.

    • tember2

      First the GOP needs to evict the Jan Brewers. Then the policy change can start. Until the idiots are shown the door, the Republicans will go nowhere. Hispanics aren’t idiots.

  • Sam

    Here’s a blue print for any political party to win an election (this BTW only applied to a Western democratic country). Open all doors to immigration, declare amnesty on all immigrants who are here, promise lower taxes and huge public spending, increase pensions and welfare benefits, print money to pay for the deficit, appoint people of Islamic faith and other minority groups to the highest government posts, ban words like terrorism, jihad etc. that tar people unfairly, diss Israel, ensure school kids are taught to ridicule our history so that they learn to appreciate other cultures better – but most importantly, call anyone who doesn’t agree this any of the above a bigot, a racist or an Islamophobe. Now sit back and bask in the glory of public, media and world’s adulation and see the votes roll in.

    BTW, GOP is dead and buried.

    • Barry_D

      “…appoint people of Islamic faith and other minority groups to the highest government posts…”

      This is why I think that it’ll take a whole decade for the US GOP to adapt, because of this baked-in attitude that whites (and white men) are the ‘normal’, and everybody else is inferior.

    • Ollie

      Sam’s clearly a retard (oops).

    • low battery

      But Sam. You are right.
      Open Immigration.
      The US was founded on open immigration, your white ancestors came and took away a land that belonged to American First Nations.. thus, the salient soloution is to manage immigration in a sensible manner. Behave yourself.
      Promise lower taxes.
      How on earth can it be possible, right or just for a millionaire to pay a lower tax rate than his maid? Your type likes to speak of hand outs to the poor. I seldom hear of the handouts to the rich and their corporations (who are people too).
      Dear Lord: warren buffet is willing to pay higher taxes, undersanding that we have a duty to others…
      Print Money to pay the Deficit.
      Would not be necessary of Republicans would not block every Democratic plan…
      Appoint people of Islamic faith and other minorities.
      Well: this had better be happening. As well as Hindus, atheists, Buddhists… and yes, any other minority we can imagine.
      Ban words like terrorism, jihad, etc.
      Now thats a thought. Read 1984, and come back to comment.
      Ensure children are taught to ridicule their history and appciate other cultures.
      Not everyone wants to live in America. Wake up. Perhaps if YOU were more aware and ashamed of your history… trail of tears, slavery, POW interrments, you might be more humble. If your students knew where Iraq and Iran were actually located… but i digress.
      Call any one who does not agree a bigot , a racist or islamaphobe…
      You mean like how the GOP calls anyone who does not agree with them anti-American? Like how a man claiming to be a Christian allows talkshow hosts and his party members to continually dog whistle racism. Where you candidate feels Ok to make a joke about not needing HIS birthcirtificate? Where he can talk about 47% of the country in derogatory terms and not expect them to vote against him?
      In parting.
      Blacks and hispanics do no make up the majority of people on food stamps, needing health care or poor. Forget that at your peril.
      Carry on smartly.

  • Kevin

    It takes a brave chap to say to hell with that, let’s do it because we should.

    And 60 million Americans refused to do it.

    In 2008 they voted for peace and Obama gave them war in Libya, for the Constitution and he gave them war without Congressional approval, for due process and he gave them drone strikes in Pakistan, for a reduced deficit and he doubled it, for jobs that he failed to deliver, and for the bad handling of Katrina never to be repeated and they got Sandy.

    Obama’s record exposed this as a single-issue election. 60 million Americans voted for the one promise he can be guaranteed to keep: to destroy their own children.

    • Baron

      Kevin, sir, you’ve surpassed yourself, top notch this, from the first to the last word.

  • The Masked Marvel

    You are Jonny Dymond and I claim my £5.

  • Gerry Dorrian

    Latinos, as I understand, are very proud of their Christian heritage. Perhaps a route might be for the GOP to emphasize how that culture in the US is at risk from Obama’s Islamist-friendly policies?

    • tember2

      Or perhaps the GOP might jettison its insane paranoia and xenophobia? Nominate people who believe in evolution and science? Avoid birthers and spittle-flecked cranks? This election result was a nuclear bomb exploding inside the Republican party. If they don’t get their act together, if they embrace more of the same BS, then it really is over for them — and the USA will be worse for it.

    • srao

      I think its difficult for a political movement to target its paranoia like that. To put it simply, the same people who would get energized by a campaign against “Obama’s Islamist-friendly policies” are also the same who would like their candidates to build a 3000 mile wall between us and Mexico.

      Crazy runs together. You can’t use one dark conspiracy theory to counteract another.

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