Let’s face it: Republicans have never (which politically speaking means “within recent memory”) been popular with Hispanic voters. The Houston Chronicle says that the GOP’s latest losses have been self-inflicted, brought on by their recent initiatives to reform immigration policy.
Lionel Sosa has been a proud Republican for years. He produced campaign commercials for the late Sen. John Tower, worked as a media consultant for Ronald Reagan and raised money for George W. Bush.
But the harsh immigration rhetoric of some Republicans has driven the Floresville executive to question the direction of his party.
“Anytime anybody says, ‘We’ve got to get those people out of here, and we’ve got to build a wall to keep those Mexicans out,’ it’s going to come off as unfriendly, period,” he said. “If (Republicans) don’t pedal back on the rhetoric, they are going to be in big trouble.”
The immigration debate is one reason why Sosa, 68, is supporting Democrat Bill Richardson, a Latino and New Mexico’s governor, for president. More important, his sense of betrayal is echoed in Hispanic communities across America. Latino support for President Bush and the Republican Party has plummeted this year as the debate over illegal immigration has driven Hispanic voters away from the GOP.
Betrayal is a pretty strong word, particularly since immigration reform has been simmering in the Republican pot for a long time. It’s hardly fair to characterize Bush’s push for immigration reform in this light.
Recall that it was Congressional Republicans who demanded more restrictions and less incentives for immigrants during the recent debates. “No Amnesty!” is a GOP catch phrase right enough. But that has nothing to do with George W. Bush.
It’s also quite childish and I can understand why voters would turn against a party that let’s petulance rule over common sense. The 10-20 million illegals already in the U.S. aren’t going anywhere. Use whatever fancy phrasing you want to – we have to do something to bring these people into the mainstream while we close the border behind them.
Bush is among those paying the price for the anti-Republican backlash. His job-approval rating among Latinos has plummeted to 20 percent from 35 percent since January, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of polling data for the Houston Chronicle. The drop is significantly sharper than among non-Hispanic whites and blacks.
“The trends are overwhelming,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. “It’s been a complete collapse among Hispanics for the president.”
I’m not really buying what Lake is selling. Yes, Bush’s numbers are down by half among Hispanic voters, but his approval rating among all voters is nearly as bad. Not that that is a good thing; it simply means that he’s losing support among other demographics just as much as among Latinos.
A Pew Hispanic Center survey found that Latinos prefer the Democrats’ approach to immigration by more than 2-to-1.
“The Republicans must have a death wish on that issue,” says University of Texas political scientist Bruce Buchanan. “The clearest consequence is that they have handed the Democrats a (political) prize.”
“I am worried about it,” Rove said, hours after his Aug. 13 resignation as deputy White House chief of staff. “And you cannot ignore the aspirations of the fastest-growing minority in America. We did that once before (with African-Americans). … And we better not put ourselves in (that) place with a vital part of the electorate that fundamentally shares our values and views.”
I’m worried about it too because despite Bush’s utter failure as a fiscal conservative, history is on the side of the Republicans when it comes to monetary restraint or, in the case of the Reagan years, more appropriate allocation of expenditures.
With expenses in Iraq adding up belt-tightening in other areas seems like a no-brainer. But Democrats have not seen it that way since taking control of Congress last year. If Hispanics throw their votes behind Democrats in the same or increasing numbers Republicans will have a difficult time making up ground lost in 2006. That means higher taxes and more government for everyone. Not a good outcome.
How to deal with immigration then?
“This is a sensitive issue,” says Austin GOP consultant Reggie Bashur. “Everybody sees the lesson of California. The Republicans have to work through the immigration issue with a sensitivity to Hispanics to make sure that we don’t offend them.”
That kind of language makes me nauseous because it signals an ill wind in the offing as relates to immigration reform. At least 5% of America’s population is here illegally and we’re expected not to offend anyone? Ridiculous.
If Hispanics do flock to Democratic candidates it will be for two reasons:
- Democrats are the party of “free stuff”, something that always appeals to voters on the lower end of the economic spectrum
- Hispanics identify more strongly with their racial and ethnic relatives than they do with their own country
Neither of these is good for America. The free goodies given to one spread of voters are not not created out of thin air; rather, they are taken from other citizens, often the very workers who earned them at great expense of time and effort. Wealth redistribution, in other words.
The lack of national identification is another, more insidious problem that may be harder to address because attempts to codify the use of English as our official language, for instance, while legitimate from a long-term social perspective, only exacerbates the ethnic divide in the here and now, making the goal of a more integrated America that much harder to reach.
So is it political suicide to call for immigration reform? Perhaps. But that doesn’t make it less necessary.
Cross-posted at The Van Der Galiën Gazette.