Former California Governor Pete Wilson created the path to Latino power in his state when he aggressively pursued Proposition 187 back in 1984. He dug a deep hole for the GOP — and they’ve only continued to dig it deeper since then. This year, Wilson was a co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
When it comes to the issue of Latino political power, California has paved the way. Last month, America’s Voice issued an analysis of how immigration played in California elections this year. Three anti-immigrant incumbents Republican members of Congress, Brian Bilbray, Mary Bono Mack and Dan Lungren, lost their seats. Rep. Gallegly didn’t even bother to run again, or he would have faced the same fate. Entitled California’s 2012 Elections — A Win For Immigrant Champions & A Cautionary Tale for the National GOP, the report noted:
Since the days of Proposition 187 in 1994, California’s Latino and Asian-American voters have led the way in rejecting anti-immigrant candidates. Latino voters throughout California preferred Democrats over Republicans in 2012 congressional races by an overwhelming 80%-20% margin, according to election-eve polling of Latino voters in California conducted by Latino Decisions.
Now, with the state’s changing demographics becoming more and more pronounced each election cycle, even former Republican strongholds are under threat. As the Los Angeles Times noted, “Orange County was once an instant synonym for Republican power, and the GOP’s dominance looked impregnable.” Yet even Orange County “has faded from red to pink with the emergence of Latino voters, who are repelled by the party’s stand on immigration.” Such is the story of current politics in California – which could be the story of politics in the future for the national Republican Party, unless they change their anti-immigrant ways.
Now, it looks like some California Republicans from Orange County might finally be getting a clue. Anti-immigrant Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly is making noise about potentially running for California Governor in 2014, and fellow members of his own party are shooting the idea down. From Politico:
The influential Lincoln Club of Orange County has released a statement opposing GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a former leader in the anti-illegal immigration group known as the Minutemen, who announced last week he would form an exploratory committee to run in 2014.
From Robert Loewen, president of the group of conservative donors and business leaders:
Assemblyman Donnelly’s views on immigration do not represent the views of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, nor do I believe he represents the views of most Republicans or Californians. We cannot support Republicans who continually target immigrants, who are members of our community, as scapegoats for their own political advantage. It’s time for all elected officials, Democrats and Republicans, to stop dividing our state along ethnic lines and start looking for practical solutions to the problems that affect all of us.”
As Orange County Register columnist Martin Wisckol writes, “You know your Republican campaign for California governor is in trouble when the first attack on your candidacy comes from fellow Republicans.”
The club’s statement is the latest recognition on the right of the need for a different tone and approach when it comes to immigration, and Latinos in particular.
Donnelly is as hard-core as it gets for the anti-immigrant crowd. Earlier this year, Donnelly failed in his quest to force a ballot measure that would repeal California’s DREAM Act. He’s not exactly the best face for the GOP right about now. But he’d fit right in with Lamar Smith, Kris Kobach, Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio.
It’s going to take way more than a change in tone for Republicans to get right on immigration. The GOP needs to join the effort to create a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants.