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Cillizza, Chait: GOP Has Made Huge Demographic Mistake in Not Passing Reform

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Just how much demographic trouble is the GOP in, now that legislative immigration reform has officially been declared dead and President Obama is poised to take executive action without Republicans?  Check out these two pieces from Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post and Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine.

Chris Cillizza reminds us that, following their 2012 defeat, the RNC released an autopsy report that specifically called for immigration reform as a policy prerequisite to attracting Latino voters:

It is now more likely that the occupant of the White House after that election will be a Democrat.

Don’t take my word for it. Here again, the Republican autopsy report.

“If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence. It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door”…

“It is encouraging that there are many Republican leaders both in the House and the Senate working on immigration proposals,” reads the Republican autopsy. “As the party advocates for positive solutions on immigration, we will be more successful appealing to Hispanic voters on other issues.” At the moment, Republicans are best known among Latinos for a lack of solutions on immigration. And that will come back to haunt them in 2016.

And Jonathan Chait, on how the GOP’s refusal to be a party that governs may finally have gone too far.  While they have stalled on legislation, Obama is poised to take action — which means that when they try to campaign against him, they will once again be running against his executive orders, i.e. campaigning in favor of more deportations.  That’s the kind of mistake that could eventually make Mitt Romney’s 23% showing among Latino voters a high mark.  More from Chait:

The failure of the House to pass a bill of any kind represents a fascinating case study of a party unable to act on its recognized political self-interest…Here are four thoughts on a self-inflicted wound:

1. Republicans are blaming Obama’s record of selectively enforcing the law in order to advance his own agenda as the reason to oppose a bill. But this is irrelevant, or even backwards.

Obviously, a significant and vocal segment of the Republican base opposes the merits of any liberalization of immigration policy. But Obama has significant power to liberalize immigration policy on his own. So the substantive question for restrictionists is not whether they could use their leverage over the House to pass an immigration bill that’s better than current policy. The question is whether they could use their leverage to pass a bill that’s better than the policy that will exist after Obama unilaterally rewrites it.

2. Some Republicans have taken seriously the need to reposition the Party so that it can win a presidential election without the benefit of a recession or some other extraordinary circumstance. But the “reformist” Republicans are internally dividing over immigration policy, which is why the Party’s reform manifesto ignored the issue entirely…

3. Republicans will face little if any blowback during the upcoming midterms, because the battleground states and districts have almost no Latinos. After that, the immigration issue becomes poisonous. Immigration reform with a path to citizenship is extremely popular. The failure of a bill ensures that, at worst, Republicans will alienate Latinos again in 2016 by competing for the restrictionist vote; and at best, will hand Democrats a powerful issue to use against them in the general election. It also hands the most ideologically extreme Republican candidates (like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul) a weapon to use in the primaries against more politically pragmatic Republicans (like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, or even Paul Ryan).

4. The GOP’s worst problem is that Obama’s unilateral relaxation of immigration enforcement will add a newer and more potent dimension to the immigration issue. No longer will Republicans merely have to promise to oppose reform legislation. They will have to promise to undo what Obama has done.

This is an important distinction. A campaign promise about legislation can be easily slipped, as a president can blame any failure to comply on Congress (often rightly). A promise about executive action cannot be so easily slipped. Interest groups have a way of forcing candidates to make specific, immediate promises of executive action.

And so Republicans may well find themselves in the position of watching their nominee pledging to prosecute or deport immigrant families or children pardoned or left alone by Obama. The only way their friends, neighbors, or relatives who happen to be legal citizens can spare them will be to vote for Clinton. It may have seemed that the Republicans’ standing with immigrant communities had sunk to a new low in 2012, but in 2016, things could actually get worse.

Read the full columns from Chris Cillizza and Jonathan Chait.