House Republicans this year have killed a bill allowing DREAMers to enlist in the military, passed a bill expediting the removal of children fleeing violence, and voted multiple times to end deferred action and deport DREAMers. The Republican platform on immigration is even more radical than in was in 2012, when Mitt Romney’s belief in self-deportation cost him the Latino vote and the White House.
With the 2016 elections coming up without Republicans having anything to offer Latino voters, what is a party that has clearly driven itself off the demographic cliff to do? According to Reihan Salam of National Review, the answer apparently is to deny the importance of immigration reform to the Latino vote. In his column this week, Salam argues that immigration is not a top concern to Latino voters, implying that Republicans will be fine despite not having passed legislation, as long as they can connect with Latinos on pocketbook issues. Problem solved!
Fernando Espuelas at the Hill sets the record straight, in a piece excoriating Salam for making assumptions about an issue the latter doesn’t fully understand. Sixty-three percent of Latino voters know someone undocumented, making the issue intensely personal for them*. That’s what Salam doesn’t seem to understand — that voters won’t support your party if they’re blindingly angry that you’re trying to deport their community.
Here’s more from Fernando Espuelas, making it clear that Republicans are deluding themselves if they don’t think that their incredibly nativist House antics will have serious repercussions for them in 2016 and beyond:
With the exception of Latino voters in a deep coma over the last 12 months, a majority of Hispanic voters blame Republicans for the failure of the House to pass a version of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration-reform bill. And equally damaging, they hold the GOP responsible for passing three symbolic immigration bills — not to reform the system, but with the stated purpose of deporting the Dreamers — while demonizing migrant minors at the border…
According to a May 2014 Politicopoll, 90 percent of Latino voters support comprehensive immigration reform. Not surprisingly, deporting Dreamers is as popular as root canals. Anecdotally, I am quite confident that Latinos do not agree about anything else at a 90 percent level. Even whether to be called “Latinos” or “Hispanics” is a statistical toss-up.
Salam makes the classic mistake of extrapolating limited knowledge of a subject — American Hispanic politics — into a political theory that fits his deeply held ideological beliefs.
Republicans with real experience, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), are cognizant that whenever Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and his anti-Latino allies once again insult Latinos, the damage to the Republican Party measurably increases, and the chances of Latino voters electing Republicans to office diminish even further.
Worse, Salam’s specious argument gives the “Deportation Republicans,” as The Wall Street Journal recently called them, an imaginary lifesaving flotation device, while the GOP’s fortunes with the fastest-growing voting block in America sink like the Titanic.
Salam would better serve his Republican readers by telling them the truth: Until the GOP’s immigration position approximates their hero Reagan’s policy, the chances of Latino voters looking at the GOP with anything other than disdain will only increase.
* More Latino Decisions polling:
- “50% [of Latino voters] say even if they disagree with GOP on other issues, if GOP passes immigration reform bill they would have more favorable opinion of the GOP.” (2/17/2014)
- “When asked if they have ever voted Republican for any federal, state or local election, 49% of Latino voters said they had voted Republican at some point in the past. That means about half of all Latinos are possible Republican voters if the party supports issues important to the Latino community. However, they will never achieve the 30% mark again if they continue to be perceived as an anti-immigrant party by Latino voters.” (7/8/2013)