National Journal’s Ron Brownstein writes about the changing demographics in the United States — and how that impacts elections. He notes that Latinos, the fastest growing voting bloc, are a key to the future. And a number of Republican strategists are deeply worried about their party’s chances in that diverse future, unless something changes on immigration. Here’s a sample of their quotes from Brownstein’s piece:
- The fact that Romney, in most scenarios, can hope at best for a narrow win, despite Obama’s weakness among whites—and despite levels of economic dislocation that typically dooms incumbents—testifies to the demographic limits of the GOP’s current coalition. “Even [if] Romney does in fact get the white vote at the level [he needs] … and is able to win the presidency with that, he will be the last Republican candidate that will do that,” says Steve Schmidt, the chief strategist for John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “The demographics of the country even four years from now will be such that that will be an impossibility.”
- Even if Romney wins narrowly with a margin among whites that previously generated landslide victories, the party is likely to squabble over its standing with minorities, especially Hispanics. “You’ve got to play on the other field or you can’t win,” says [Mike] Murphy, the GOP consultant. “What we have to understand is, our field is shrinking and their field is growing. If we ignore it, I think it will be totally self-destructive. There will be a big fight in the party after the election between the mathematicians and the priests.” Murphy’s “mathematicians” include many of the party’s most prominent strategists. They consider the GOP’s anemic performance among minorities, particularly Hispanics, an existential threat to the party’s viability at the national level. Although political participation has lagged population growth among Hispanics, their share of the vote has increased from 1 percent in 1980 to 9 percent in 2008, and the Pew Hispanic Center recently calculated that nearly 24 million Latinos are eligible to vote this year, up by more than 4 million since 2008. That’s double the four-year increase in eligible Hispanics between the 1996 and 2000 elections.
- “If Republicans are going to be competitive at the presidential level over the next 10 to 20 years, they have to do better among nonwhite voters, especially Asians and Hispanics,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres warns.
- Republican consultant Terry Nelson, the field director for Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, says that party leaders eventually must, in effect, take the risk of confronting the GOP’s current coalition to build its next one. “The current coalition is hesitant to do the things we need to do,” he acknowledges. “But the math is not going to add up in the future for us if we continue to be overly reliant on the votes of white voters. Certainly at the presidential level, sticking with this position [on immigration] will eventually put Republicans in a permanent minority position.”
As Brownstein noted, recasting the party’s position on immigration won’t be easy. He quotes one of the leaders of the anti-immigrant movement, Roy Beck, who wants to keep the GOP on the same path:
Roy Beck, the founder and CEO of NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for reduced immigration, promises even greater resistance to any Republicans who revive George W. Bush’s call to provide undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship. “We have been fighting the George W. Bush people for 11 years; we regard them as enemies of American working families,” Beck says. “It’s not going to go anywhere, because it’s the same voices as in 2006 and 2007. These are the same old voices that got beaten [then].”
Beck has anti-immigrant GOP allies like Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who crafted the “self-deportation” strategy adopted by Mitt Romney.
There is a pretty clear choice ahead for the GOP. As our Executive Director Frank Sharry often says, the GOP is stuck between a nativist rock and a demographic hard place. Obviously, some Republicans want to change course. But that nativist block isn’t moving any time soon.