Latinos and the Republican Party haven’t seen eye-to-eye much recently. However, leaders of prominent Latino-focused organizations and leading Republican pollsters each made news yesterday and reached a similar conclusion: the Republican Party needs to play ball on real immigration reform or else pay an escalating political price. There’s a consensus that changing demographics and the corrosive GOP image among Latinos are a recipe for increasing political irrelevance unless the party adapts on immigration.
Yesterday, a group of Latino leaders called for broad immigration reform that puts 11 million Americans-in-waiting on the road to citizenship, and pledged to issue a report card on individual elected officials’ roles and votes on immigration. Citing the 2012 elections as a “game-changer” that “made the political case for a bipartisan solution” on immigration, NCLR President Janet Murguía said of the impending legislative debate on immigration, “We have worked to build our power and now we intend to use it. The bottom line…is that Latino voters went to the polls with the economy on their minds but with immigration reform in their hearts.” Eliseo Medina, international secretary treasurer of SEIU promised “Make no mistake, we will be watching,” promising to share information with Latino voters about, “who stood with us and who stood against us” on immigration reform.
Meanwhile, Republican pollsters were busy underscoring the impact of the promises, pledges, and conclusions drawn by Murguía, Medina, and other Latino leaders. Yesterday, Resurgent Republic and the Hispanic Leadership Network released findings of post-election polling of Latino voters in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico – polling which underscores the corrosion of the Republican brand image due to the way the GOP has mishandled the immigration issue.
Regarding tone, Hispanic Leadership Network executive director Jennifer Korn said of Latino voters, “I call it the immigration earmuffs. Even though you might agree on jobs, the economy, national security, if the tone is harsh on immigration, they’re not going to listen to you on the other issues.”
Yet the pollsters also recognize that it will take more than a rhetorical adjustment on immigration to compete – it will require the Republican Party to support common sense immigration reform legislation as a first step toward rebuilding their relationship with Latino voters. As the pollsters at Resurgent Republic conclude, “Fixing a broken immigration system is necessary but not sufficient to make Republicans competitive in the Hispanic community. But resolving those problems is imperative if Republicans hope to remain a competitive force in national politics. Numbers do not lie, and growing Hispanic influence in American life will only continue to grow.” Paraphrasing the discussion emanating from the Resurgent Republic poll, Slate’s Dave Weigel noted, “little solutions, like Marco Rubio’s DREAM compromise, would probably not fix it.”
This analysis was underscored yesterday by new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau that show just how close the GOP is coming to what we call the “demographic cliff:” According to the New York Times recap of the new Census estimates, “The term ‘minority,’ at least as used to describe racial and ethnic groups in the United States, may need to be retired or rethought soon: by the end of this decade, according to Census Bureau projections released Wednesday, no single racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of children under 18.” Latino population growth is behind much of the nation’s changing demographics, with the Census classification of ‘Hispanic’ population in the U.S. expected to “more than double” by 2060.
As Resurgent Republic wrote in their poll analysis:
Republicans have run out of persuadable white voters. For the fifth time in the past six presidential elections, Republicans lost the popular vote. Trying to win a national election by gaining a larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller portion of the electorate is a losing political proposition.
Frank Sharry, our Executive Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, said:
The GOP’s Latino problem is quickly becoming an existential crisis for the Republican party. With Latino voters and leading Latino organizations engaged and vigilant, Republican pollsters making it clear that the Party needs to pass broad immigration reform and the Census Bureau documenting the fact that Republican intransigence on immigration is akin to political suicide, it all adds up to a simple message for Republicans – adapt or die as a national Party. The demographic cliff lies just ahead.