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Sargent, Bouie: GOP Knows It Must Attract Latino Voters. It's Just Not Doing It

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Republicans have undergone a marked devolution since last June, when they actually mustered up the political common sense to help pass the Senate immigration bill.  But since then, they’ve taken no action on real immigration reform, killed the ENLIST Act for immigrants who want to serve in the military, and given Steve King multiple votes to deport DREAMers.  Right now the House is trying to vote on a bill that would address the children’s humanitarian crisis, a piece of legislation that would expedite the deportations of children who might qualify for asylum and has already drawn a veto threat from the President.  Yet for Ted Cruz and others, the bill is actually not extremist enough, because it doesn’t explicitly call for an end to DACA.

As two pieces from Greg Sargent at the Washington Post and  at Slate today make clear, however, the GOP has gone so far off the rails in its mass-deportation frenzy that it doesn’t even realize how far away it’s strayed from the correct path.  In 2012, Mitt Romney was walloped among Latino voters over his support of self-deportation — but even he supported DREAMers being able to join the military, which suggests that the current GOP is to the right of him when it comes to immigration.

That doesn’t bode well for Republicans and future Latino outreach.  Below is Greg Sargent today reminding us of all the ways the GOP is currently the party of mass deportations:

Cruz, King, and Sessions are not outliers in this debate. Broadly speaking, their position on this crisis — and on immigration in general – is the GOP position writ large…

Remember: The House GOP already voted last year to end DACA. Meanwhile, Republicans are preparing to cast any future Obama action to ease deportations, no matter what it is, as out-of-control lawlessness and executive overreach, which is functionally equivalent to calling for maximum deportations from the interior. And they are heaping outright derision on the mere suggestion by Democrats that perhaps this crisis should be an occasion to revisit broader reform — yet another reminder that they won’t act to legalize the 11 million under any circumstances. So how, exactly, is this collection of positions, broadly speaking, any different from those of Cruz, King, Sessions, et. al.?

As Jamelle Bouie explains, Republicans seem to believe that they can avoid the Latino backlash to their extremist anti-immigrant agenda by going around immigration altogether, and speaking to the economic concerns of Latino voters.  Except:

The Republican Party’s original analysis was correct. After the RNC released its report, Latino Decisions published a poll on Hispanics, immigration reform, and the GOP. Among all Hispanics, 32 percent were more likely to vote Republican in the future if comprehensive immigration reform passed. What’s more, a later Latino Decisions poll—this time of Latino registered voters—found that 61 percent would be more likely to listen to Republicans on issues like taxes or school choice if the party supported reform.

Barring a major shift in Latino public opinion, there’s little chance this has changed in recent months. Immigration remains an important variable for Latino voters. That’s not to say it’s the top concern—there’s survey data to the contrary—but it’s a key symbolic concern, a measure of a party’s commitment to a full and inclusive government. Put another way, it’s no accident that only 12 percent of Hispanics associated the phrase “cares about people like you” with the Republican Party, according to a September 2013 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. (In the same poll, 48 percent of Hispanics attribute “negative associations” to the GOP.)

I understand the GOP’s predicament. It wants a larger portion of the Latino vote—lest it be crippled in future national elections—but it doesn’t want to pass immigration reform, lest it alienate core supporters. But there are no shortcuts to building respect and goodwill. If Republicans want more than a rump share of Latino voters, they’ll need to shift on immigration reform. Otherwise, they should expect Latinos to meet them with a “closed door.”

There you go.  After 2012, the GOP briefly understood that it needed to do more to attract Latino voters — and so it helped pass S. 744, the Senate immigration bill.  But the extremists have since become such a loud and controlling voice within the Party that the GOP is arguably as bad as ever on immigrants and immigration reform.  Republicans are now trying to fool themselves into thinking that they don’t need reform, that economic concerns will work fine as a way to connect with Latino voters.  But the polling — which finds that 63% of all Latino voters know someone undocumented, making immigration a hugely personal issue for them — just doesn’t support that.  Republicans are falling off a serious demographic cliff, yet they’re still becoming ever more extremist.