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ICYMI: Continuing to Embrace Anti-Immigrant Republicans Would Be a “Rendezvous with Irrelevance”

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Two conservative Washington Post writers make compelling cases for why their fellow Republicans should pass immigration reform:

Former George W. Bush administration speechwriter Michael Gerson writes a Washington Post column titled, “A Rendezvous with Irrelevance,” that hammers home the demographic and political realities facing the Republican Party that compel action on immigration:

The Republican Party faces an existential question: Can it make the transition to a more welcoming position on immigration without tearing itself apart or further alienating Latinos by the tenor of its internal debate?  The journey is necessary, perilous and always easier to delay than begin.

Most Republicans — or at least the subset that cares about the national fortunes of the party — recognize that Mitt Romney’s 27 percent showing among Latino voters was a frightening portent.  While not even the worst of Romney’s electoral problems — a lack of enthusiasm among white, working-class voters probably takes that honor — this outcome represents collapsing support in a rising group.

There are a variety of ways to do the electoral math, but here is one: Republicans won about a quarter of the Latino vote in a nation when about a quarter of all children entering kindergarten are Latino. Republicans have a rendezvous with irrelevance, arriving faster in places such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida.  While it remains possible for Republicans to win national elections with low Latino support, it will become harder and harder over time.  Eventually, a party at war with demography becomes accustomed to defeat.

Confronting the problem seems even less attractive because it won’t be solved in a single, symbolic vote on immigration reform.  That would only allow a more extensive courtship to begin.  And many Latino voters, according to the polls, believe government should take a positive role in solving social problems and encouraging economic mobility.  A serious appeal to Latinos would involve not just an embrace of immigration reform but also the application of creative, conservative ideas to the specific needs of a rising minority group.  This explains at least a portion of conservative resistance to this political task. It requires a form of conservatism that accepts the safety net and actively seeks to extend opportunity.

But immigration reform is the threshold.  As John Bunyan tells it in ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress,’ Christian begins his journey by passing through a gate, and the gatekeeper’s name is Goodwill.  While Bunyan probably did not have ethnic politics in mind, the first Republican gate is a demonstration of good will…

Fellow Washington Post conservative Jennifer Rubin calls out immigration reform opponents for their shifting justifications and short-sighted policies, in a must-read titled “Anti-Immigration Gang Moves Goalposts”:

The anti-immigration crowd, including a couple of prominent dead-tree conservative weeklies, have let the cat out of the bag.  When the immigration reform bill was making its way through the Senate, the argument went, ‘We’re not opposed to any immigration bill, it’s just this one.’  The triggers were too weak or the security measures couldn’t be verified.  It was always something.  Another variation was: ‘We favor immigration reform, but not a path to citizenship.’  It seems they were not being candid or at the very least have moved the goalposts.

With no actual House bill or even agreed-upon principles, the anti-reform gang has declared its opposition to whatever the reform is.  In other words, the details don’t matter; any immigration bill that might result in not deporting those here or encouraging legal immigration is now a nonstarter.  They go so far as to say that it is inconsistent with the GOP’s new focus on upward mobility.  (This is absurd since upward mobility has been static for decades, regardless of the level of immigration.)

This is a Malthusian mindset that believes that there are a set number of jobs, only so many opportunities to move up the ladder and that every immigrant is another mouth to feed through food stamps.  Moreover, it is an argument against legal immigration since the competition for jobs and resources would come from immigrants as well.

Many in the anti-reform group have opposed immigration reform because this would be handing Democrats millions of new voters.  But wait, we’re talking now about legalization.  No, never mind, reply the anti-immigration crowd; it will only lead to citizenship.  In other words, you have to round up the people here, kick them out and make sure new people don’t ever come in to boost the Democratic Party’s voting rolls.

Now there’s a gloomy view of the attractiveness of conservatism.  When did conservatism become the political philosophy of only white people?

Economics writer Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute writes, ‘So now (some) conservatives don’t want the brainiacs, either?  According to Harvard study, immigrants generally account for about a quarter of the US workforce engaged in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.’  He points out that ‘according to Pia Orrenius of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, immigrants accounted for well over 50% of the growth in employment in STEM-related fields between 2003 and 2008.  So we want those foreign PhDs only if they are big 2nd Amendment supporters?’  Like we are, he is puzzled by the conviction that the GOP won’t every appeal to ‘low-income immigrants with.  . — not to mention those Hispanics and Asians natives and immigrants in the middle and upper class — with the same set of pro-growth, pro-mobility policies that might appeal to all Americans. . .

I’m not sure which philosophy says that immigration is bad for America, that non-white people are hopelessly Democratic or that we should round up and deport millions (unless the anti-reformers who touted their respect for law and order now support ignoring the immigration statutes on the books and promoting lawlessness).  It doesn’t sound like conservatism, let alone the conservatism of the man they venerate, Ronald Reagan.

It’s also rotten math.  The GOP can’t continue to do horribly with the portion of the electorate that is growing the fastest.  There aren’t enough whites to make up a national electoral majority, even if you thought that was a morally and politically sustainable undertaking.  Republicans, mind you, don’t need to win Hispanics; they need to do better with Hispanics, as George W. Bush did (44 percent).  You will recall he was the last GOP president who won two terms.  He might be the last unless the GOP has the good sense to ignore the anti-reformers.