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Thought Leaders: GOP’s Nativism and Changing Demographics Are Scrambling the Electoral Map

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Simon Rosenberg from the left and Jennifer Rubin from the right weigh in with insightful takes on how Latinos and the politics of immigration are shaking up the electoral map in 2016 – and beyond

With the 2016 electoral map taking shape, a host of Latino-heavy states moving towards competitive status (Texas), battleground status (Arizona), or safe Democratic status (states such as Colorado joining states like New Mexico). Below we highlight the analyses of these dynamics by thought leaders from the left and right.

Simon Rosenberg, president of NDN, progressive, and a longtime observer of the intersection of demographics, immigration policy and American politics, writes a new piece at U.S. News & World Report titled, “The GOP Should Be Worried About Texas”:

“Key to President George W. Bush’s narrow victories was his success in heavily Hispanic states. Over the course of two elections he won Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas twice, and New Mexico once. As the Hispanic population has surged throughout the country, and become about two to one Democratic along the way, these states – with the exception of Texas – have drifted away from the GOP.

Today, Clinton leads in the five states other than Texas, and the Trump campaign isn’t even competing in Colorado or New Mexico. And we all know the story of California, the first state to go through this demographic transformation. The state which helped birth the modern conservative movement and gave us the two Republican presidents prior to the Bushes – Reagan and Nixon – is on the verge of seeing its Republican Party go out of business.

…Texas, however, has never seen the investment by national Democrats nor a Pete Wilson/Prop 187-like event for Democrats to realize the potential of the underlying demographics of the state. The closeness of Texas this year suggests that the Trump candidacy may be acting as a Wilson-like catalyst, turning many Hispanics into active Democratic voters. A new CBS/YouGov poll of Texas found evidence of this, with Hispanics scoring higher levels of intensity and vote intent than either African-Americans or whites, and giving Clinton a 61 percent to 31 percent lead over Trump.

Looking ahead to 2017, these numbers suggest the national immigration community should consider making major investments in Texas. Getting this all important delegation, with many of the most influential leaders of the restrictionist camp, to soften its opposition to a Clinton-led reform effort out of fear of an activated Hispanic population could be the final missing piece for the pro-reform movement. In the same CBS/YouGov poll cited above, Texans choose options for undocumented immigrants to stay rather than leave by 61 percent to 39 percent, signaling that the people of Texas are in a far more pragmatic place than most of their leaders.

…Remarkably, Texas has a higher percentage of both millennials and Hispanics today than California, suggesting that with a significant investment in the coming years Texas could indeed follow California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and now Arizona from red to blue.

We knew it was coming. But 2016 may be the year that the Republican Party started to finally lose it grasp on its most important state. In a year of bad news for Republicans, this news about Texas may be about as bad as it gets.”

Meanwhile, in a series of recent columns, conservative Washington Post writer Jennifer Rubin takes stock of the electoral damage caused by the Republican Party’s embrace of nativism and alienation of Latino voters. In a piece titled, “Look where anti-immigrant advocates have taken the GOP,” Rubin notes:

“Trump’s plan to deport 11 million people — which he reiterated at the third presidential debate in Las Vegas — is a political disaster, not only in the animus it generates among minorities but in the negative effect on women, college-educated voters and young voters who perceive him as mean-spirited and prejudiced. Rounding up millions of people by force, separating families and destroying local economies turns out to be a loser among voters. (But everyone on the talk radio show hosts’ call boards loves it! Seriously, that’s how these people think.)

Even in states where Republicans didn’t bank on winning, the party’s overt xenophobia may cost it House seats. ‘Republican insiders there and in Washington say that Trump’s unpopularity in ethnically diverse California is now threatening to crater their party down ballot — hurting members who were previously presumed safe from top of the ticket headwinds,’ writes David Drucker. He identifies at least four at-risk seats in districts with large numbers of Hispanic voters.

…Immigration and the overt hostility to large segments of the electorate will contribute to Trump’s embarrassing defeat. The GOP’s plunge into xenophobia is also a very good reason for Republicans who believe in tolerance, diversity, scientific progress and economic growth to leave the GOP. Meanwhile, the GOP commits electoral and intellectual suicide. To each his own.”

And in a column titled, “Texas and Arizona can teach GOP a lesson,” Rubin notes the toss-up status of Arizona and the increasing competitiveness of Texas in 2016 and takes stock, noting:

“…This tells us a few things.

Trump’s anti-immigrant extremism plays poorly in places with direct experiences with large numbers of illegal immigrants.

The combination of Hispanic voters and white voters disdainful of Trump’s bigotry and misogyny undermines the notion that this is a winning issue for the GOP.

The anti-immigration fervor is stoked in places and among people who are not affected by illegal immigration and have little, if any, experience with crime (which Trump would have us believe is epidemic) committed by illegal immigrants.

Illegal immigration from Mexico has been declining. Trump still focuses on such immigrants, even as Asians become the largest share of the illegal-immigrant population.

To be clear, the anti-immigration fetish is not based on economic or safety concerns, at least not real ones. Trump is whipping up bigotry, plain and simple, using made-up facts and hysterical rhetoric. Texas and Arizona can make a powerful statement on Election Day, rejecting xenophobia and undermining the “myth of the white voter.” In doing so, these red states may accelerate a much-needed fumigation of the GOP — and demonstrate an appetite for inclusive candidates from the center-right.”