Archive for Saturday, September 8, 2007

Immigrant-bashing will be costly for GOP

September 8, 2007


Karl Rove is right.

That's not a misprint.

President Bush's career guru has long insisted that Republicans will never achieve permanent majority status unless they can connect with Hispanic voters. Since his White House departure, he has warned Republicans that their persistent immigrant-bashing is hazardous to their long-term political health. In Rove's words, "You cannot ignore the aspirations of the fastest-growing minority in America."

But the party seems to be rolling up the welcome mat, even at the risk of alienating Hispanics who have the potential to swing five crucial states in the 2008 presidential election. As conservative political activist Clint Bolick warned in an Arizona newspaper not long ago, "If Republicans continue chasing Hispanic voters away, they can kiss their national electoral prospects goodbye."

Under severe pressure from the predominantly white GOP base, most party leaders have largely renounced the Bush-Rove inclusion strategy. Rove's original idea was to enact a reform law that would clear a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, thereby crafting the image of a Hispanic-friendly GOP; indeed, Bush was talking about this way back in 2001. But the party base didn't buy it, nor did the talk-radio conservatives, and the reform plan died in June on the Senate floor.

Pessimistic message

That was merely the latest blow to the inclusion strategy. Last year, when the Republicans still ran the House, they passed a bill that in essence sought to kick the illegals out of the country. The heat on Bush got so intense that he knuckled under and backed a bill to build a border fence. Sixteen months ago, a worried Republican analyst named Matthew Continetti told me, "The optimistic (GOP) message is pro-Latino and inclusive. The pessimistic message is 'Build a wall.' And one thing we know is, optimistic messages win."

Sure enough, in the congressional elections last November, the pessimistic message lost. Whereas Bush captured as much as 44 percent of the Hispanic voters when he won reelection in 2004 (a record high for a GOP presidential candidate), Republican congressional candidates drew only 30 percent in 2006. The latter figure is nine points lower than the GOP congressional share in the midterms of 2002. It also appears that '06 Hispanic voters, by dint of their growing numbers, were pivotal in helping the Democrats win four western House seats previously held by the GOP.

Hispanic Americans, of course, are not monolithic; they hail from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, Argentina, and many more. And even though, as a percentage of the U.S. electorate, their numbers have tripled during the past quarter-century (from 3 percent to the current 9), they are hardly dominant nationwide.

Nevertheless, despite their ethnic diversity, they share some political traits. They are generally conservative on cultural issues and wary of government handouts. (As John Raya, a Hispanic plumbing contractor in California once told me, "We're just Middle America with a tan.") On the other hand, they generally gravitate to the party that they perceive to be more tolerant and welcoming (traditionally, the Democrats). And while they are still not populous everywhere (accounting for only 2.7 percent of the Pennsylvania electorate, for instance), they now have enough numerical clout to tilt five states on the presidential election map: Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.

Bush won all five in 2004. But, in part because of growing evidence that Hispanics are souring on the GOP, Democrats say they believe all five are in play next year. It's no accident that the Democrats have decided to hold their '08 convention in Colorado. It's no accident that Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson - the first serious Hispanic to seek the White House, and ultimately a strong vice presidential possibility - is stressing his ethnicity and his record as governor of New Mexico.

Nightmare in Florida

But the Republicans' worst nightmare could be Florida. According to the 2006 exit polls, Florida Hispanics favored the Democratic candidates at the top of the midterm ballot for the first time in three decades. As Florida Republican congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Cuban immigrant, reportedly lamented after the '06 elections, "There has been too much of an anti-immigrant tone (from the GOP). When people start to perceive that immigrants are being put in the same category as a threat to national security, it's hard to get your message across."

Nor does the GOP's traditional edge in Florida appear to be safe any longer. The party has long reaped the votes of the anti-communist Cuban Americans, the most dominant Hispanics in the state, who have long been focused on toppling Fidel Castro. But the younger voters in that community are increasingly registering as independents; they reportedly care more about their economic prospects than they do about Fidel. And they have been joined by an influx of new citizens from Central and South America. All told, as recently as a decade ago, at least 60 percent of Hispanics in pivotal Miami-Dade County were registered as Republicans; today, the GOP share is less than half.

And the GOP's ongoing immigrant-bashing is unlikely to reverse those figures. In recent weeks, presidential candidates (Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Tancredo) have argued over who would take the hardest line. One perpetual tease, Newt Gingrich, has even insisted that "the war here at home" against illegal immigrants is "even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan," a remark that fails the sanity test but nevertheless demonstrates the extent to which Republican politicians are willing to hurl red meat in the hopes of wooing GOP primary voters.

Repeating history

What's most puzzling is that the Republicans seem intent on repeating a sorry chapter in their own history. Thirteen years ago, in California, Republican Gov. Pete Wilson won reelection by bashing immigrants and supporting a referendum to kick illegal immigrant kids out of the schools. Two years later, GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole decided to adopt the same tone. The '96 results speak for themselves: Hispanic voting surged, and Republicans were wiped out in the California legislature. Meanwhile, Bob Dole received only 21 percent of the Hispanic votes nationwide, the worst GOP showing since that electorate was first tracked in 1972.

Karl Rove was well aware of the California lesson. So were the Hispanic Californians who lashed out at the GOP in 1996. I spoke with many of them, and their warning at the time was no different from what Rove is saying today.

Perhaps Sal Mendoza, an insurance broker and school board member in Santa Ana, Calif., said it best: "I think Republicans are so obsessed with their traditional conservatism : that they've lost track of the bigger picture. They're sitting on gold" - the Hispanic electorate - "but they don't know how to mine it. And if you can't mine it, you will lose."

- Dick Polman is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His e-mail address is


mick 10 years, 9 months ago

How is insisting upon enforcement of our immigration laws "immigrant-bashing?" Be honest for once and make the distinction between immigrant and illegal immigrant.

ASBESTOS 10 years, 9 months ago

The reason politicians want to "legalize" the illegal aliens IS for the vote, but on BOTH sides they are LYING OUT THEIR COLLECTIVE BUTTS.

How do we know this? They say there is 12-20 million illegals here. Well the SSA sent out 10,000,000 "no match letters" last year, and are to double that this year with the no match letters.

Now do you or do they believe that we "Caught them all" with the "no match" letters"? Most illegals are paid cash or under the table/

My thinking is that there arte 40-80,000,000 illegal aliens here NOT the 12 to 20 million, the politicians say. How do I know? The marketing to the spanish and the hispanic and the pandering to the hispanic/latino community. Otherwise there would be no reason to market to a small market of 12-20 million, it would make no economic sense. But the larger population of 40-80,000,000 would be worthwhile for votes and marketing.

Wake up people before you mortgage your country away.

ASBESTOS 10 years, 9 months ago

ANd BTW, enforcing immigration law and controlling immigration, and deporting ILLEGAL ALIENS and CRIMINAL ALIENS is NOT BASHING immigrants.

Immigrants are always welcome here in the USA, IF they come here legally!!!!!

ASBESTOS 10 years, 9 months ago

THis political hack also does not tell the truth in this article.

Remember Mel Martinez, Senator AND GOP chairman? He won his seat by being very much agains illegal immigration and enforcement of immigration law. He PO'ed his supporters when he not once but twice sponsored and supported the "Grand COmprimise".

He will not be re-elected to the Senate in Florida.

The Dems and Repubs BOTH have considerable base that is flat out against the illegal immigration and alien rights. This is a very shallow "political" piece with little analysis.

coneflower 10 years, 9 months ago

GOP loves immigrants. Or rather, I should say they love to abuse immigrants. They make money by exploiting immigrants for cheap labor. The last thing they want is to unemploy them. A large, nonvoting work force is the Republicans' dream.

Reading list:

Fast Food Nation Reefer Madness

ASBESTOS 10 years, 9 months ago

You idiots that are supporting illegal aliens need to look no further than Liberal (the town) in western Kansas. Crime is up, demand of social services is up, and all corresponds to the massive increase in illeal aliens working in Liberal. National Beef, and it is GOP in western Kansas that beats bibles, burns science books, but employs and exploits thrid world ilelgal labor. Hell this group that supports illeagl aliens and their working here would probably have no problem with child labor either. Remember the movie "Zoolander", with Magatu supporting chld labor in Micronesia?

ASBESTOS 10 years, 9 months ago

"anti-immigration nuts are simply trying to panic the politicians into doing something most Americans aren't in favor of."

Sorry moron, but 85-90% of the AMerican Population IS AGASINST illegal immigration. That is why states and cities are passing ordinances fighting against. THAT is the majority you mental lightwieghts forget.

Remember this MAJORITY that OPPOSES illegal immigration AND the "Grand Comprimise" called the "Comprehensive Immigration Bill" SHUT DOWN THE PHONE SYSTEMS IN WASHINGTON D.C.,.... TWICE!!!!

Any politician supporting the "Comprehensive Immigration reform" or opposing Enforcement Initiatives will simply not be elected again. Ask Graham from SC, Martinez from FLA, Hagel from Nebraska pulled out because his constituency in Nebraska was tired of him undermining their will. He supported illegal immigrants "rights".

Lawrence and cities in Kansas HAVE NO CLUE of what is happening with illegal immigrtation.

There are 40-80 millin here, and YOU IDIOTS NEED TO WAKE UP.

Hell the Mexican President stated that "Anywhere there is a Mexican, Mexico has soveriegnty"! This is about re-conquista and the sell out of the American Country to big business at all costs.

You sell out your childrens future and that furture of this great country if you support ongoing ilelgal immigration, and tying the hands of enforcement of illegal aliens especially CRIMINAL ILLEGAL ALIENS like that yahoo that killed Amber from Tongie!!

How many more children have to die to support this bloated and corrupt policy?

ASBESTOS 10 years, 9 months ago

"Average poster has an agenda and only sees their own point of view."

Oh and you don't have an agenda? That is rich! ANd illustrates your degree of cluelessness! LOL

princesstitan 10 years, 9 months ago

Ilegal immigrants should get their paperwork together and not ask the governemnt to give them a greencard. Most legal immigrants have to proove INS that they can staty and produce, and PAY TAXES, BUT the illegal immigrants DO NOT PAY Federal or State taxes. If they have been here for more than 5, 10, 25, 30 years how come they have not worked towards a permanent residency (green card)? why should the government take them and give them one with just a small penalty of $1,000? it is not fair for the millions of legal immigrants who came here legally and had to paid a lawyer to do their paper work to be come legal, they have time in their hands, but their lazy mentallity if I cry the governemnt will to you!

I suggest to send them back home and allow them to come back when they have their paperwork and I would love to see the factories and business who hire illegal immigrants with a fine of $4,000.000 or more because they violated the rules of hiring illegal imigrants. I feel sorry for them and their families, but we must draw a line here. Thanks

ASBESTOS 10 years, 9 months ago

Remeber the SSA states that 10,000,000 "no match" letters went out last year, and that will double this year. That would be 20,000,000 "no match" letters, mostly from illegal aliens. ANd they expect us to believe that the "no match" letters matches the total upper number of those in the US illegally??? the "12 to 20 million". With 20,000,000 "no match" letters, that is for those that Turned in Social Security Numbers that were false and did not match the illegal's name (not racist but based on numbers not matching), that number of 20,000,000 does not include those paid cash as the "Day laborers" are paid, which is why they are day laborers, and that does not include the "nuclear family" of south of the border which is usually 6. SO, there is 120,000,000 illegal aliens based on if ALL the illegal immigrants were represented by a "no match letter" and they had a family of 6.

IF they represent 50%of the employed illegal alien workforce and had a family of 4, that would be 20,000,000 times 2 (the 50%), times 4 (family) 160,000,000.

See folks, out of all the arguing, WE DO NOT KNOW HOW MANY ARE HERE, PERIOD!

IF it is 120,000,000 we have a real problem and a major national security issue here.

BVefore ANYTHING is done, REAL NUMBERS need to be established for the ilelgal aliens, and THE BORDER SECURED.

We will reach 1,000,000,000 in my opinion, in 2 decades at this rate, That is turning the US into CHINA in less than 2-3 decades.

That should scare the hell out of everyone, especially those that are sensitive to environmental issues because it will be a forgone conclusion at that point. The earth is simply overpopulating, and the third world countries are the problem. It is NOT the western countries as the old baby boomer hippisms state, it is the third world that breeds all these problems as exports them to the west.

staff04 10 years, 9 months ago

An example of immigrant bashing--not illegal immigrants, all immigrants:

Establishing a national language and insisting that no forms or government assistance be available to those who may not speak fluently or are still learning the nuances of the English language.

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