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Republican lobbyist and astroturf maestro Dick Armey said last week the Republican Party has alienated the “Hispanic vote” by opposing amnesty for illegal aliens. All the evidence says just the opposite is true, but hey, the truth is not as sexy and won’t make headlines.
In the name of “Hispanic outreach,” many influential Republican strategists advocate a cynical pandering that is certain to yield catastrophic results for the Republican Party. How do we know this? Well, for starters, there’s history, mathematics and common sense.
A week after the November 2004 election, the New York Times ran a story about the Bush-Cheney campaign’s success in winning support among Hispanic voters. It turns out that that the Bush campaign did not spend one dime pitching Bush’s immigration reform and amnesty proposals to Hispanic audiences. Oh, they spent tons of money on advertisements in Spanish-language newspapers and Spanish-language radio and television spots, but none of those paid advertisements mentioned the immigration issue. Not one.
What so many Republican pundits and commentators have forgotten – or maybe never learned – is that Bush’s successful appeal to Hispanic voters was on traditional Republican themes: economic opportunity, education empowerment, small-business entrepreneurship and national security. Ironically, he was more popular among Hispanics in Texas when he was governor – before he proposed his amnesty plan.
It’s amazing how little time supposedly smart Washington pundits have spent actually studying the character of the so-called Hispanic vote. What is shown in election data is that the Hispanic vote is very close to the non-Hispanic vote if you correct for household income. In other words, the reason Bush got only 40 percent of the Hispanic vote instead of the 51 percent he got overall was that Hispanic voters as a demographic segment are lower on the income scale and therefore heavily Democratic in party registration.
Memo to the RNC: This suggests that an amnesty for 20 million low-skilled migrants – 80 percent of whom who will register Democrats if rewarded with citizenship – is not a smart way to build a new Republican majority in the 21st century.
Don’t take my word for it. Ask the liberal Pew Hispanic Center, which conducted polls of likely Hispanic voters in 2008. Hispanic voters consistently ranked immigration sixth or seventh among issues of importance to them – way behind the economy, health care, jobs and educational opportunity. The only Latino voters demanding amnesty for illegal aliens are Democratic operatives at the SEIU and the National Council of La Raza.
Surprise! That lesson – that by and large, Hispanic voters behave like other voters of the same income and educational levels – is a lesson that does not serve the game plan of the amnesty lobby. So, open-borders Republicans have simply ignored it and continued to argue that the “Hispanic vote” must be bought off by supporting amnesty.
The empirical studies of University of Maryland political scientist James Gimpel are definitive on the subject of immigrant political affiliations and party loyalties. For the past 40 years, newly naturalized Hispanic citizens register as Democrats by a 2-to1 ratio. Immigrants from Mexico register Democrat by about a 4-to-1 ratio. In a recent report for the Center for Immigration Studies, Gimpel had some bad news for Republican advocates of amnesty:
Past Republican votes in Congress in favor of a more generous immigration policy have unquestionably bolstered local Democratic majorities, and succeeded in stamping out Republican prospects in once politically competitive locales.
But Dick Armey’s ignorance extends beyond ethnic voting patterns. He said in a National Press Club speech last week, “Ronald Reagan said, ‘Tear down that wall!’ But Tancredo says, ‘build a wall.'” That statement falls somewhere between stupid and embarrassingly stupid. Moreover, it is a very odd thing for the president of an organization named FreedomWorks to say. Does Dick Armey know the difference between keeping a captive people from escaping tyranny and keeping terrorists from coming into our country? Does he understand that an 18-foot fence on our southwest border would be comparable to the Berlin Wall only if Mexico built it to keep its citizens from escaping?
The issue here is not Dick Armey’s ignorance, a deficiency that might be mitigated by reading “Invasion” by Michelle Malkin or “Mexifornia” by Victor Davis Hanson. Unfortunately, other Beltway Republicans share his willful ignorance, and that bodes ill for the fate of the Republican Party.
Dick Armey and his merry band of open-borders lobbyists want Republicans to drink the Amnesty Kool-Aid one more time and call it fruit punch. He can get away with that at a Chamber of Commerce lunch or National Restaurant Association convention, but tea-party patriots have higher standards.
Dick Armey can run interference for the amnesty lobby if he chooses – but when he does so while wearing his tea-party hat, grass-roots patriots are not amused.