No one should be surprised at how many Republicans want join the amnesty parade being organized by the National Council of La Raza. Yet, while scapegoating the immigration issue was to be expected from the Republican establishment following the Romney defeat, it is sad and disappointing to see a few conservatives stampeded into endorsing suicidal proposals.
The Democratic Party leadership is ecstatic about the Republican panic over the “lost Latino vote.” But any Republican leader or pundit who believes that the Republican Party can reverse the 50-year history of Hispanic identification with the Democratic Party by endorsing the Democrats’ amnesty agenda is not only whistling past the graveyard, they are joining the gravediggers union.
First, it is something of an exaggeration to say true that Obama owes his 2012 victory to the Hispanic vote. It is hard to see how the 3 percent Hispanic vote in Ohio was more important to Obama than the eight-point Democrat edge in turnout.
But even if Obama and the Democratic Party think they owe his victory to the Hispanic vote, it is a huge jump to think that Republicans can win a majority of the Hispanic vote by supporting amnesty. Examining the 50-year history of the Hispanic vote tells us that is a delusion.
Neither amnesty nor immigration enforcement was an issue in 1996 when Clinton got 72 percent of the Hispanic vote, and even Mike Dukakis got 70 percent of that vote in 1988. And in 1976, when there was no immigration issue, Jimmy Carter got 82 percent of Hispanic votes against Gerald Ford. (It is interesting that the Pew Hispanic Center uses a Hispanic vote chart that begins with 1980, not 1976.) Mr. Republican Amnesty, John McCain, could not get a majority of Hispanic vote even in his home state, not in 2008 and not in his re-election bid in 2010.
The inconvenient truth of the matter is that Hispanics vote for Democrat candidates because – ready for this? – they are registered as Democrats by a 3-to-1 ratio. Thus, they vote as Democrats. The Republican Party can change this historic pattern only by registering more Hispanics as Republicans. And folks, that will be a lot harder than doubling or tripling the campaign budget for advertising in Spanish-language media over the last three months of a presidential campaign.
In Florida, where Obama won 60 percent of the Hispanic vote, no Republican in that state (with the possible exception of Jeb Bush) believes it was the immigration issue that motivated most Hispanic voters. Exit polls say Romney lost the majority of even Puerto Rican and Cuban-American voters – Hispanic citizens who do not worry about Grandma being deported.
In fact, a closer look at Florida tells the true story of what happened in the half-dozen states with large Hispanic populations. In 2006, Hispanic Republicans in Florida outnumbered Hispanic Democrats 414,185 to 369,902. But since 2006, Democrats registered more than 275,000 additional Hispanic voters and now have a 149,000 voter registration edge over Republican Hispanics. It was this tidal wave of newly registered Hispanic Democrats that beat Romney in Florida, not the immigration issue.
In Colorado, in the year 2000, Democrats enjoyed a 47-point registration edge among Hispanic registered voters – 61.7 Democrat to 13.9 percent Republican. That’s more than 3 to 1 and a larger edge than even New Mexico, which has a larger percentage of Hispanics in the total population. There is no evidence that voter registration edge had diminished by 2012. In Nevada, that edge was 43 percent. So, is it any wonder that Obama got more than 70 percent of that vote in Colorado and Nevada?
Republicans need to look at the forest, not the trees. Instead of caving on the amnesty issue, maybe the Republican establishment ought to ask themselves why Hispanics have been registering as Democrats by a 3 to 1 margin for the last 50 years. Hint: It probably has something to do with the lower economic status and low job skills of those new voters.
A second serious mistake is to believe the propaganda line that most Hispanics who voted for Obama did so mainly because of the immigration issue. All the polls, including the Pew Hispanic Center poll, showed that immigration ranked only fourth or fifth in importance to Hispanics, well below jobs, the economy, education and health care.
There is obviously another motivation at work in the Republican establishment’s rush to the “amnesty solution.” It serves as a convenient scapegoat to distract Republicans from a serious, in-depth examination of the real reasons for Romney’s loss.
No one will deny that the problem of Hispanic identification with the Democratic Party by a 3-to-1 ratio over the Republican Party takes on greater importance with the continuing growth of the Hispanic population. And no one should dispute that Republicans must do a much better job of communicating the Republican message to Hispanic citizens – and do it year-round, not just at election time. However, this is a long-term project that cuts across many issues, and that effort can only be damaged by a foolish and counterproductive scapegoating on the immigration issue.