Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Amnesty: The Immigration Game

This post is brought to you by the numbers 2, 27, and by the letter H(ispanic). Right now something is going on that could be read as the Democrat's attempt to rig the electorate: to let in a bunch of hispanics who would become citizens and then ... DONKEY VOTERS*. From Wonkblog:
Two numbers explain why a rational Republican Party needs to do something dramatic on immigration: 27 percent and 2 percent. 
Twenty-seven percent is the percentage of the Latino vote Mitt Romney received in 2012, according to the exit polls. Two percent is the projected increase in the non-white electorate come 2016. So Republicans are losing badly among Hispanic voters and Hispanic voters are becoming an increasingly important part of the electorate.
From the Washington Examiner:
There simply is no guarantee any of Rubio’s claimed immigration enforcement measures will work, and history suggests they all will fail. ...
And by granting illegal immigrants legal status, while also denying them federal benefits but still promising citizenship in the future, Rubio will have made the Republicans political situation worse, not better.

Come 2016 Democrats will be more than happy to help immigrant communities direct that backlash directly at the Republican presidential candidate, whoever that may be.
To be sure: given the demographics of the last election, if Hispanics become more prevalent and still vote like they did in 2012 things would not look good for Republicans. On the other hand, what is the GOP to do? Rubio--who is very clearly positioning himself for a 2016 presidential run--thinks that with the proper messaging he can ride the lightning. Rubio spoke with Rush Limbaugh and said:
I am confident that, given a fair chance, I can convince most Americans, including Americans of Hispanic descent, that limited government and free enterprise is better for them and better for their upward mobility than big government is. Because that’s the reason why they came here.
Commenters have noted that (a) NO WAY will the press give Rubio his "fair chance," that (b) Mightn't Obama just get / take all the credit for it anyway? And that (c) isn't Rubio--maybe--suggesting that only he can do the convincing--that if the nominee is anyone but Rubio then they're screwed (especially if the bill passes?).

These are good points--but they stand against the 2/27 numbers above: what if you're screwed if you don't do anything. To be sure, there are things Republicans may be able to do to increase the Hispanic vote share without amnesty. They do well with Cubans (however, note: Cubans have something that supersedes Amnesty in almost every possible way). There is some truth to the view that Hispanics are pretty hard workers and entrepreneurs--but it's also true that a lot of stuff coming out of the GOP (the Arizona bill) has turned them off to Republicans. The GOP has a real image problem with Latinos.
National Republicans have made a calculated decision, for about 20 years now, that it's worth writing off states like California in exchange for a secure base of support in the South and in the near West [Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states]. But California's demographic makeup isn't nearly as unique as it was in the 1990s. Romney's advisers make the case that Latinos are much more interested in the economy than in immigration. That may be true. But if voters don't think that you respect them as human beings, they're not going to listen to what you have to say about the capital gains tax or start-up loans for small business.
Indeed, as the conversation heats up, members of the Republicans are sending out memos pleading for the GOP to clean up its language:

The memo, written by Jennifer Korn, a former Bush administration official who now heads the Hispanic Leadership Network, urges Republican political leaders to stay away from terms like “aliens,” “anchor babies,” and “amnesty” – loaded words that are described as divisive and counterproductive.

What About Ballot Box Stuffing?
If you believe the goal of amnesty is to turn illegal voters into legal voters then you see anything on this spectrum the same way (kinda) that liberals see changing the way EV get distributed or gerrymandering--a game-theory approach to the election.

But let's not forget that while there are vanishingly few people who really feel that for philosophical reasons that EV should go by congressional district the Hispanic community is a real constituency with real needs and a real voice. Addressing immigration issues in some sane way isn't pandering to them--it's representing them. The question is: who can sell their policies better? Right now, though, the GOP has one hand tied behind its back because of its image and language-use.

What the Republican really needs to do is figure out how its philosophy can appeal to Latinos--and maybe take a look at why they feel that the GOP, right now, is a white-guy's club that they're not really welcome at or, maybe, the more racist of the two?

* It should be noted that there is some evidence that immigration isn't the key issue--that Latinos as a whole see government jobs as more stable and a greater gateway to success than private sector jobs. Maybe. However we see trends where every minority (Jews, asians, and, of course, blacks) tends to vote Democratic right now. I think writing off Hispanics as uneducated moochers is a critical unforced error on par with 'legitimate rape.'

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