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In search of the Hispanic vote

Mickey Kaus raises a red flag (and has much to say on his own account, all of it worth reading) over the possibility of an impending cave-in by the GOP establishment on immigration in the wake of Tuesday’s results:

Alert! The entire GOP elite seems to be trying to sell out en masse on immigration. Not only Boehner, but Cantor. And Hannity (who works for pro-amnesty world citizen Rupert Murdoch). Even Krauthammer. …

Maybe these people are convinced the larger GOP project can be saved simply by caving on just this one issue. That seems cracked. The bulk of the Hispanic electorate appears to instinctively vote Democratic, and not just because of immigration.

Go to Kaus’s post for the relevant links, among which are Charles Krauthammer’s Washington Post column arguing for an amnesty plus enforcement deal to resolve the GOP’s Hispanic problem and Heather Mac Donald’s NRO column arguing against.

As between the two arguments, it seems to me that Mac Donald clearly has the better of it. Krauthammer cites no evidence for the proposition that amnesty plus enforcement would attract Latino voters to the GOP. Mac Donald argues (with some evidence) that issues other than immigration drive the Latino vote to the Democrats:

If Republicans want to change their stance on immigration, they should do so on the merits, not out of a belief that only immigration policy stands between them and a Republican Hispanic majority. It is not immigration policy that creates the strong bond between Hispanics and the Democratic party, but the core Democratic principles of a more generous safety net, strong government intervention in the economy, and progressive taxation. Hispanics will prove to be even more decisive in the victory of Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which raised upper-income taxes and the sales tax, than in the Obama election.

And California is the wave of the future. A March 2011 poll by Moore Information found that Republican economic policies were a stronger turn-off for Hispanic voters in California than Republican positions on illegal immigration. Twenty-nine percent of Hispanic voters were suspicious of the Republican party on class-warfare grounds — “it favors only the rich”; “Republicans are selfish and out for themselves”; “Republicans don’t represent the average person”– compared with 7 percent who objected to Republican immigration stances.

Mac Donald also considers related data:

U.S.-born Hispanic households in California use welfare programs at twice the rate of native-born non-Hispanic households. And that is because nearly one-quarter of all Hispanics are poor in California, compared to a little over one-tenth of non-Hispanics. Nearly seven in ten poor children in the state are Hispanic, and one in three Hispanic children is poor, compared to less than one in six non-Hispanic children. One can see that disparity in classrooms across the state, which are chock full of social workers and teachers’ aides trying to boost Hispanic educational performance.

The idea of the “social issues” Hispanic voter is also a mirage. A majority of Hispanics now support gay marriage, a Pew Research Center poll from last month found. The Hispanic out-of-wedlock birth rate is 53 percent, about twice that of whites.

The demographic changes set into motion by official and de facto immigration policy favoring low-skilled over high-skilled immigrants mean that a Republican party that purports to stand for small government and free markets faces an uncertain future.

I want to quibble only with Mac Donald’s characterization of the GOP future under this scenario as “uncertain.” Mac Donald, however, doesn’t venture any proposal to counter the Democrats’ straightforward (and Krauthammer’s more complicated) push for amnesty. Kaus offers this:

A much better strategy would be to enact the enforcement measures (including a border fence and a system of employment checks), then wait a few years and see if they survive. If they do, sure, come up with some kind of amnesty. You could calmly pitch that plan to Latinos–it ends in the same place (amnesty). But that’s not the sort of sensible approach you will insist on if you are part of a stampede of panicked pols and consultants whose only goal is to pander to what they think Latinos want to make up for their shortcomings in other areas.

(I would alter Kaus’s formulation to put scare quotes around “shortcomings,” but Kaus is a Democrat.) Kaus’s proposal would be rejected by the Democrats, but it makes more sense than what they have on offer if we want to maintain a viable GOP future.

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