In a post below, a trial lawyer friend of John and Scott applies some of his litigation wisdom to electoral politics. Let me offer an analogy along the same lines.
What would you, as a defense lawyer, say to a consultant who advised you (a) that jurors from a particular demographic group (say, African-Americans) have a strong propensity to sympathize with a particular type of plaintiff in the kind of case you’re defending (for example, an African-American plaintiff in a race discrimination case) and (b) that, in selecting the jury, you should try to maximize the number of African-Americans on the jury?
I would tell the consultant, “you’re fired.”
Yet this, in essence, is the advice the Republican Party receives from those who say that because Hispanics are voting for Democrats in large numbers, Republicans should join Democrats in pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.
Naturally, those who offer this advice don’t frame it the way I have. However, as the Democrats shrewdly insist, any comprehensive immigration reform proposal must include a path to citizenship (i.e. voting status) for large numbers of illegal immigrants, nearly all of them Hispanic. And the propensity of these immigrants — low-income, poorly educated, etc. — to vote for Democrats will be even greater than that of current Hispanic-Americans.
Thus, Republicans are being urged to support legislation that will significantly increase the number of voters who will, en masse, vote for Democrats. What a deal.
If the legislation in question had merit — either in pragmatic or moral terms — then Republicans would be duty-bound to consider it, regardless of the political consequences. But I see no merit in awarding the great benefit of American citizenship (or a path thereto) to those who have thumbed their nose at American law or to their offspring.
It is argued that Hispanics are hard-working and God-fearing, and that therefore they make natural Republicans. The premises of this argument are very true. However, it is hubris to believe that hard-working, God-fearing folk are natural Republicans regardless of their other characteristics. Hard-working, God-fearing people, when they inhabit the lowest economic rungs in society, like receiving government benefits at least as much as their more affluent counterparts. And the Republicans will never replace the Democrats as the party of free stuff, nor should they aspire to.
The immigrants who came to this country in the early part of the 20th century — Catholics from Italy; Jews from Eastern Europe, etc. — were hard-working and God-fearing. They reliably supported FDR liberalism, except to the extent that, finding FDR too conservative, they backed the Socialist Party.
Many of these immigrants’ descendants became Reagan Democrats (though not so much among Jews). But this was more than half a century after the fact, and only after America had been radically transformed. While it is important for Republicans to think ahead, we shouldn’t be targeting a return to power in 2060.
But where, in shorter term, will Republicans find votes in a changing America if they don’t broaden their appeal to Hispanics? Looking at data from the just-completed election, Sean Trende finds that a big chunk of the white vote stayed home this year, as compared to 2008. If so, that’s a potential source of extra Republican voters.
Moreover, it may be possible for Republicans to reduce slightly the Republican deficit in the Hispanic vote without supporting legislation that meaningfully will increase the number of illegal aliens who can become citizens. Finally, it seems likely that the Democrats, beholden as they are to African-American and Hispanic voters, will increasingly alienate White voters who, after all, will remain the big majority of the electorate for a good while.
In any event, the solution is not artificially to boost Hispanic representation in the electorate by supporting immigration measures that will accomplish just that.