The Immigration Bill Is Short Term And Long Term Political Suicide For The GOP

by John Hawkins | May 24, 2007 2:13 am

As I was reading Robert Novak’s column last night, I ran across some political analysis that was so foolish, that it could only come from someone who has been stuck in the Beltway bubble so long that he doesn’t know which way is up anymore. Here’s Robert Novak’s advice[1] for the GOP on the immigration bill,

“Democrats benefit most from kicking this issue further down the road and dragging it out as long as possible. Republicans will continue to self-immolate as long as they are forced to discuss the immigration issue. It created great rancor in GOP ranks in 2006 and cost the party heavily with the Hispanic vote. A cycle full of harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric could prove devastating for the Republican nominee in 2008. The best thing that can happen for the Republican Party is for the bill to pass over their objections, freeing up the 2008 presidential candidates to move away from the immigration issue.”

Let’s take this a step at a time.

First of all, there’s very little evidence that the illegal immigration issue significantly hurt the GOP with Hispanics in the 2006 cycle. Granted, the GOP’s numbers with Hispanics did drop in 2006, but they dropped across the board compared to the GOP’s numbers in the last non-presidential election cycle. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers[2] that I wrote about last year,

“Didn’t the GOP lose some Hispanic voters because of their illegal immigration stance? Yes, but the numbers related to illegal immigration were undoubtedly fairly small. Now, that’s not what you’ll hear from amnesty proponents. They’ll point out that the percentage of Hispanics voting for the GOP dropped from 44% (Hawkins’ Note: The exit polls were hosed up in 2004 and the real numbers were probably more like 38% — 39%[3]) in 2004 to 30% in 2006. However, what they don’t mention is that 44% was an all-time high for the Hispanic vote and that the support for the GOP dropped in almost every demographic group in 2006. For example, GOP support from Jewish voters dropped from 22% in 2004 to 12% in 2006. Support from Independent men dropped from 51% in 2004 to 41% in 2006. Support from women without a high school diploma dropped from 48% in 2004 to 30% in 2006. In comparison, is the drop in Hispanic support really all that large? No, not really. Moreover, if you compare the numbers from the last off year election in 2002 to the numbers in 2006, the drop in Hispanic support for the GOP is even smaller. It goes from 38% in 2002 to 30% in 2006. That’s actually a percentage drop of 1% less than that of white males over the same period (63% in 2002 to 54% in 2006). So, did the illegal immigration issue hurt the GOP with Hispanics? Maybe a little, but even if illegal immigration hadn’t been an issue, it seems likely that the GOP would have probably still dropped 8 to 10 points with Hispanics in 2006.”

Even if you assume more than a small percentage of the drop with Hispanics last year was caused by the GOP’s illegal immigration stance — and quite frankly, I think that is a very dubious assumption — taking the same position again this year and killing the bill isn’t going to the hurt GOP any more with Hispanics.

However, backing the bill would be political suicide for three reasons.

#1) The bill is wildly unpopular with the American people. According to Rasmussen polling[4],

“A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey conducted Monday and Tuesday night shows that just 26% of American voters favor passage of the legislation. Forty-eight percent (48%) are opposed while 26% are not sure. The bi-partisan agreement among influential Senators and the White House has been met with bi-partisan opposition among the public. The measure is opposed by 47% of Republicans, 51% of Democrats, and 46% of those not affiliated with either major party.”

So, according to Novak, the GOP should, for purely political purposes, back a bill that is opposed nearly 2 to 1 by the American people across every group — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents? That is just staggeringly, amazingly dumb.

#2) It is almost impossible to overstate how unpopular this bill is with conservatives. The reaction to this bill has been like the reaction to the Dubai Port Deal and Harriet Miers combined. If the GOP were voting to do away with the 2nd Amendment or enshrine partial birth abortion in the Constitution, I’m not sure that the reaction among their biggest supporters would be any more negative than it is today. Given that the relationship between the GOP and the base is already incredibly strained, this bill could push things to the breaking point and cause tens of thousands of Republicans to switch party affiliations to third parties, cost the party tens of millions of dollars in fund raising, and cause a rift between the GOP and conservatives that could literally take years to fully heal.

#3) Hispanics are an important and growing voting block, but if the price for getting 30% of their votes per year for a couple of years is letting in 20 million uneducated ditch diggers every 10-20 years, the GOP cannot afford to pay it. In the last election cycle, Hispanics went for Democrats over the GOP 70/30. Play those numbers out over 20 million new illegal immigrants being made into citizens and you have 8 million potential new votes for the Democrats (George Bush won by only 4 million votes in 2004). Moreover, once you turn that many illegal aliens into citizens, we’ll never be able to stop another amnesty. That means every 10-20 years, another 10-20 million illegals will be allowed into the country and they’ll break for the Democrats as well. In other words, a vote for this bill is a vote over the long term for a one party system in this country and in case you’re as dumb as, say Lindsey Graham, let me spell it out for you: the party running things won’t be the GOP.

The GOP has got to understand that they will never, ever be able to compete with Democrats when it comes to appealing to poor, uneducated welfare cases — which is exactly the category most of these illegal aliens would fall into. That’s because Democrats, being big government socialists, will always be willing to offer them more goodies for their votes. The GOP’s target audience among Hispanics will be more educated, more successful, more middle-class Hispanics, not poverty cases or the La Raza crowd. That means for the GOP to gain with Hispanics over the long term, we’ve got to push policies that will allow the Hispanics who are already American citizens to become more successful, not bring in penniless, uneducated manual laborers from South America by the tens of millions and hope that they’ll vote for us because we’re “democrat light” on amnesty and welfare.

Also, let me finish by adding that the best thing that could ever happen to the GOP would be for illegal immigration to be a major issue in the 2008 campaign — as long as our candidate favors border security first and opposes this Senate amnesty bill. The biggest problem we have with illegal immigration today is that the party figurehead, George Bush, has a position on illegal immigration that is diametrically opposed to that of 80% of his base. If that changes — you’ll see the GOP start to straighten itself out on the issue — and the fissures on this issue, which are nearly as large on the left as the right, will start to tear the Democrats apart, instead of the GOP.

  1. Robert Novak’s advice:
  2. breakdown of the numbers:
  3. 38% — 39%:
  4. Rasmussen polling:

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