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June 21, 2013

Pro Amnesty "Conservative": Yeah, The GOP Will Have To Become More Liberal To Win Hispanics

Michael Gerson is a former George W. Bush staffer who thinks the key to the GOP is Bush's "compassionate conservatism", aka, social conservatism and big government policies. In other words, he's a mess.

Naturally Gerson supports amnesty. Unlike most amnesty supporters he has the decency to admit that to win over Hispanics the GOP can't be as conservative as the base wants it to be. Not exactly a surprise coming from a Team W guy.

Such an adjustment depends on Hispanic voters being gettable by Republicans — which many restrictionists deny. Hispanics, it is argued, are inherently favorable to big government. But there is some paradoxical hope to be found for the GOP in the recent collapse of its appeal among Hispanics. This did not happen because immigrant groups became more liberal or more welfare-dependent. It happened because Republicans seemed more hostile to their interests. Clearly there is some elasticity in Latino political opinion. A GOP political strategy might begin by removing the stick they have put in the eye of a rising demographic group — the main political argument for supporting immigration reform.

This won’t be enough. While appealing to Hispanic voters is not like appealing to Manhattanites — it doesn’t involve the abandonment of social conservatism — it does require a populist economic agenda. Recent immigrants are naturally concerned about a working social safety net, a working public education system and a working job-training system. Republicans will need to offer serious reform proposals in these areas. And this requires a positive, active, market-oriented role for government that competes with more centralized and bureaucratic Democratic approaches.

Here's the biggest problem Gerson has...Hispanics NEVER supported the GOP in great numbers. Even in the W. Bush years, Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Democrats.

A little bit of history of the Hispanic vote in presidential elections.

1984 66/34 Democrats 1988 70/30 Democrats (this was the first election after the last amnesty when it should have paid off most for Republicans) 1992 61/25 Democrats (Perot was 16) 1996 72/21 Democrats (Perot was 6) 2000 62/35 Democrats (Buchanan 1, Nader 2) 2004 53/44 Democrats (Nader 2). Bush's support may have been as low as 40%. 2008 67/31 Democrats 2012 71/27 Democrats

If you average those numbers you'll see that the GOP traditionally gets about...31%. So Romney wasn't exactly that far off. Granted, this is a crude way of looking at it given the increase in the percentage of Hispanics, about 2% in 1988 up to 9% this year and lots of other factors, but it gives you a ballpark.

Yes, Romney was on the low end of the average but he still did better overall than McCain even though McCain got greater support from Hispanics.

George W. Bush is the outlier, not the average the GOP can expect. But even in 2000 when he won an above average share of the Hispanic vote, he still lost the popular vote.

In many ways W. was the perfect candidate for Hispanics. He had long connections to the community in Texas, he tried to speak Spanish (terribly by all accounts), was a social conservative and supported a big, activist government.

Want to lose Hispanics by a smaller than usual margin? Great nominate a guy like W. who governed as he advertised, ""We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move."

People always talk about education reform as the key to winning Hispanic and back votes but it hasn't worked for 30 years, I'm not sure why anyone will think it will work in the next 30.

As I've said many times, there may well be reasons to pass amnesty but keeping the GOP as the (at least theoretical) party of small government isn't one of them.

At least Gerson is honest(ish) enough to admit that winning Hispanic votes means giving up on small government. In fairness to him, that was never his goal.

If you think W. is the rightward maker of where the GOP can or should be, then amnesty makes perfect sense.


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posted by DrewM. at 12:01 PM

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