The 2004 presidential election may turn out to be decided by racial identities. For the last decade or so, the Republican Party has abandoned all pretense of controlling mass immigration on the superstitious ground that immigration control will alienate the booming Hispanic vote. Now, as two major news stories last week suggested, that superstition is exploded as the myth it has always been.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the growing Hispanic vote, centered mainly in the far Western states, is providing new hope for the campaign of Democratic nominee John Kerry. While the Democrats have never had much of a problem winning Hispanics (Al Gore won 65 percent in 2000; George W. Bush only 32 percent), the mass immigration the Republicans have tolerated and even supported has eaten into one of their main geographical bastions in the West.
"Many new arrivals" in the Western states, the Wall Street Journal reported last week,
"are lower-income workers drawn to the booming resorts, social liberals migrating from California and, most importantly, Hispanics, who tend to vote Democratic by a two-to-one ratio. In Nevada, Latinos are expected to cast 10 percent of all votes this year, up from 3.9 percent eight years ago…. In New Mexico, Hispanics this year will cast one of every three ballots." [New Frontier: Population Shifts In West Shape Kerry's Strategy; Jacob M. Schlesinger and Miriam Jordan. Wall Street Journal. Jul 21, 2004. [subscriber link]
Well, OK, but then President Bush has proposed what is in substance an amnesty program for illegal aliens. Won't the Hispanic immigrants be so grateful to him that they'll switch their traditional political allegiances and vote Republican?
No. The Washington Post last week released the results of a new poll that shows that
"At a time when Bush and Kerry are running about even among all registered voters, Kerry enjoys a 2 to 1 advantage over Bush among Latino registered voters. Hispanics give Bush lower approval ratings than the overall population does, and the poll shows that the bulk of the Latino community continues to identify with the Democratic Party."[Kerry Has Strong Advantage Among Latino Voters By Richard Morin and Dan Balz Washington Post, July 22, 2004]
Moreover, not only do Hispanic voters not even like Mr. Amnesty himself, George W. Bush, they also don't seem to care much about immigration.
It is a myth that the Hispanic vote is largely driven by concern over immigration and that opposing immigration will lose Hispanics.
In another new poll, only 27 percent of registered Latino voters said immigration would be an important factor in their vote for president, behind moral values (36 percent), taxes (33 percent) and the federal budget deficit (30 percent), according to the poll's sponsors, the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation.[PDF] The only people for more immigration are the Open Borders crowd.
The Post's poll found much the same trends, with the economy, education, terrorism, and the war in Iraq as the top issues among Hispanics.
Immigration, let alone amnesty, doesn't even register with most Hispanic voters.
Neither the demographics of the Western states nor the new polls prove that Mr. Bush and the Republicans will—again—lose the Hispanic vote, but they do suggest, as his Democratic opponents have already figured out, that the president is vulnerable in what should be his home base—the Southwest.
As the Journal article noted, "In the 10 presidential elections from 1952 through 1988, only two Western states, Hawaii and Washington, voted Democratic more than twice."
Democrats have been gaining seats and votes in local and state elections in this region because of immigration, and that's why Mr. Kerry and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe are pushing the campaign into them.
"We as a party need to be putting stakes down in those states," Mr. McAuliffe told the Journal. "In particular, he adds, 'we needed to bring in Hispanics earlier than ever, so they'd feel empowered and energized.'"
Mr. Bush may not lose these states, but even he understands that if he does, he'll lose the election.
What mass immigration has done is make the Republicans' rivals competitive inside their own fortress. It's the political equivalent of the D-Day landing.
So who was it that advised the Republicans to drop their opposition to mass immigration?
As with so many other blunders the party has made in the recent past, the fine fingers of the neoconservatives are smudged all over it.
Linda Chavez, Robert Bartley and Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal, Newt Gingrich, and Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett and their moronic decision to oppose Proposition 187 in California 10 years ago, as well as the usual gang of neocon eggheads, all badgered the party into dropping immigration control as an issue and courting the Hispanic vote through pandering.
If the Bush administration survives this election at all, it needs to consider that the neoconservatives whose advice it has followed on immigration politics have been no less disastrous than those whose counsel it took on foreign policy.
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Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control. Click here for Sam Francis' website. Click here to order his monograph, Ethnopolitics: Immigration, Race, and the American Political Future. His review essay on Who Are We appears in the current issue of Chronicles Magazine.