November 12, 2010
[Also by Mark Cromer: Meg-A-Death? Whitman's Cowardly Approach To Immigration Spells Doom For GOP]
In the wake of the dramatic Republican success in the midterm election there has been considerable celebration among Democrats of their precious few but critical victories—among them California, Nevada and Colorado—where they have convinced themselves that Latino voters provided the crucial bulwark that prevented the GOP from taking more state houses and senate seats.
There's certainly no shortage of different prisms through which to view the results of this election. But the Democratic elation at winning 64% of the Latino vote in House races should be cold comfort when they consider their party lost 60% of the white vote in the same contests. [The Latino Vote in the 2010 Elections, Pew Research Center, November 3, 2010]
So just how bad was the loss of white voters for Democrats this time around?
In Delaware, Republican Christine O'Donnell, who will most assuredly be remembered for opening her general election campaign with a commercial in which she declared that she was not a witch, easily beat Democrat Chris Coons among white voters, carrying 51% of the white vote across the state. Coons was only able to win the election by carrying 93% of the black vote, a demographic which accounted for 22% of voters who went to the polls.
In California, GOP senate and gubernatorial candidates Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman both won a plurality of the white vote, which accounted for 62% of voters going to the polls in the financially battered Golden State. Fiorina carried 52% of white voters, beating Sen. Barbara Boxer among whites by a nearly 10 percentage point margin. Whitman scored 50% of the white vote: former Governor Jerry Brown trailed her by 4 percentage points among white voters.
And while California is now a minority-majority state, whites are still the largest racial demographic.
Nevertheless, both Boxer and Brown were able to overcome their deficits among white voters by beating the Republicans among Latinos. Both Boxer and Brown wrapped up about 65% % of the Latino vote and carried upwards of 80% of the black vote. Latinos accounted for 22% of California voters this year, with black voters at 9%. That was more than enough to ensure comfortable victories for the Democrats.
It was much of the same across the country.
In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lost white voters by a deep 12 percentage point margin. But he beat Sharron Angle by bagging 68 % of the Latino vote, which had surged to 15 % of the state's voters in this election.
In Illinois, Republican Mark Kirk managed to capture Barack Obama's old Senate seat by racking up 64 % of the white vote, a demographic that accounted for nearly 70 % of voters going to the polls. But Democrat Alexi Giannoulias made it a squeaker by taking 94-% of black voters and 63% of Latino voters going to the polls.
It simply cannot be denied that rolling up massive victory margins among ethnic minorities—particularly now among Latinos—is how the Democrats have managed to survive its half-century bleed-out of white voters. No Democratic presidential contender has carried a majority of white American voters since LBJ in 1964.
The existential question now facing the Republican Party: how much longer can it prevail by simply winning a sizable majority of white voters when that demographic is largely static or shrinking, while Latinos are growing dramatically as a result of mass immigration and birth to immigrants?
The conventional wisdom holds that the GOP must come to terms with a rapidly growing Latino population that is demographically reshaping America and its electorate. The theory is that the Republican Party must accommodate Latinos—and specifically on the issue of illegal immigration—or it will doom itself to a future of dwindling prospects at the polls as the party retracts into a political backwater of disgruntled whites and business interests. The conclusion: daring to make illegal immigration an issue, and supporting enforcement-based responses, will ultimately prove suicidal for Republicans.
But in fact, just the opposite is true.
The GOP should not fool itself in believing that the present dynamic will somehow shakeout in its favor, through assimilation or relentless pandering to Latinos—it won't. The Republicans are unlikely to capture much more than a third of the Latino vote in any given election for the foreseeable future.
California is the shining example of what Republicans can ultimately expect across the country if mass immigration continues—a failing state that's bankrupted itself even as the Democrats successfully groomed an ethnic demographic succored on public programs in a self-perpetuating culture of tax-supported entitlements.
The Democrats successfully used the Reagan amnesty of 1986 and the ensuing waves of Latino immigration as essentially a voters-on-layaway plan, which has delivered rich results. And it is a formula they now intend to use across the country.
There is a reason that Harry Reid declared his early advocacy of an immigration moratorium was the biggest mistake of his political career: he recognizes now that mass immigration is perhaps the last, best hope for the Democratic Party.
If Republicans want to remain a viable party in national elections past the next 20 years, they must act decisively now to end illegal immigration and significantly reduce legal immigration. Instead of surrendering the issue in the vain hope of ultimately achieving a deeper reach among Latino voters, the Republicans must double-down and get serious about developing an immigration policy that is in the best interest of the nation and its own survival as well.
This means the Republicans must finally confront and prevail against the powerful business interests within the party that profit from mass immigration and the cheap labor it provides. In effect, the GOP leadership will have to bite one of the hands that feed it. But it's a hand that must be bitten—and deserves to be. Continuing to do the bidding of such groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the issue of immigration makes hollow such campaign slogans as “Country First”. And voters can smell the hypocrisy.
If the Republican Party gets its own house in order on immigration, it will be in a much better position to call out the Democrats.
But the GOP must field candidates who can deliver inspiring, articulate arguments that challenge the breezy platitudes that have become truisms in our culture.
With more than a million legal immigrants pouring into the U.S. every year and demands from some quarters that those numbers be increased, the Republicans have ample room to make an honest argument for dramatically reducing immigration during this time of high unemployment. Calls for limiting legal immigration are certain to evoke even more hysterical attacks by Democrats and their surrogates, but a reasoned appeal to reduce immigration and allow America to catch its breath will resonate with most citizens—but only if Republicans are able to make the case.
Yet given the party's spotty record on even making the case against illegal immigration, which should be a slam-dunk, one can't be too sanguine.
Sharron Angle in Nevada perhaps best demonstrated just how badly Republicans can fumble the issue. She offered a halting, hedging and somewhat surreal explanation of the tone and context of her campaign's television ad that took aim at Reid's record on illegal immigration.
She had a golden opportunity to offer an unflinching, factual assessment of illegal immigration to members of the Hispanic Student Union that she was addressing. She could have stated plainly that the vast majority of illegal immigrants in the U.S. are Latino and so that's what ads on the issue should reflect; that America's southern border has been overrun in many locations making it a violent and dangerous place; and that contrary to popular myth, not all of the immigrants crossing into the U.S. illegally are good, hardworking people.
She could have described how the rule of law in the United States is what sets it apart from a Mexico that's so hopelessly mired in a pervasive culture of corruption that millions of that failed state's citizens flee north every year. She could have declared that those who abet illegal immigration are creating the same culture of corruption here.
Angle could have looked those students in the eye and calmly said that enforcing immigration law is not by definition an attack on Latinos—and that we can either enforce the law uniformly or surrender to chaos.
Whether or not they would have been swayed by her arguments, the students would at least have respected her candor and reason.
Instead, Angle offered a bizarre ramble about how she wasn't sure if her TV ad had featured Latinos or not, that it was difficult to tell, and (by way of example) that some of the students she was addressing appeared Asian-looking.
Just as Whitman's meltdown on her illegal immigrant housekeeper defied all reason, Angle's incoherent babble about her own ad proved disastrous.
But even if the GOP begins fielding candidates that don't implode when called upon by Latino audiences to explain their position on immigration, the Republicans must face the reality that Latinos are essentially a bedrock Democratic vote. No amount of parsing or pandering is going to fundamentally alter that voting pattern.
Exhibit A is Sen. John McCain, whose very name became synonymous with a plan for the largest amnesty in history of nation-states. Along with his senate colleague Lindsey Graham and former president George W. Bush, no other Republican so relentlessly sought to barter an Open Border policy into raw votes among Latinos.
Yet the election results of 2008—in which two out of every three Latino voters cast their ballots for Obama—demonstrated the absolute failure of that formula. McCain did no better than Angle or Fiorina among Latino voters.
Even infused as they now are with the zeal of the Tea Party movement, it's unclear whether the Republican Party leadership can bring itself to accept the true stakes that continued mass immigration poses for America's future—as well as its own.
But one thing is certain: whether they accept it or not, time for the Republicans to act is indeed running out.
Mark Cromer is a journalist in Southern California whose writing on immigration and population issues has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Diego Union-Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Washington Times and many other newspapers around the nation.