Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Everyone knows that Republicans have a problem winning over Hispanic voters, a problem they need to solve by 2016:
In 2004, George W. Bush won 44 percent of Hispanics. Four years later, John McCain, the author of an immigration reform bill, took 31 percent of Hispanics. And this year, Romney captured only 27 percent of Hispanics.
But the notion that they're actually going to do anything substantive about this problem, particularly by moderating their stance on immigration, reminds me of the notion -- expressed by many in-the-know insider journalists and pundits -- that in the 2008 primary season surely some Republican hoping to win the presidency (apart from Ron Paul) would break with George W. Bush on the Iraq War. Needless to say, that never happened.

What tends to happen in Republican primary seasons is that there's one establishment-favorite candidate who's allegedly moderate. He gets the nomination because he's running against a bunch of losers and loons, folks who can't win even though they're much more likely to meet the party's purist litmus tests. But the supposedly moderate victor doesn't win by staying moderate -- he wins by abandoning most of his moderation.

That's what's going to happen in 2016 on immigration.

In '08, the GOP nominated John McCain, who'd once been skeptical about the Bush tax cuts (but no longer was), who'd occasionally criticized aspects of Bush's foreign policy (but was now one of its most fervent defenders), and who'd been an advocate of immigration reform (but no longer was). In '12, the GOP nominated Mitt Romney, who'd once been in favor of abortion rights and universal health coverage and dealing with climate change (but now was unswervingly against them). The selling point in the fall elections in '08 and '12 was that voters outside the GOP base should vote for these guys because they used to oppose the wingnut orthodoxy on these issues.

It didn't work, obviously -- but given the impossibility of winning the GOP primaries without tacking to the right, I think it's going to happen again. In 2012 2016, I think the nominee will be Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio -- someone whose biography and past statements suggest a GOP softening on immigration. However, I think the winning candidate will tack to the right on immigration in the primaries, and be stuck there -- but again, non-GOP-base voters will be told that the candidate is a good choice because, well, the candidate used to be an immigration moderate.

The GOP candidate could try to fudge matters by laying out a diversionary position -- for instance, calling for an increase in legal immigration without budging from the hard-line position on dealing with undocumented residents. Once again, though, it won't work. But Republicans hope will spring eternal.


Bulworth said...

Very interesting strategery.

Philo Vaihinger said...

What is "tacking to the right" on immigration, anyway?

Wall Street wants as close to open immigration as possible, and it actually prefers illegal immigration since undocumented workers are more exploitable than legals.

Only the rabble of the conservative movement oppose immigration and want to actually shut the door, pretty much completely, on all immigration, at least for a while.

And they combine that view with an unshakeable refusal to normalize the circumstances of illegals already here ("amnesty"), preferring fantasies of deportation of some 10 or 11 million people.

So which of the two conflicting views is the view of "the right"?

Steve M. said...

So which of the two conflicting views is the view of "the right"?

The view that wins them votes -- which has always been the rabble's view. The elites may know it's not working anymore in a changing America, but it's such an ingrained idea among the rabble that it can't just be excised from party orthodoxy.

Victor said...

There is a deep hate and fear of "The Others" by Conservatives, and THAT won't be easily overcome in 4 years.

Even if Rubio decides to run, he will be, like Herman Cain, literally, a "token" candidate.

And I'm not sure the Republicans in the country will back him. Their base problems will still be around for a while yet.

Never Ben Better said...

Nitpick: "In 2012, I think the nominee will be Jeb Bush" -- obviously should be 2016.

That said, I think you're spot on.

BH said...

The headcase that my fair state (Tx) just elected to the Senate, Ted Cruz, is of course Hispanic (in his case, of Cuban descent), and is a rabid enough TeePee to have upset the establishment GOPer in the primary. It'll be interesting to see how he threads the immigration needle, since he seems to be the current R 'great brown hope' here. So far they haven't needed the Latino vote in Tx, but that won't last forever. (Will it?)

Steve M. said...

Thanks, NBB. Fixed now.

Jon said...

I will add that of all the nasty things you can say about Bush, you can't say that the man was a racist. True, he often advocated policies that disproportionally hurt minorities, but he wasn't personally a rascist. Aside from Jeb, I don't think they have anyone else who meets that criteria.

Philo Vaihinger said...

The view that wins them votes -- which has always been the rabble's view.

And yet Wall Street will never let any Republican administration lend more than token support to that.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Whether the Latino vote being Democratic has much to do with immigration policy is an interesting question.

A more obvious and compelling basis is simple class interest.

As to that, the class interest of workers is and has always been to push up the price of labor, and that is done in part by limiting supply.

Hence working class opposition to open immigration makes perfect sense as a matter of class interest, as they know very well.

Likewise working class opposition to out-sourcing and free trade, neither of which have the least thing to do with racism.

Though I have no doubt opponents of protectionism might find it useful and effective propaganda to say it is racist.

Kathy said...

Philo, you may know that the Alabama legislature passed a horrible immigration law last year, and then doubled down on it this year. Perhaps more than in any other state, we have seen unions and African-Americans (some who are both) come together to support our immigrant community. I think everyone is aware that we need reasonable comprehensive immigration reform, but Alabama's law is definitely not the way to do it.

jeff said...

Is there a plausible primary strategy that allows a candidate to remain silent on a number of these issues (e.g. immigration, global warming) so that no "tacking" is actually required when they get to the general election? I feel as if most of the culture ware were tactics like that: ones that wouldn't antagonize the general electorate, but would appease the base so that the candidate never had to talk about anything substantive (and that kept the base motivated during the general election so that they would still vote, even when the candidate revealed their "moderate" stance on salient issues). Of course the culture ware has gotten more and more extreme, to the point that much of it now antagonizes the general electorate enough to torpedo many candidates election hopes.