Quotes of the day

posted at 10:52 pm on November 13, 2012 by Allahpundit

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), three key Republican players on immigration, told The Hill they’re ready to start working on broad-based reforms next year that could include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

All three are expected to be key players on any immigration-reform negotiations, which are expected to move first in the Senate.

“Everything ought to be on the table,” Hatch said when asked if he’d be willing to negotiate on a comprehensive bill that included a pathway to citizenship.

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“We have a darned good chance using this blueprint to get something done this year,” Schumer, who chairs a Judiciary Committee subcommittee on immigration, said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “The Republican Party has learned that being anti-illegal anti-immigrant doesn’t work for them politically.”…

Schumer noted the framework he developed with Graham has four parts. It would strengthen border security and enforcement of immigration laws by toughening punishment for business that hire illegal workers; require fraud-proof Social Security cards to prevent hiring of workers who lack them; create a temporary worker program; and set a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country.

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Recall that between 1996 and 2004 the GOP doubled its percentage of the Hispanic vote to more that 40%, culminating in the re-election of George W. Bush, who won Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada—states with fast-growing Hispanic populations that Mitt Romney lost. The notion that Hispanics are “natural” Democrats and not swing voters is belied by this history.

Equally specious is the argument that Latino immigrants come here, often illegally, to “steal” jobs or to go on the dole. If illegal aliens are displacing natives in the labor force, why was there more immigration and less unemployment under President Bush? And if foreign nationals are primarily attracted to our welfare state, how to explain the fact that low-income immigrants are less likely to be receiving public benefits than low-income natives?…

As for the economics, immigration is one reason the U.S. has better prospects than the aging entitlement states of Europe and Japan. America needs immigrants with varying degrees of skill and income for economic growth, and the best way to know how much is to let labor markets determine the flow through flexible visa programs.

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Even if Hispanic voters in Texas went for Obama by a forty-point margin in 2012, however, previous election results in Texas suggest that although the national GOP’s demographic problem is real, it’s not necessarily insuperable. In 2010, for example, Rick Perry won re-election as governor with 38 percent of the Hispanic vote. It’s a salient example: that was only two years ago; the Tea Party movement was already ascendant; Perry had already thrown in with the Tea Party; and Perry is, in most respects, apparently more conservative than Romney…

It is, in other words, possible to conceive of a Republican party that includes conservatives but doesn’t pander to nativists. Such a party would presumably have more success with Hispanic voters than the current iteration, just as a pro-life politician who doesn’t publicly question whether all rapes are “legitimate” ones is probably going to draw more support from women voters than a pro-life politician who does. One thing that is clear from this year’s elections is that Republicans don’t need to win the Hispanic vote to win an election, even in a majority-minority state like Texas. They just need to stop losing it so aggressively.

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In 1984, President Reagan won re-election despite losing Hispanics 2-to-1. In 1986, Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which both tightened immigration enforcement at the border and granted amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants. In 1988, Hispanics rewarded the Republican party by voting … even more heavily Democratic. President Bush lost Hispanics by 40 points, 70 percent to 30 percent. So much for amnesty as the “single policy change” capable of “fixing the Latino problem.”…

The question is, what happens when they get here? Every amnesty-based proposal to the immigration problem is the essentially the same: a randomly chosen date divides noncitizens, who will be rewarded for illegally entering the United States, from those who didn’t get here illegally soon enough. There simply is no moral or logical reason to reward the first group and punish the second. The moral case for granting citizenship to those in the United States now is just as strong today as it will be for those who enter the country tomorrow. Pretending otherwise, as Krauthammer and Hannity do, only undermines our civil institutions and the rule of law.

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For instance, consider the idea that a softer line on immigration will boost Republicans’ electoral prospects by helping win over Hispanic voters. There’s no doubt that Republicans will have to find a way to improve their standing among this growing demographic group to compete in national elections. But it isn’t necessarily clear that immigration is the answer. According to a Pew Hispanic Center survey released in October, just 34 percent of Latino registered voters considered immigration to be “extremely important” to them. That trailed education (55 percent); jobs and the economy (54 percent); health care (50 percent); the federal budget deficit (36 percent) and barely edged out taxes (33 percent). It’s quite possible, in other words, that Republicans could back some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants, and still find that they don’t improve among this voting bloc. Also, a softer line on immigration could hurt Republicans’ ability to win over working class voters who feel threatened by cheaper labor, and working class voters are a bloc that another contingent of pundits views as crucial to GOP comeback chances.

Further complicating matters is that 51 percent of Hispanics think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases and 47 percent oppose or strongly oppose gay marriage, according to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute. If Republicans take the advice of many and sideline social issues, there could be a subset of socially conservative Hispanics currently voting Republican, who decide they may as well vote for Democrats on the basis of economic issues.

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Had Republicans come out in favor of open borders and blanket amnesty, I doubt that they would have won the Latino vote — much less done much better in a state like California, given that its latest round of steep tax increases (now over 13 percent on top incomes) was widely supported by the so-called Latino community. Pundits can rail about supposedly naïve, out-of-touch Republicans who talked of self-deportation and thereby lost the Latino vote; but one just as easily might have castigated them for decrying out-of-control entitlements and food stamps, predicating legal immigration on education and skills, or criticizing unworkable and discriminatory affirmative-action policies, since these positions are also politicized as anti-Latino dog whistles…

What, then, should Republicans do? Stick to their melting-pot principles and apply them across the board, regardless of race and tribe, emphasizing the content of our characters rather than the color of our skins. Of course, avoid gratuitous polarization and loose talk. Close the border, and invest in the formidable powers of American assimilation, integration, and intermarriage to achieve for a soon-to-be-closed pool of Latinos what it has already done for Japanese and Italians. Consider the DREAM Act only if it is coupled with deportation of many of those who do not meet its requirements and with employer sanctions and border enforcement. A particular Italian-American may sometimes be indistinguishable to the eye from a particular Mexican-American, but the former does not qualify for affirmative action, does not take Italian Studies courses, is not labeled a victimized minority because of ethnic affinity with millions of poor Sicilian newcomers — and is not beholden any longer to the Democratic party.

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The amnesty signed into law by the charismatic and popular President Reagan did not bring Hispanic voters into the Republican party; Republican congressional leaders who believe that sending one to President Obama would redound to their benefit are engaged in a defective political calculus. Nor are Hispanics the only group of voters to consider. Blue-collar whites do not appear to have turned out for Republicans in the usual numbers last week. Support for amnesty will not bring them back. If the policy advanced the national interest, that consideration might not matter. It does when supposed political advantage is the argument for the policy.

The Republican party and the conservative movement simply are not constituted for ethnic pandering, and certainly will not out-pander the party of amnesty and affirmative action. Republicans’ challenge is to convince Hispanics, blacks, women, gays, etc., that the policies of the Obama administration are inimical to their interests as Americans, not as members of any collegium of grievance. That they have consistently failed to do so suggests that Republican leadership is at least as much in need of reform as our immigration code.

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What’s more likely than race to account for Hispanic voting trends is income, a decisive factor in this election. The Obama campaign did a good job of portraying Romney as a Wall Street multimillionaire whose policies would favor the rich. Despite some conservatives’ belief that the Republican Party is capturing blue-collar America, Romney lost decisively among lower-income voters, who continue to vote Democratic in large numbers. Hispanic households fit into this demographic group: on average, their incomes are about 35 percent lower than the national average. Even more to the point is that Romney did terribly among voters who earned less than $50,000 a year, capturing just 38 percent of their votes—and over 60 percent of Hispanic households fit that income profile…

[I]n most cases, income is a far better determinant of voting patterns than race is (blacks are an exception, for historical reasons). The voting of ethnic groups evolves significantly as their incomes change. The ancestors of millions of today’s ethnic voters came to America in the great immigration wave of the early twentieth century and voted reliably Democratic for generations. Over the last 30 years or so, their descendants’ voting allegiances shifted significantly. Many were first attracted to the Republican Party by an optimistic presidential candidate who campaigned on a convincing pro-growth agenda. That won over voters in 1980; it would do so today, too.

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The Republican shortfall with the working class in 2012 was due not simply to the nominee’s personal background but to wider issues with Republican policies. In the wake of a decade of lost economic ground and the near-meltdown of 2008, many non-affluent voters seem to have a deep distrust of the ability of Republican policies to work for them. Romney’s poor showing among this demographic underlines the fact that Republicans have not yet found an antidote to this distrust. Further tax cuts will not counter it, nor will promises to end Obamacare. As Ross Douthat suggested the other day, the concerns of average Americans are not the same today as they were in 1979, so Republican policies will have to change with them. By the end of the campaign, Governor Romney was beginning to tout a more forward-looking economic message, one that emphasized industrial renewal, energy development, and middle-class restoration. It was this message that made the election as close as it became on November 6…

What does not seem so clear, however, is how an expansive legalization of current illegal workers, and the new wave of illegal labor such a legalization would be likely to initiate, could improve the economic prospects of the working class or win them over to the Republican side. There might be other reasons to support an amnesty for illegal immigrants, but hopes that such an amnesty will be an electoral panacea are misguided. Perhaps the most promising strategy for winning over native-born and immigrant voters alike would be for Republicans to put forward policies that speak to the needs of the vast economic middle and of economic strivers of all income levels.

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