So Pavlovian is the instinct among some to attack Republicans as racist that Bush is actually catching heat for saying this, even though (a) he’s famously one of the most pro-amnesty members of the pro-amnesty GOP establishment, (b) he thinks a high immigrant birth rate is, unambiguously, a good thing, and (c) he’s correct that immigrants, i.e. foreign-born women, tend to have more children than native-born Americans, although the gap between them has been shrinking of late. Dave Weigel:
Completely confused as to how "it's great that immigrants have more babies, we should let them in" became racist.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) June 14, 2013
Me too. At worst, Jeb’s guilty of being imprecise in his word choice. He doesn’t mean immigrants are naturally more fertile, obviously, just that they choose to have more kids. “Birth rate” or “fertility rate” would have been better, but whatever. You know what he meant. There is something gawkworthy about this, but it has nothing to do with phantom racist insinuations. It’s that Bush is presenting his point as a way to … preserve the welfare state. Higher immigrant birth rates equals more taxpayers equals a reprieve of a few decades or more on the Social Security/Medicare fiscal implosion. If you like entitlements, the more amnesty the better. That’s not an argument that’ll win him any conservative votes in a 2016 primary, but less conservative Republicans and everyone to their left — which is most of the electorate — love entitlements and will listen very carefully to proposals on how to preserve the status quo. “Worried about Medicare being there? Let the immigrants pay for it!” is a shrewd way to appeal to a country that’s gotten used to not paying its own bills. Imagine how far down the road we could kick the entitlement crisis if we opened the borders entirely and handed out citizenship to people on their way in.
Let the backlash to Jeb be a reminder, though, that no Republican is safe from cheap demagoguery on immigration, no matter how leftist their record on the subject. Rubio thinks his work on the Gang of Eight bill will more or less immunize him from “Republicans hate Latinos” talking points in 2016. He’s kidding himself. Democrats will work overtime on that message, even if immigration reform passes with heavy Republican support, precisely because they’re keen to torch any small inroads the GOP might make with Latinos over the next three years. Every small (and I emphasize “small”) gesture that Rubio makes right now towards tightening the eligibility requirements for legalization will be used against him. He’ll be clubbed endlessly too for his lame pander yesterday about Leahy’s gay-spouse amendment to the bill being a dealbreaker. That’s useful to him in winning social conservatives in Iowa in 2016, but it’ll be less useful when he sells himself to the GOP as holding some special appeal to young voters because of his youth and then ends up being hammered on one of young adults’ favorite hot-button issues. If lefties can pull this on Jeb Bush, of all people, imagine what they’ll pull on Rubio.