This TPM account of yesterday’s Gang of Eight fun-bunch high-five after the immigration vote is the final straw. (Actually, it was the Gang of Seven. Our friend Marco Rubio was conspicuously absent from the big post-amnesty photo op.) I tolerated the first thousand warnings by pro-amnesty Republican senators that the party might suffer with Latinos if something isn’t done with immigration, but at some point this turns into deliberately trying to talk the party down.
TPM asked McCain if Republicans can recover in 2016 if the overhaul falters and if the party nominates a pro-immigration candidate. He took a deep breath and shook his head.
“No,” he said…
“All I can say is that maybe they ought to look back at what happened in 2012 and 2008 with the Hispanic voters and then maybe they ought to reevaluate what they are saying,” he said. “There’s plenty of issues that separate Republicans and Democrats but … 70, 80 percent, depending on which polls you judge by, are in favor of what we’re trying to do.”
You could put the following question to any amnesty-shill Republican but I’m singling out McCain because he’s been unusually blunt in framing the reform process as a naked, cynical attempt to pander to Latinos. Does he think Latinos should vote against the GOP if nothing ends up getting done? Not will they, but should they? He keeps gift-wrapping these soundbites of electoral doom for his friend Chuck to use against the party in 2014 and 2016, so maybe we should just have a straight answer. Is his loyalty to amnesty and his disdain for the Republican platform so great that he thinks Latinos should in fact be single-issue voters who treat the fate of reform as a dealbreaker? Say what you will about Rubio but he’s a smart enough politician to recognize that the answer to a question about whether any demographic group should consider voting for Republicans is always, always yes. (He’s also smart enough to recognize that, whatever rank-and-file Republicans say to each other, people in leadership should never declare any group to be a lost cause.) I see reform fans on Twitter grumbling that angry border hawks like me are being stupid and spiteful in threatening not to vote for Rubio or other GOPers over amnesty, but how is McCain not being spiteful in pressuring the House with public threats that we kinda sorta deserve to lose if they don’t pass his crappy, sellout bill?
And that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that he continues to peddle the self-serving double-barreled lie that (a) the Latino vote sunk Republicans in the last two elections (it did not) and (b) that immigration is an insuperable obstacle to being more competitive among Latinos. The man you want to read on that is Sean Trende, who’s had three indispensable pieces about it published over the week or so. First, he reveals the real culprits in why Romney lost last year, namely, economic-populist white voters who supported Perot and now stay home because the GOP no longer really talks to them. Second, he reminds the GOP that immigration reform isn’t as simple as winning Latinos, it’s winning Latinos at the expense of losing some white — and black — voters who might otherwise consider the party. Has McCain, Graham, Rubio, or anyone else on the amnesty spirit squad ever once been asked to address the prospect of losing some votes too in passing this bill? Do they have the faintest idea of whether they’d lose more white/black votes than they’d gain among Latinos? Do they care? If we’re going to pass a terrible bill purely in the interests of helping ourselves electorally, it’d be nice to have some idea of whether passing it really will help us electorally.
And third, he argues that what motivates Latino voters isn’t much different from what motivates white voters, especially among the middle class in both groups. Convince Latinos that your policies will grow the economy bigger and faster and that they’ll end up creating more jobs than Obama’s Recovery Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall, and you’ll win some votes. Maybe not a majority — poor voters of any group will prefer the welfare state — but certainly much more than you’re winning among middle- and upper-class Latinos now. In a way, the GOP’s monomania about immigration as a panacea for its problems is a byproduct of how terrible the party’s become about crafting an economic agenda for the middle class. They won’t give voters what they really want, so instead they’ll pander to them on identity politics and hope that that moves the needle a little bit. Go figure that McCain, who famously collapsed in 2008 after the financial crisis struck because voters didn’t trust him to bring the economy back, doesn’t grasp that.