As anti-immigrant fervor continues to swirl in the headlines, it’s not difficult for readers to discern who’s stirring the pot. Over the weekend, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) became the latest GOPer to publically support the effort to end birthright citizenship—an effort that seeks to repeal the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Last month, immigration reformers-turned-hawks, Arizona Republican Senators McCain and Kyl as well as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), also jumped on the birthright bandwagon. Couple this recent effort with Arizona’s “show me your papers” law saga and months of punditry and restrictionist rhetoric on enforcement and you have a hostile GOP narrative of exclusion and anti-immigration hysteria—which as some point out, is a political recipe for disaster come election time.
In an recent editorial entitled, “Have Republicans Lost the White House for a Generation?,” author Dylan Loewe lays out the electoral consequences of the GOP’s efforts to alienate the fastest growing voting bloc in America:
What Kyl doesn’t seem to understand—and what Graham has clearly forgotten—is that the stakes on this issue are, politically, at least, far greater than most. It’s a fact that Karl Rove tried, but failed, to get his party to wise up to:
You can no longer win the presidency without the Hispanic vote.
Over the last ten years, 80 percent of the population growth in this country has been fueled by minorities, and most of that has come from Hispanics. George W. Bush was able to win reelection largely because his support for immigration reform earned him 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. But John McCain only won 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, which led him to lose Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Florida — and the White House.
That shift among Hispanics hasn’t dissipated, even as President Obama’s approval has waned among the larger population. His job approval is still at 57 percent among Hispanics, according to an AP/Univision poll taken in late July. Meanwhile, the Republican party has decided en masse to stand behind an anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic agenda that’s even further to the fringes than they’re used to. This will almost surely solidify the Hispanic vote behind the Democratic party for good.
Loewe goes on to run through the GOP electoral map for 2012 based on the 2008 Presidential Election, discounting states with large Hispanic populations—Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida. According to Loewe, even if they reclaimed North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and New Hampshire (all states Obama won in 2008), the GOP would still need Pennsylvania or Michigan—which they haven’t won in years. Factor in the rapid Hispanic growth in Arizona and Texas and the GOP is in a pot of boiling anti-immigrant water—a pot many of its leaders continue to stir.
Notwithstanding the fact that many GOP strategists and other leaders are arguing against using immigration as a wedge issue, politicians eager for votes gravitate toward each new anti-immigrant message like moths to a flame. And it isn’t clear why. After all, Republicans and conservative Democrats continue to win on enforcement driven messaging such as the Senate’s $600 million dollar gift to border enforcement hawks. When Democrats hand the GOP a set of border talking points, you would think they would run with that. Instead, it’s on to the next issue—upping the stakes again and again.
Sooner or later that strategy is going to backfire. Immigration hawks within the GOP can spin their harsh rhetoric and enforcement-only solutions however they want, but at the end of the day, Latino voters will more than likely notice who’s responsible for blocking immigration reform, creating anti-immigrant legislation, and making the citizenship of many of their children an issue for debate.