Media Memes and the GOP's Immigration Stance in the 2012 Election: Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't

By Stanley Renshon and Stanley Renshon on May 16, 2012

There is no area more suffused with conventional "conventional wisdom" than the role of immigration in the 2012 presidential election.

Did you know that Hispanic voters are a "large and growing electoral bloc"? That's right, "The number of Hispanics eligible to vote increased from 16 million in 2004 to 19.5 million in 2008."

NOTE: Repeat as often as necessary to ensure that you don't have to deal with the actual decline of Hispanic voting.


Moreover, Republican strategists say Romney must improve his appeal among Hispanic voters if he is to defeat President Obama. The Wall Street Journal reported that "A veteran Republican pollster warned that the party may shut itself out of the White House for the foreseeable future unless it improves its showing among Latinos and puts forward a message that appeals to this fast-growing voting bloc."

NOTE: Repeat as often as necessary to ensure that you don't have to deal with the fact that pocketbook and family issues are the top concerns among Hispanics and immigration is at the bottom.

The occasion of these pro forma repetitions of the conventional wisdom is an article that asserts that the Romney campaign will be in serious trouble if it chooses Sen. Bob Portman of Ohio (R-Ohio) as his running mate.

Why?

Well, you see, "Controversial votes to crack down on illegal immigrants could hurt the chances of Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) ... landing on the Republican presidential ticket." Aren't most Americans in favor of not aiding and supporting illegal immigration?

Yes, but you see his "prospects could be endangered by ... votes on legislation that pro-immigrant advocates describe as 'mean-spirited' and still sparks anger among Hispanic voters."

Ah, now I understand.

"Pro-immigrant advocates" think it is "mean-spirited" to be against illegal immigration and to try to reduce it. So when the article describes this group what it really means to say about them is that they are advocates of both legal and illegal immigration. Sen. Portman and Gov. Romney are apparently mean-spirited because they only advocate and support legal immigration.

And to make matters worse, the article reports their anti-illegal immigration stance "still sparks anger among Hispanic voters." Hmmm ... would that be all Hispanic voters or some subset? And does that mean "Hispanic voters" would vote against someone who only favored legal immigration, but was seen to have the right economic policies because he didn't advocate and support illegal immigration?

Just asking.

And what specifically about those policies will raise the ire of Hispanics and lose the presidential race for Mr. Romney should he select Mr. Portman?

Well, "In March of 1996, Portman voted for an amendment sponsored by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) that would have given states the option of denying public immigration benefits to illegal immigrants." That's right. Over a decade ago, Mr. Portman voted in favor of denying public immigration benefits to those who had entered the country in violation of American immigration laws.

The article goes on note that, "Pro-immigrant advocates said Democrats would blast Portman for these votes if Romney puts him on the ticket."

Here's my question: By exactly what standard or logic are those who advocate and support giving out public benefits to those not even entitled to be in the country "pro-immigrant"? That's a bit odd because it would seem to suggest "pro-immigrant" advocates support incentives for further illegal immigration.

Odder still is that, "During his 2010 Senate campaign, Portman said he supports legal immigration." His spokesman is quoted as saying, "The United States owes its solid foundation to the hard work of generations of legal immigrants. This means that we should keep the doors of America open to those who come legally and enrich our society and contribute to our economic prosperity while doing a better job of enforcing our laws."

But these truly pro-immigrant views and votes "are not viewed as having the same importance as the Gallegly amendment."

"Are not viewed as having the same importance"? By whom? Could it possibly be those very same "pro-immigrant" advocates who support public benefits for illegal immigrants? Does the reporter have any information on whether Hispanics would like to use their tax dollars to support benefits for those who come to the country illegally? I doubt it.

We don't ask these kinds of questions, but we should.