Running, Not Running from, Hispanics in 2012

By Stephen Steinlight on November 10, 2010

My blood up, I was anticipating the prospect of tearing to shreds the astoundingly specious social analysis and "political lessons" allegedly to be derived from the mid-term elections about "the Hispanic vote" in 2012, as well as the ugly appeal to herd instinct to be found in Politico's piece "Hispanic vote a 2012 wild card". But my CIS colleague Stanley Renshon beat me to the punch in "Politico's Advice Regarding Wooing Hispanics, Part I: Pander to Their Narrow Self-Interest."

I can trump his disgust only by noting Politico's piece isn't merely awful; it's extremely awful. I can also flesh out his point that the erroneous, damnable assumption that underlies it – namely, that Hispanics act or, worse, should act as an undifferentiated mass of ethnic identity voters marching in lock step in pursuit of narrow, indeed, self-defeating aims at the expense of a larger sense of national belonging (pursuing amnesty and an exponential increase in immigration) – already has been disproved by a Zogby poll showing 56 percent of Hispanics think immigration is too high, introducing additional low-skill immigrants who threaten their own tenuous hold on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder. Renshon notes, "It is always a mystery why 'Hispanics' would support the arrival of millions of illegal immigrants with low levels of education…while many Hispanic legal immigrants are struggling economically." Mystery solved: they don't.

Renshon wasn't alone in preceding me. In the opening of an important piece of research anticipating likely turnout by Hispanic voters on November 2 by other CIS colleagues, Steven Camarota and Ashley Webster, "The Hispanic Vote in the Upcoming 2010 Elections," a bullet point notes, "Polling of Hispanics indicates that immigration is not one of their most important issues."

This point is reinforced in a third CIS piece, Mark Krikorian's "A Big Win for Immigration Control and Hispanic Outreach." The myth of a single-minded, obsessive, quasi-religious Hispanic attachment to (or, perhaps, better, "sacralization" of) immigration policy is shown to be a sham in a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that finds Hispanic respondents to a poll assessing relative interest in pubic policy questions rank immigration fifth out of seven, way behind education and employment.

In addition, far from showing the finally awakened Hispanic demographic/electoral giant that will destroy the Republican Party, making Democrats the permanent ruling caste (the PRI of America, to use an analogy from Mexico's recent past), Krikorian points out the Republican share of the Hispanic vote in races for the House actually went up by five percentage points in the mid-term elections from the presidential race in 2008; that Hispanic candidates hawkish on illegal immigration defeated non-Hispanic border doves; that even the much-reviled Gov. Brewer of Arizona, portrayed by amnesty supporters and much of the mainstream media as a nativist ant-Hispanic bigot, received nearly a third of Arizona's Hispanic voters; and, in what is surely the most important indication of an ascending political trend, among the hottest news on election night was the victory of Hispanic Republicans who have taken a tough position on illegal immigration, including Florida's senator-elect Marco Rubio, New Mexico's governor-elect Susana Martinez, and Nevada's governor-elect Brian Sandoval. Had Rubio been the only winner it goes without saying his victory would have been written off as a curiosity of Cuban-American politics. But joined by Hispanic victors in the West, there's no way to dismiss the implications.

The wretched analysis and distasteful underlying assumptions (dare we call the latter "racist"?) in Politico's piece are ultimately the responsibility of the reporters. But they could never have gotten things so wrong without having heeded the admonitions and taken seriously the several clueless Democratic political strategists and politicians and "immigration advocates" in the piece. Republicans ought to pray Democratic operatives, in addition to the mainstream media's reporters, believe these people are prescient: they are Cassandra's antithesis.

The "strategists" are research-averse or research-challenged. They try to downplay findings by Latino Decisions showing lack of enthusiasm within the Hispanic community for the Democratic Party. To the extent they can take that conclusion on board, they use it to arrive at the wrong conclusion. Despite solid survey evidence from Pew and other sources, Democratic strategists and politicians such as Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) remain in thrall to the proposition the only way to win Hispanic support is to re-double their efforts to pass some incarnation of "comprehensive immigration reform." If the Democrats didn't get as much Hispanic support as they wished or will fail in 2012, it's because they don't "deserve it, " and "deserving it" means one thing: supporting amnesty for illegal aliens and open-borders immigration. This view is also advanced by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who says "The Democrats have been dismal. They have failed to even attempt to look like they're trying to deliver on their promise [of passing "comprehensive immigration reform']."

Some of the advocates quoted by Politico offer contradictory advice that should be music to Republican ears. Frank Sharry compares the slim victory of Harry Reid, perhaps the fiercest supporter of "comprehensive immigration reform" in the Senate, to the defeat of Democrat Alex Sink in Florida to Republican governor-elect Rick Scott, despite Scott's support of SB1070. Sharry's ostensible point is for Democrats to view the election as a "cautionary tale" indicating the need "for Democrats to show some backbone." But the example he chooses subverts that message. Scott won because of assiduous out-reach to Hispanics, not because he caved on immigration or border enforcement.

Worshiping an ideological fetish that's blinded him to reality, Sen. Menendez makes a suggestion so politically maladroit it borders on the deranged: he urges Congress attempt to pass "immigration reform" legislation in the lame duck session. A sleazy maneuver and slap in the face to the electorate under the best of circumstances, the public would see it for the Machiavellian breach of governance it is, especially at a time of public fury with government for its usurpation of the people's voice, unresponsiveness, ethical laxness, and its failure to address the highest priority on the agenda of almost every American: creating jobs and fixing the broken economy.

Most astounding, Politico's reporters focus so narrowly on an imaginary Hispanic demographic that cares solely about immigration they apparently forgot about another group: the rest of America. One would have thought the point didn't require reassertion, but evidently it does: huge majorities within every identifiable demographic in the United States, deeply divided Hispanics aside, vehemently oppose amnesty and the exponential increase in legal immigration that is the core of "comprehensive immigration reform."

If the signs are as propitious for the passage of immigration reform as the Democratic politicians and strategists suggest, why did the White House and virtually the entire Democratic leadership in Congress (Harry Reid excepted, and his reasons were existential) do everything in their power to see no immigration bill emerged from the 111th Congress?

Only 8 percent of voters claimed immigration was a major consideration in the mid-term election, but that is no measure of the strength of their feelings about this issue. The reason the number was so low is simple: no immigration bill was debated in the 111th Congress. Had that happened, there's no question that third rail issue would have worked even more magic for Republicans, as public opinion regarding Arizona's SB1070 strongly suggests. Obama's direction to the Department of Justice to seek an injunction against the bill was an unusual exception to his historical timorousness and avoidance of the issue. His fingers burned as a result of public opinion – and the likelihood the 9th Circuit will either lift the injunction in whole or in part and the Supreme Court will finish the job, it's unlikely he will return to the issue any time soon. He will certainly make little headway in a Congress now far more ready to adopt a tougher enforcement policy than amnesty under any name.

Far from awaiting a contemporary version of the handwriting on the wall that ruined Belshazzar's Feast (fearsome poll results?), Republicans can savor their historic mid-term election victory without fear of Hispanic retribution. Conjured by those invested in its occurrence – and disseminated by clueless reporters that bought it hook, line, and sinker – the scenario is a pure chimera.

The results of the mid-term election show Republicans can maintain opposition to amnesty and support tougher enforcement of immigration law without paying any meaningful political price at Hispanic hands. What's more, other Americans will handsomely reward them for taking those very popular positions. Finally, the election provides the Republicans the perfect template, one to be reproduced on a much larger scale in 2012: run many more Hispanics for Congress and for state office.

In America, one doesn't have to be an immigration historian to observe that members of every ethnic group, even those long melded into American society with identities enriched and attenuated by generations of intermarriage, take special pride in the achievement of members of their "original group," one for which they retain a sentimental attachment. The pull of group loyalty is far stronger among more recent immigrants. Mexican Americans can be counted upon to show a strong preference for Mexican-American candidates, regardless of party or, for that matter, regardless of positions on issues thought to be non-negotiable by those outside the group who neither feel nor understand the group's need for and love of solidarity. Republicans should work over-time to reach out to the Hispanic community.

If the liberal/left wing of the Democratic Party is bound and determined to ignore the rule of law, keep our porous borders open while Mexico sinks ever deeper into murderous anarchy, or fails to protect the jobs and wages of American workers during the worst period of unemployment since the Great Depression from competition from cheap illegal alien labor – then it is they who will reap the political whirlwind.