With the election behind us, there are many lessons to be learned and facts to be gleaned as Republicans regroup. However, one hard fact stands out among all: The Republican Party must embrace Hispanics and immigration reform or forget about winning back the White House.
It is readily apparent that Republicans are losing Hispanics — the nation’s largest and fastest growing minority group — big time.
A Pew Research Center survey found that after spending much of this decade loosening their ties to the Democrats, Hispanics began a dramatic swing back during the debate over immigration reform.
Republicans who opposed legislation to allow illegal aliens to eventually gain citizenship came across as hostile to Hispanics. The Pew survey found that most Hispanics now view the Democratic Party as the one showing more concern for them and doing a better job on the issue of illegal immigration.
The irony is that by opposing the Bush reform legislation, Republicans in effect gave illegal aliens blanket amnesty, because no action is being taken to deal with them.
The trend away from the Republican Party began showing up in the 2006 congressional election. The lesson of that election was that “anti-immigrant rhetoric and votes in favor of walling off the Southern border did not win votes for Republicans,” Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, wrote in his book “Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives.” What seemed “so exciting when bandied about on right-wing talk radio was not a vote winner on Election Day,” added Norquist, a pre-eminent leader of the conservative movement.
That trend intensified in the 2008 election. By a margin of 67 percent to 31 percent, Hispanic voters helped carry Obama to victory. This is a major shift from 2004, when President Bush won an estimated 44 percent of the Hispanic vote.
Obama’s biggest breakthrough was in Florida, where he won 57 percent of the Latino vote in a state where Hispanics have traditionally supported Republicans. Hispanic voters also helped move Nevada and Colorado into the Democratic column.
Hispanics comprise 15 percent of the population. However, because many are ineligible to vote or have not reached age 18, Hispanics represented only 9 percent of the total votes in the last election. That was a percentage point higher than in 2004.
In the future, that percentage will grow. Because Hispanics have a higher birth rate and a greater immigration rate than the rest of the population, the annual increase in the Hispanic population is almost four times that of America’s overall growth rate of 1 percent per year.
If the growing number of Hispanics voting for Democrats seen in the 2008 election continues, the “GOP will find it difficult to regain the majority” Karl Rove recently wrote.
Moreover, now that Democrats control Washington, they will woo Hispanics even more effectively by passing an even more liberal immigration reform measure than the one Republicans rejected.
“If the Republicans can maintain more than 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, they get to run the country for the next 25 years,” Norquist wrote. “If they fall below 25 percent, they don’t.”
As Norquist tells me, “Being seen as mean is not an option.”
Of course, Republicans didn’t fare so bad in other aspects of the election. Despite a cataclysmic downturn in the economy, an uninspiring presidential candidate, and an unpopular sitting Republican president, Democrats made only modest gains compared to President Bush’s victory in 2004.
In the popular vote, Barack Obama received only 2.1 more percentage points than Bush in the previous election. And in congressional and state races, Democrats made only marginal gains.
But the biggest issue by far is the impact Hispanics make. And the Republican Party would do well to make headway with this growing population — or forget about winning back the White House.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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