There are many reasons why Latinos tend to shy away from supporting Republicans. First, it’s because Republican politicians are constantly telegraphing to Latinos that they are second class citizens. Never mind the blatantly racist crap we get from politicians like Sheriff Joe Arpaio. There is enough subtle stuff to last a political lifetime. You know, like nutjburger Sharron Angle defending before an auditorium of Latino student, her “illegal immigrant” ads portraying Mexican individuals as sinister:
I don’t know that all of you are Latino…Some of you look a little more Asian to me. I don’t know that.
“Mexican? Were they really Mexican?!?” Uh huh. Right.
Or Rep. Don Young (R-AK) casually throwing out the term “wetbacks” in referring to immigrant workers on his father’s farm.
Latinos also have plenty of good policy reasons to shy away from Republicans. Republicans aren’t particularly good about supporting policies that serve or protect relatively disadvantaged populations of any sort. They have become the party of preserving privilege for the privileged. Sadly, they aren’t going to be able to change their policies overnight. And, even then, the image problem will lag for years behind the policy change.
It will take Republicans years to decades to repair all of this self-inflicted damage. Immigration reform is one of those policies that offer Republicans…well, not exactly opportunity. But maybe something….
Politico’s Emily Schultheis points out the catch-22 that Republicans find themselves in over immigration reform. Essentially, blocking immigration reform will further alienate them, and hinder their image reform goals (see The Autopsy). For years to come.
Alternatively, by enacting immigration reform:
The immigration proposal pending in Congress would transform the nation’s political landscape for a generation or more — pumping as many as 11 million new Hispanic voters into the electorate a decade from now in ways that, if current trends hold, would produce an electoral bonanza for Democrats and cripple Republican prospects in many states they now win easily.
Theoretically, the Republicans could get some political advantage among current Latino voters by supporting immigration reform. That’s good for them in the short run. The real problem comes 13 years down the road:
Extrapolating 2012 voting trends to the 2028 presidential election — the first in which previously undocumented Hispanics could exercise their voting rights after a 13-year path to citizenship — is an inherently speculative exercise. But it is one that highlights the political sword hanging over Republicans as they consider immigration reform with a path to citizenship, an idea that is already deeply unpopular with many red-state constituencies.
To support the measure virtually guarantees millions of new Democratic voters.
What to do? I think the only reasonable thing for Republicans is the Hail Mary Pass. Passing immigration reform now at least gives them a fighting chance to win the “hearts and minds” of Latino voters. It’s a gamble, because they would have make huge progress in “image reform” by the time year 13 arrives. And, even then, it will most likely only allow them to minimize the damage.
The alternative—further pissing off the community—comes with an immediate hit that will only be compounded by the time the 13-year Gauntlet is run.
But it will also hurt like hell in 2020, when Republicans stand to lose their lopsided advantage from the 2010 gerrymandered congressional districts. That will set Republicans back, possibly for decades.
I hope Republicans do strongly back immigration reform. Not because I want them to have a shot at redemption with Latinos. Rather, because it is the proper policy that will improve the lives of millions of people, including a great many U.S. citizens—like U.S.-born children whose parents are undocumented.
What I see as the biggest threat to the future of the Republican party is the heightened xenophobia in the wake of the Boston bombing that may end up dominating their party. It threatens to foreclose on their Hail Mary option.