Is Marco Rubio Really About to Ruin the Republican Party?

Some high-profile conservatives, including Ann Coulter and the editors of National Review, think Senator Marco Rubio is making a big mistake in his push for immigration reform.

Embedded in many of these critiques — sometimes subtly, sometimes not — is the worry that a naive Rubio is inadvertently handing Democrats a permanent political majority. Not only would millions of currently illegal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American nations eventually become citizens and reliably vote Democratic, but this de facto amnesty would lure millions more into crossing the southern border.

Bad for Republicans? Sure. But also bad news, so goes the theory, for anyone in favor of pro-market economic policies since Latinos in general seem to favor bigger government and higher taxes. So we’re talking not just a permanent Democratic majority but a permanent Big Government majority.

But here’s the other side of that trade:

1. While immigration reform alone won’t make most Hispanics switch from D to R, it is the gateway policy needed before conservatives can begin to make their case to that community. And even though future Republican presidential candidates could conceivably win doing as poorly among Hispanics as Mitt Romney did — at least for another election, maybe two — such a weak showing leaves little margin for error and makes a large, Reaganesque GOP win improbable.

2. Immigration reform would nudge conservatives and Republicans to move beyond an economic agenda — both in terms of policy and messaging — that’s been focused almost exclusively on a) debt reduction, and b) directly meeting the needs of business and entrepreneurs. Keep all that stuff, of course, but what about education and health care reform and the tax code’s anti-parent bias? A populist, middle-class agenda won’t just help win the votes of Hispanics, but also the votes of millions of middle-income and working-class Americans of whatever race and ethnicity who think the GOP and conservative policies have nothing to offer them.

3. Even if it will be initially hard to move the Hispanic vote rightward, immigration reform sends a signal to other groups — Asians, women, younger voters — that the GOP is an open, inclusive, and compassionate party. Recall that exit polls showed 53% of 2012 voters thought Obama was “more in touch” with people like themselves — and of that group 81% voted for Obama. As Bloomberg noted:

For a little perspective, consider the votes of another minority – Asians. Romney won among all voters making more than $100,000 a year by a margin of 54-44. Asian-Americans happen to be the highest-earning group in the U.S., out-earning whites, and they generally place enormous emphasis on family. A perfect fit for Republicans, no?

No. Asians voted for Obama by 73-26; they were more Democratic than Hispanics. It’s possible that Hispanics and Asians are more communitarian than individualistic, leading them to identify more with Democrats than Republicans. But most immigrants, like most other Americans, possess both strains in their political DNA. (People rarely pull up roots and move to a new land without a strong sense of individualism.)

Rubio isn’t selling a political solution. He’s offering only an opportunity.

  1. Franco

    I’m becoming very wary of the entire Republican party. They can’t be this stupid.

    There is no evidence that Republicans will be held in higher regard by Hispanics, or anyone, because they go along with, or even initiate, immigration reform. There is no evidence that immigration reform is even a priority amoung current Hispanic voters, who already break for Democrats. 

    Many of the conditions on illegal immigrants that will inevitably be part of any comprehensive plan will actually annoy, frustrate, anger and animate these people against Republicans, and the media will be sure to pin any and all negatives (it won’t be hard) on the Republicans.

    James P’s own statement here should be enough to stop the debate: So we’re talking not just a permanent Democratic majority but a permanent Big Government majority.

    Instead he continues:But on the other side of the trade….

    What????

  2. Franco

    But on the other side of the trade…. 

    We get something for giving the Democrats a permanent majority and Big Government for eternity?

    Oh goody! I can’t wait to hear what its going to be! This has to mean we finally sold our franchise to a higher bidder, like Al Gore sold Current TV, or like a giant IPO whereby we American citizens are the preferred stockholders who got in on the ground floor.

    So what are we going to get?  One million dollars each?…along with a personal nanny,  gardner and maid, and, not to be stereotyping, an educated thispanic who will do my job in my place while I sip Margharitas by my pool – oh yeah, a pool boy (or girl) too.  

    I might consider that offer. It’s about time I retired and cashed in on this failing enterprise known as the USA.

    But noooooo (bill Murray)

    We (republicans?) will get a 1. a “gateway policy”  2. more favorable views from “middle-income and working-class Americans” and 3. we get to send “a signal to other groups — Asians, women, younger voters — that the GOP is an open, inclusive, and compassionate party.”

  3. Xennady

    My cynical off-the-cuff response is that Marco Rubio can’t ruin the Republican party because George Bush already ruined it.

    My even more cynical take is that Marco Rubio the presidential- wanna-be figures he has the conservative street cred to win the base of the party already.

    Now he’s going for the GOP establishment and its money backers by giving them that sweet sweet amnesty that George Bush couldn’t deliver.

    I really hope I’m wrong about all that.

  4. Franco

    So either J.P. completely disagrees with the NR editors, Ann Coulter and the subtle or not-so subtle critiques, but he is unable to counter those arguments, or he is a complete fool. 

    If these critiques are valid, then there has to be more in the “trade” for American citizens and Republicans.

    If James Pethakoukis wants to be seen as serious and not spinning for his own agenda, he must destroy those arguments first before he offers such weak tea as trade.

  5. Franco

    1. While immigration reform alone won’t make most Hispanics switch from D to R, it is the gateway policy needed before conservatives can begin to make their case to that community.

    Conservatives can’t make a case to the Hispanic community without pushing immigration reform? Remember, these are Hispainic voters. They are already legal themselves and can bring in their relatives fairly easily. So what is in it for them? Polls report that immigration reform is not a high priority to actual Hispanic voters.

    And even though future Republican presidential candidates could conceivably win doing as poorly among Hispanics as Mitt Romney did — ….. such a weak showing leaves little margin for error and makes a large, Reaganesque GOP win improbable.

    So by this logic, a large Reaganesque GOP win would be probable or even possible with immigration reform? How so? If so, how far in the future are we talking?

  6. Franco

    2. Immigration reform would nudge conservatives and Republicans to move beyond an economic agenda —

    How so? What is the evidence that immigration reform would not suck up all the political oxygen? What is the evidence that Republicans can put forth any coherant message, and if they could, that they can get their message out via the giant corporations who benefit from in-kind donations to the Democratic Party through their news outlets?

    A populist, middle-class agenda won’t just help win the votes of Hispanics, but also the votes of millions of middle-income and working-class Americans of whatever race and ethnicity who think the GOP and conservative policies have nothing to offer them.

    Why don’t we have a populist middle-class agenda now? And it makes as much sense, or more, that holding the line on illegal immigration is already a middle-class issue.

  7. Elizabeth Van Horn

    Good points James.   One thing that people tend to forget it that what’s good for a political party, may not be good for the nation. 

    In deciding political policy, politicians  should put the nation first, above the their party.  I think that’s what Rubio is doing.

    Immigration is what has propelled our birthrate, and kept the US from the dismal scenarios that Europe and Japan face, where they are paying people to have children.  Immigration keeps our population fresh, with new waves of hopeful who see the US as the land of opportunity. 

  8. CoolHand

    All of this gamesmanship and posturing is utterly useless until we break the dinosaur media.

    You won’t be “perceived” as compassionate, because the media will be there to dutifully report about how much you hate [insert ethnic group here].

    They have the megaphone, and they determine what most people in these groups hear.

    Until we figure out a viable way to bitchslap them and take away the megaphone, all this other stuff is pointless.

    What we’re going to end up with, is a huge democrat voter majority coupled with a media that STILL calls us racist bigoted homophobes at every turn.

    The worst of all possible worlds, because the people steering the ship on our side can’t figure out that this needs to be a process, wherein certain actions have to come first.

    Beat the media first, pander after.

  9. Nick Stuart

    I’ll give Rubio the benefit of the doubt and believe he’s simply naive thinking the Democrats will go along with meaningful enforcement.

    But he needs to wise up quick. Can anyone reasonably think that there is the remotest possibility of meaningful border and immigration enforcement as long as Barack Obama is president?

  10. Franco

    3. Even if it will be initially hard to move the Hispanic vote rightward,…

    Not only will it be “hard”,  the Republican party has demonstrated that it is unable to move anyone “rightward”. It has only demonstrated that it is willing to move leftward while allowing itself to be demonized siimiltaneously for being “too far to the right”. This is magical thinking. Continuing:

    immigration reform sends a signal to other groups — Asians, women, younger voters — that the GOP is an open, inclusive, and compassionate party. Recall that exit polls showed 53% of 2012 voters thought Obama was “more in touch” with people like themselves — and of that group 81% voted for Obama.

    Again with the signal-sending. The GOP doesn’t send signals. The media, controlled by Democrats send all the signals in this country. The fact that there will be a fight over immigration reform within the party is enough to “send the signal” that Republicans are racists and xenophobes. What country has JP been living in? What world?

  11. John Walker

    Oh, how I detest this word “Hispanic”.  What we are talking about, within the margin of error, is illegal immigrants from Mexico, not those who have crept in from Catalonia or infiltrated from Argentina or Chile.  Those they call “Hispanics” are more diverse in their origins and outlooks than the bulk of the U.S. population in 1960.  But “Hispanics” today are mostly of Mexican origin, and have no experience whatsoever of living in a pluralistic, multi-party polity governed by the rule of law.  You need only roll the phrase “Institutional Revolutionary Party” off your tongue to see how large is the gap.

    The evidence from 30 years of elections is that these “Hispanics” vote between 60% and 70% for Democrats, regardless of the policies of the Republican candidate.  Therefore, the more you enrol as voters, the larger the Democratic vote.  This is not lost on Democratic strategists.

    The thought that a well-meaning senator of Cuban ancestry will reverse this decades-long trend seems a fantasy to me, since immigrants of Mexican ancestry don’t seem to like those who hail from Cuba very much.

  12. KarlUB

    “A populist, middle-class agenda won’t just help win the votes of Hispanics, but also the votes of millions of middle-income and working-class Americans of whatever race and ethnicity who think the GOP and conservative policies have nothing to offer them.”

    I agree with this.

    The problem, though, is that importing more people into a country with an employment problem is not a populist, middle-class agenda item.

  13. Benjamin Glaser

    Well we do in effect pay people to have children. It is called EIC and CTC.

  14. dittoheadadt

    “1. While immigration reform alone won’t make most Hispanics switch from D to R, it is the gateway policy needed before conservatives can begin to make their case to that community.”

    Baloney. I happen to think these ideas would provide a “gateway” to those communities without sacrificing one iota of principle or integrity.

     “3. Even if it will be initially hard to move the Hispanic vote rightward, immigration reform sends a signal to other groups — Asians, women, younger voters — that the GOP is an open, inclusive, and compassionate party.”

    More baloney.  Did you forget just exactly who has the exclusive power in America to disseminate narratives and signals?  The friggin’ media!  Again, these ideas will do what you want done in #1 and #3, above, without capitulating to the Left.

     My baloney has a first name, it’s M-a-r-c-o. My baloney has a second name, it’s R-u-b-i-o.

  15. Franco

    It’s possible that Hispanics and Asians are more communitarian than individualistic, leading them to identify more with Democrats than Republicans.

    Yes, this is a very possible -and a very likely – cultural phenomenon that continues to express itself politically outside the immigration debate. We have already had amnesty in the 80′s under Ronald Reagan. So this cultural trend seems to transcend immigration policies.

    But most immigrants, like most other Americans, possess both strains in their political DNA.

    The important question is, which is the dominant or prevailing strain? I think the evidence is clear on that.

    (People rarely pull up roots and move to a new land without a strong sense of individualism.)

    Wrong. People often flee poverty as a last resort to survival,  having little to do with a sense of “individualism”. 

    Furthermore, nothing has been said about the levels of communitarianism when an ethnic group exists as a minority within another country. I would imagine the sense of communitarianism grows while the sense of individualism fades as the group perceives itself as a distinct group. GOP efforts to pander to groups has the effect of solidifying and validating group perceptions and undermines its’ own appeals to individuality.

  16. KC Mulville

    I’m inclined to worry about whether it’s the best policy first, and then worry about the perceptions later, because I completely agree with CoolHand … they’re going to screw us either way.

  17. Nick Stuart
    KC Mulville: I’m inclined to worry about whether it’s the best policy first, and then worry about the perceptions later, because I completely agree with CoolHand … they’re going to screw us either way. · 9 minutes ago

    If I’m gonna get screwed, I’d at least like to be kissed. Where’s my free stuff? I’d like the abolition of property tax and a unicorn pony for starters.

  18. MJBubba

    I happened to hear Rush Limbaugh put forward a proposal (that he said he had made a couple of years ago):  Give them all citizenship, with the penalty that they cannot vote for 25 years.

    I like that.  Take the political advantage away from the Dems and see how many still care.

  19. Margaret Sarah

    Do we want the Republican party to be like the Democratic party–always basing policy positions on a calculation of benefit/loss to the party?

    Our laws are legitimately made, and they deserve to be enforced. If we believe in the rule of law, we believe that. It is not our business or concern to “bring people out of the shadows,” but to make good laws and then have them enforced. Mexican illegal immigrants might be good for aspects of the country or bad, but they have broken the law. Defending the law should be our first concern.

    By the way, these are not naive and foolish people who blundered into “the shadows” heedlessly. They made a choice of what they considered the better of evils. Of course like most people they would like to get the most out of the situation, but they are not victims–or if they are, it is of the Mexican government, not ours. 

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In