The “Immigrant” Vote: What the GOP Can Learn from Canada’s Conservatives

 

My mother, second child in a Mexican family of nine siblings, was the first in her family to immigrate to the United States when she was only 17 years old.  She worked hard, took English classes at a community college, sent money home to help support her family, and in the meantime started a family with an American.  A naturalized citizen as of 1997, Mom is a self-professed conservative, and votes accordingly. 

But my mother is an anomaly, not only in her own family, but in the Hispanic population – and indeed, the immigrant population – as a whole. 

And so I’ve always wondered: Why does the immigrant population tend to overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates, who oftentimes represent the antithesis of the work ethic and family values that immigrants cherish?  And what can the GOP do to reverse this trend?

Tim Mak, writing in FrumForum describes the huge strides that Canada’s conservatives have made over the past four years in amassing the support of immigrant voters:

The Conservative Party [has] been able to reach communities who would have never been accessible – and this outreach model manages to stay true to basic conservative principles…The growing accomplishments of the Conservative Party’s strategy offers hope for right-of-center parties around the world. Ethnic outreach can, in fact, be done in a conservative way by enacting low-cost symbolic measures to get the attention of minority groups.

Win the support of the immigrant population without selling out basic conservative principles?  Sounds like a lesson the GOP could afford to learn. 

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  1. Profile Photo Contributor
    @UrsulaHennessey

    Diane, I’m so interested in this! I’d be curious to hear what your mom would say about the lopsided split? And why she chose the less traveled path?

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    @AaronMiller

    Great points, like the importance of who’s there to welcome immigrants when they first arrive.

    There are significant differences between immigration in Canada and immigration here, though, that demand different strategies. The vast majority of our immigrants are from a single nation, Mexico. Canada doesn’t have our problem of separating the welcoming of legal immigrants from a flood of illegal immigration.

    Here in Texas and other border states, people know illegals and know first-hand how hard many of them work just to send money back to their families in Mexico. Some work here and then return to Mexico. Republicans must recognize that human beings are not only logical. Many Americans know illegal immigration is wrong, but they have trouble admitting it while witnessing such hardship and sacrifice. Convincing voters requires more than cogent arguments.

    Mexicans tend to arrive poor. Like poor blacks, their social values tend to be conservative, but their poverty makes them easy prey for the Democrats’ welfare programs and Republicans are generally afraid to put their social platform front and center. Republicans are fools to simply let Democrats own the poor’s votes.

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    @Harlech

    Interesting and worth a shot — although I think immigrant communities are smart enough to know pandering when they see it. I suspect the best way to get votes from minority group X is to run candidates from minority group X.

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    @DuaneOyen

    Thank you for bringing this up, Diane. In my opinion, there are few issues where the Center-Right shoots itself in the foot more often, or more unnecessarily. We can agree that the border needs to be secured, and the law needs to be enforced, but express that in such a way as to avoid the impression of xenophobia.

    But when every concern expressed about immigration reform starts: “I am opposed to AMNESTY for illegals”, the message heard by the entire ethnic group tends to be something very ugly. And when that is pounded on over and over by leading conservative pundits (e.g., LI and MM) accusing GWB of proposing that rather than his “guest worker” program (they are not necessarily the same thing), the entire political movement is tarred. The constant shots taken at every Republican who speaks in moderate tones on the subject are totally unnecessary.

    One can agree with Jeb, and Michael Barone (The New Americans), and Linda Chavez, all solid and admired conservatives, and get trashed. NRO’s The Corner had a very ugly debate last time around between Ms. Chavez and Mark Krikorian that accomplished nothing whatever.

    Finish the real fence, yes- and stop talking trash.

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    @DinaEllis
    Ursula Hennessey: I’d be curious to hear what your mom would say about the lopsided split? And why she chose the less traveled path?

    Hi Ursula – In Mexico, I saw that both parties were essentially the same: both pandered to various groups, promised all kinds of benefits, and treated the rich with contempt.  They promised free government education, better roads, loans for farmers, and all sorts of social programs. Once they were elected to power, they didn’t fulfill their promises, but instead maintained the status quo and poverty continued on.

    When I came to America, I was suspicious of the Democrats because they sounded exactly the same as politicians in Mexico.  They focus on the poor, uneducated classes, promising all kinds of benefits that they do deliver, but with the money of hardworking taxpayers.  This is not fair or honest.  I found conservatives an attractive alternative because they stand for individual rights and encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that immigrants bring to this country.  They focus on the realization of the American dream by encouraging hard work, and personal responsibility.  In Mexico, I had learned to distrust all politicians, so it was a breath of fresh air to be able to choose between two very different ideologies.  And of course I chose the one that reflected my own values. 

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    @FeliciaB

    Diana, has anyone ever told you that your Mom is pretty cool?

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    @
    Dina Ellis

    In Mexico, I saw that both parties were essentially the same: both pandered to various groups, promised all kinds of benefits, and treated the rich with contempt. They promised free government education, better roads, loans for farmers, and all sorts of social programs. Once they were elected to power, they didn’t fulfill their promises, but instead maintained the status quo and poverty continued on.

    Jun 9 at 5:04pm

    That, in a nutshell, is the Canadian System as well.

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    @

    As a Canadian, I wish this was as encouraging as Mr. Mak made it out to be. The very next sentence in the Piece by Tim Mak that you referenced has it right. Mr Mak said:

    “But tokenism is not a long term strategy – eventually one has to sell immigrant groups on the party’s broader platform.”

    I think the conservative party will win many of the minority groups that they are currently courting because they are making enough ethnically based appointments to make the minority communities examine the party’s principles, the simple fact remains that the Large-C Conservative Party is not small-c conservative.

    They are the best of a very bad lot, but they are not conservative.

    On most matters, the “Conservative” party is, at best, a centrist, or perhaps even center-left party. Economically, they ran stimulus packages that, when looked at as a percentage of GDP, was nearly as large as Obama’s. They ran the stimulus better, there were more shovel-ready jobs, etc…, but it was still Keynesian in nature.

    So, although their strategy looks successful, and I personally vote Conservative, it doesn’t necessarily translate into the realm of American Politics.

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    @

    Oh, one last thing. Mr. Mak mentions that the Conservatives made themselves strong on Arctic Sovereignty, and they only gained one seat in Nunavut. There is only one seat from Nunavut. So, they won 100% of the seats there.

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