Against Dumbed-Down Conservatism: The Case of Immigration

I agree with Pejman that conservatives should reject anti-intellectualism.

Conservatives should start their rejection of the dumbing down of the conservative movement by examining the idea that the Republican Party needs to reach out to Hispanics (i.e,. through an amnesty for illegal immigrants) because they are natural Republicans. Charles Krauthammer is one of a large number of conservatives pushing this particular anti-intellectual argument.

I say this is an anti-intellectual argument because it has nothing to do with reality or facts. Social science and experience prove that Hispanics are not natural Republicans or conservatives. The hard data shows that Hispanics overwhelmingly favor the redistributive policies of the welfare state. It is affinity for the welfare state and not opposition to the GOP on immigration that drives the Hispanic vote to trend heavily Democratic.

A look at the data since 1980 demonstrates that Republican Presidential candidates get around 30-40% of the Hispanic vote no matter what position the candidate holds on immigration.

Reagan won 24% of the Hispanic vote in 1980, before immigration was controversial. He took 37% of the Hispanic vote in 1984. After an amnesty was passed in 1986, Bush 41 received 30% of the Hispanic vote in 1988.

More recently, John McCain, a long-time amnesty proponent, received only 31% of the Hispanic vote. Bush 43 reached 40% (not 44%, as is often claimed), and I suspect this was very much influenced by the housing bubble he helped create by coercing banks to make loans to illegal immigrants.

Social science and experience indicate that amnesty does not convey any electoral benefits to the GOP. For one thing, studies show that Hispanics don’t care that much about immigration policy.

A September poll conducted by Zogby found that only 5% of Hispanics were principally concerned about immigration (as compared to 80% concerned about personal finances and the economy and 3% worried about terrorism). Social science tells us that Hispanics as a group are not largely motivated to vote by immigration related issues.

Hispanics have not shown any affinity to vote Republican based on family values; this is because Hispanic family values in America are generally not conservative.

This piece written by Heather MacDonald is a depressing but thorough account of the sad state of Hispanic family values six years ago. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among Hispanics was 44% then. It is 53% now. That is not a heartening trend. The only demographic with a higher rate of out-of-wedlock births is African-Americans. The evidence does not indicate that Hispanics as a group are prone to embracing conservative family values.

University of Chicago economist Tino Sanandaji offers a systematic explication, replete with useful graphs, of the intellectual deficiencies of the conventional (anti-intellectual) wisdom of the Krauthammer/Stephens/Rove/Boehner/Hannity position here.

Sanandaji, unlike the anti-intellectual GOP punditocracy, actually went through exit poll data to reach his conclusions. His examination of 2008 exit polling uncovered the fact that 71% of Hispanics wanted a bigger government to do more. A Pew survey from 2011 has 75% of Hispanics supporting higher taxes and a bigger government (against 19% opposed to a bigger government and higher taxes). Exit polling also shows that Hispanics heavily support Democrats over Republicans on Obamacare, taxes, welfare, gun control, energy policy, and foreign affairs.

Reuters exit polls provide more facts that contradict the idea that Hispanics embrace conservative family values. It turns out that 68% of Hispanics agree with the Obamacare contraception mandate and 57% agree with the Democratic Party platform on abortion.

I hope that the Republican intellectual establishment will renounce their anti-intellectual tendency and embrace the findings of social science as a means to electoral success. It is possible to make other arguments for amnesty, but no reasonable person can look at the data and find evidence that amnesty will lead Hispanics to vote for the GOP.