The GOP and Immigration: Dissent from the Conventional Wisdom

Mark Krikorian and Heather MacDonald dissent from the conventional wisdom concerning the Republican stance on immigration. President Obama has helpfully suggested that the Republicans should embrace amnesty to help the GOP’s electoral outcomes, and many establishment Republicans agree (The Wall Street Journal has four articles defending the conventional wisdom in today’s edition.) The idea is that Hispanics don’t vote Republican principally because the Republicans are the anti-immigration party.

Of course, it is pretty hard to say that the Republican Party is anti-immigration. George Bush helped promote the housing bubble to fund easy lending for illegal immigrants, and John McCain embraced amnesty with all his heart, mind, and soul. Romney had already agreed to go along with Obama’s illegal amnesty, and Mitt never met an H1-B visa application he didn’t like.

But I digress. Setting the stereotype of Republicans as anti-immigration hardliners aside, Krikorian and MacDonald point to the data that shows that Hispanics are heavily Democratic chiefly because they agree with the Dems on the redistributive agenda of the welfare state. The heavy Hispanic support for raising the income tax in California is recent evidence of this fact.

If the Republicans want the Hispanic vote, they need to embrace the welfare state with the same fervor as the Democrats. And a majority of Hispanics like gay marriage according to a recent Pew poll cited by MacDonald, so Republicans should apparently drop criticism of that too.

We should of course not ignore the relevant social science. The facts show that Republicans stand to gain far more by getting self-identified conservatives to vote for their candidate than they do by getting even a substantial number of Hispanics to join the Republican coalition. (Krikorian does the math on this.)

Since the advent of modern liberalism in the mid-1960’s, Republicans running to the center have been trounced pretty regularly. Establishment candidates like Gerald Ford, Bush 41 (after it became clear he was no Reagan) Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney come to mind. Bush 43 ran to the right and governed to the center-left, but his electoral success came from running to the right.

One might also think of mid-term elections here. A comparison of 2006 and 2010 shows what happens to “centrist,” establishment Republicans versus Reaganesque conservatives.

But I don’t think those who believe the Republicans need to embrace unlimited immigration and stop speaking about moral issues need to fear–the conventional wisdom is very strong. The arguments of the establishment (Karl Rove anyone?) possess a zombie-like tenacity.