Barely into its second term, the Obama administration is reeling from the mounting evidence of its callous disrespect for the rule of law and willingness to lie to the American people, as has been demonstrated in the cases of Benghazi, the IRS scandal, and the Associated Press spying scandal. All three of these cases call for detailed investigations and additional hearings. They could very well have political staying power to the midterm elections in 2014 and perhaps beyond that to the presidential vote in 2016. This seemingly presents the GOP with a golden opportunity to take over the Senate in 2014 and, much more important, to stop President Obama from achieving his declared objective: of “fundamentally transforming” the country in a hard-left, big-government direction.
Yes, but no. For as these positive developments play out, powerful elements in the Republican party seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by signing onto a disastrous immigration “reform,” long pushed by the Left, whose centerpiece is giving amnesty and eventually citizenship to the estimated 11 million illegal aliens in America today. Republican luminaries, from Senator John McCain to “young guns” Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Paul Ryan, have jumped on board and sought to convince their Republican colleagues of the alleged conservative merits of such a course.
Now, immigration reform has been on many conservatives’ agenda for some time — real immigration reform, that is, including an emphasis on skills and education, for example, and an end to preferential treatment for family reunification. But the so-called reform being pushed today would inevitably lead to wholesale amnesty and citizenship for people who entered the country illegally. A bill that does not do that, opines Senator McCain, “offends fundamental principles of fairness in our society.” Another supporter — the president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks — reveals, in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, the amazing discovery that the 48 percent of registered Hispanics who do not vote are closet Republicans. The only reason they don’t come out of the closet, Brooks explains, is that their primary concern is “care for the poor,” and the GOP does not do well enough on that score.
The reason for this new-found enthusiasm for immigration reform in the GOP is the ostensibly crucial role played by Hispanics in Mitt Romney’s defeat and the abiding belief among many politicians and commentators that Latinos’ core values are basically conservative — or, as Ronald Reagan is said to have put it, “Latinos are Republican. They just don’t know it yet.” Thus, legalize the illegals, the narrative goes, and Latino gratitude in the form of millions of new GOP voters cannot be far behind. Unfortunately, this is a narrative based on wishful thinking completely divorced from reality, à la Mr. Brooks, and therefore profoundly bogus.
So let’s look at the facts. With respect to the last presidential election, Byron York of the Washington Examiner and others have already documented beyond doubt that while Hispanic voters went for Obama by a margin of 71 to 27 percent, they did not materially affect the contest. To win strictly on the basis of the Hispanic vote, Romney would have had to carry an impossible 73 percent of it. Romney lost not because of the Hispanics, but because he received even fewer votes from the core GOP constituency than John McCain did in 2008. The support of an additional 4 percent of voting whites would have carried the day for him. The reasons for his inability to gain this support should be the real focus of attention in GOP postmortems rather than imaginary Hispanic votes.
Some Republicans acknowledge this reality but believe that helping to legalize the illegal immigrants would make Hispanics realize that Republicans care about them. How realistic is that? Not very. Here again we have considerable factual evidence, and it is fairly incontrovertible. It is often forgotten that we already had a full-scale amnesty in 1986 — with a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Senate — followed by several partial amnesties. In the two Reagan elections of 1980 and 1984, just prior to the 1986 amnesty, the Republican share of the Latino vote stood at 37 percent. Yet, after the implementation of amnesty began in 1987, according to the Washington Post and national exit polls, the GOP share of the Hispanic vote in presidential races plummeted to 30 percent in 1988, 25 percent in 1992, and 21 percent in 1996. So much for Latino gratitude to the GOP.