Now What? Immigration Edition
Winning Hispanics won’t help if you lose conservatives.


Mark Krikorian

Here’s how it breaks down. Of the two-party vote (Obama plus Romney), each 1 percentage point is worth 1.172 million votes, and Obama’s margin of victory was about 2.7 million. (These numbers will change as the remaining results trickle in, but the proportions shouldn’t change significantly.) The president got 71 percent of the Hispanic vote to Romney’s 27 percent. If Romney had received 10 percentage points more of the Hispanic vote (37 percent, close to Bush’s 2004 number), he would have received 1.172 million more Hispanic votes and the president would have lost a similar number, for a total shift of 2.34 million (because 10 percentage points of the Hispanic vote is equal to 1 percent of the total electorate) — and Obama would still have won the popular vote.

Now let’s look at a different group. The exit polls report that 35 percent of the electorate self-identified as conservative, and that Romney got only 82 percent of them, with 17 percent voting for Obama. (Say that to yourself again slowly: One out of six self-identified conservatives voted for Obama.) If Romney had increased his share of the conservative vote by just 5 percentage points, to 87 percent, he would have picked up 2.05 million more votes, and the president would have lost a similar number, allowing Romney to win the popular vote. (This is because 5 percentage points of the conservative vote equals 1.75 percent of the electorate.)

So Republicans being hectored by the open-borders Right have to ask themselves what’s more likely for a future presidential candidate: getting an additional 10 points of the Hispanic vote or an additional 5 points of the conservative vote? The question answers itself.

This doesn’t mean the GOP can ignore outreach to Hispanic voters. A quarter to a third of them — especially those who are more assimilated, better educated, and middle class — are open to Republican arguments. But even if the fairy-tale number of 44 percent of the Hispanic vote were possible, it still wouldn’t make sense to keep increasing the Democratic share of the electorate through ongoing mass immigration.

What’s more, ongoing mass immigration changes social and economic conditions in ways that make statist arguments more persuasive to native-born voters not even thinking about immigration. For instance, immigrants and their young children accounted for two-thirds of the increase in the uninsured over the last decade. Would arguments for a greater government role in health insurance be as persuasive to as many people without the effects of immigration?

That said, harsh rhetoric on immigration turns people off, not just immigrants but also the native-born. People generally like immigrants, as they should, not just because they’re God’s creatures, but also because their presence suggests that America, whatever her problems, is still attractive enough for foreigners to want to move here.

But there’s a difference between welcoming the lawful immigrants who live among us and continuing the admission of millions more in the future. Contrary to the resurgent immigration expansionists on the right, John O’Sullivan’s observation remains true: The GOP can change its stance on immigration and embrace lower numbers (both legal and illegal), or it can change its stance on everything else.

— Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.