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The GOP’s Demographic Folly



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In the most recent City Journal (just online today), Heather Mac Donald has a fascinating piece laying out California’s rapidly changing demographics, and the consequences the state faces now that half of all births are Hispanics.

The entire piece is worth a read, but Mac Donald homes in on a particularly topical point now that we’re in an election year: the idea that Hispanic voters are a natural Republican constituency, given their work ethic and traditionally conservative social values.  MacDonald provides strong evidence that this is nonsense:

Hispanics’ reliance on the government safety net helps explain their ongoing support for the Democratic Party. Indeed, liberal spending policies are a more important consideration for Hispanic voters than ethnic identification or the so-called values issues that they are often said to favor. “What Republicans mean by ‘family values’ and what Hispanics mean are two completely different things,” says John Echeveste, founder of the oldest Latino marketing firm in Southern California and a player in California Latino politics. “We are a very compassionate people; we care about other people and understand that government has a role to play in helping people.” That Democratic allegiance was on display in the 2010 race for lieutenant governor, when Hispanics favored San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, the epitome of an elite tax-and-spend liberal, over the Hispanic Republican incumbent, Abel Maldonado, despite Newsom’s unilateral legalization of gay marriage in San Francisco in 2004. La Opinión, California’s largest Spanish-language newspaper, cited Newsom’s “good progressive platform” in endorsing him. In the 2010 race for state attorney general, Hispanic voters helped give the victory to liberal San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris, who was running against Los Angeles district attorney Steve Cooley, a law-and-order moderate—even in Cooley’s own backyard of L.A.

Republican political consultants routinely argue that California’s Hispanics were driven from their natural Republican home by a 1994 voter initiative—backed by then-governor Pete Wilson, a Republican—denying most government benefits to illegal aliens. But it would be almost impossible today to find a Hispanic immigrant who has even heard of Proposition 187. Jim Tolle, pastor of one of the largest Hispanic churches in Southern California, La Iglesia En El Camino, says that his congregation knows nothing about Prop. 187. The fact is that Hispanic skepticism toward the Republican Party derives as much from its perceived economic biases as from Republicans’ opposition to illegal immigration and amnesty. A March 2011 poll by Moore Information asked California’s Latino voters why they had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party. The two top reasons were that the party favored only the rich and that Republicans were selfish and out for themselves; Republican positions on immigration law were cited less often.

If economic self-interest is the main driver of political ideology, Republicans will continue to be in trouble with Hispanics.  According to Mac Donald, Hispanics made up 60 percent of California’s poor in 2010, despite being less than 38 percent of the state’s population.  Only 56 percent of Los Angeles ninth graders finish high school in four years, and, of the small percentage of Hispanics that do go to college, very few go into computer science or engineering.  In 2008, the largest percentage of Mexican-American postgraduate enrollment was in education, where they will likely go on to become union-loyal Democrats.

Read the full article here.

— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and a co-author of the Campaign Manager Survey.



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