Proposition 187 drove Hispanics from California’s Republican party! So argue Jeb Bush and Ken Mehlman in today’s Wall Street Journal, recycling one of the most cherished myths of the open-borders lobby. According to this nostrum, had Californians, fed up with the costs of providing free public services to illegal aliens, not voted to require legal residency to receive those services, California would today, in Bush and Mehlman’s phrase, still be “Reagan country,” its burgeoning Hispanic population reliably pulling the lever for Republicans.
Too bad they didn’t read their own op-ed. No Republican presidential nominee has won California since 1988, they report. Prop. 187 must be one powerful toxin, if it can alienate Hispanics six years before it even exists.
In fact, California’s transformation from “Reagan country” to labor-union country is the far more likely consequence of the growing Hispanic population per se and the corresponding outflow of white Republicans to other states. In 1990, California was one-quarter Latino and 57-percent white; in 2000, it was 32-percent Latino and 47-percent white; in 2005, Latinos constituted 35 percent, and whites 43 percent, of the population. Those shifting demographics have been accompanied by the growing clout of the Democratic party, and of California’s public-service unions, not because of some vestigial memory of 187, but because they appeal to low-wage, low-skilled Hispanics. Los Angeles politics are now closely intertwined with the unionized Left, now that Latinos in 2005 made up 47 percent of the population and whites, 30 percent. The idea that Prop. 187, now 12 years old, is driving this massive shift is fanciful. California provides a glimpse of the likely political future if poor Hispanics continue to be the fastest-growing demographic in the country.
– Heather Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute.