Politics & Policy

Wooing Anti-Amnesty Voters

The GOP is finally going after hard-pressed former Obama supporters.

Last week, the Republican National Committee announced that it is launching a new initiative to recruit “more independent voters and disgruntled Democrats to the GOP,” according to the Washington Times. These disgruntled Democrats are suddenly in plentiful supply thanks to President Obama’s amnesty decree. The GOP was inspired to capitalize on this development by a midterm ballot initiative in liberal Oregon that overwhelmingly overturned a law granting driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. The RNC’s Stop Executive Amnesty Committee is to be structured as a political-advocacy organization, and it promises to “rail against the Democratic party” on a state-by-state basis.

Not only is the initiative patriotic and principled, it’s also smart politics. Contrary to what the mass media say, millions of former Obama supporters feel alienated from the Democratic elite and the party of amnesty. According to a committee spokesman, “Mr. Obama’s decision to unilaterally grant millions of illegal immigrants amnesty and work permits has alienated law-and-order Blue Dog Democrats as well as union, African-American, and unemployed workers who now must compete with illegals in a tight job market.” This isn’t mere conjecture.

According to a recent demographic study from the Pew Research Center, so-called “Hard-Pressed Skeptics,” one of eight groups identified in the report, voted by a large majority for Obama in 2012; however, they now see his immigration policies as more of a “burden” than do even “Steadfast Conservatives,” the most conservative group analyzed. The Skeptics, having been “battered by the struggling economy” and being generally in a very “financially stressed” position, feel “resentful of both government and business.” They are a sizable 13 percent of the public and apparently span racial divisions: 61 percent of this group are white, 20 percent black, and 9 percent Hispanic. They “have ambivalent views of the Democratic Party and disagree with Democrats on major issues as often . . . as they agree,” which unsurprisingly means they’re not as politically engaged as their “Solid Liberal” counterparts. But that may change if the Skeptics are given a reason to turn out.

The problem for Republicans in attracting this demographic has apparently been their messaging, particularly on the immigration issue. According to Pew, these voters see Democrats as “more caring for the middle class” than Republicans by a ratio of 2 to 1, a perception the Republican party must and can fix. Communicating to Hard-Pressed Skeptics that Republicans understand that mass immigration harms working people’s livelihoods and that the GOP is not the party of amnesty but the party of immigration for the national interest is a good place to start.

Although the RNC’s anti-amnesty strategy is clearly good politics, other parts of the conservative leadership apparently still fail to see the issue as a way to attract affected voters. The Washington Times points out that Governor Chris Christie, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, refused to send help to Oregon GOP gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson during the midterms, despite early positive polling results for the anti-license initiative. The Times notes that “the GOP miscalculated the odds of winning on the immigration issue in a blue state.” But according to Pew’s findings, registered Democrats, at least the lower-skilled workers among them, are precisely the people they should be going after.

Pat Caddell, Fox News analyst and former Carter consultant, recently summed up the status quo well when he commented, “the political class of the Republican party is interested in two things: preserving positions and getting money.” He added that “even moderates and Democrats are upset about executive amnesty.” A recent “millionaires poll” — in which voters with investable assets of over $1 million were asked about potential presidential candidates — showed that the GOP candidates most favored by this group were Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, both of whom are fully committed to amnesty. Apparently, being a millionaire today requires little in the way of common sense; any short-term personal benefits these people may gain will be ultimately destroyed (as will the GOP itself) by the budget-busting effects of mass immigration on the general economy. Meanwhile, in functional democracies at least, it is votes, not dollars, that get candidates elected.

Reaching out to the millions of Hard-Pressed Skeptics angered by Obama and the corporate elite could be the source of a new Southern Strategy for the GOP. It would be a boon to the party and the nation alike.

— Ian Smith is an attorney in Washington, D.C.

Ian SmithIan Smith is an attorney in Washington, D.C., and a contributing blogger with immigration enforcement advocate, the Immigration Reform Law Institute.

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