The Republican Party’s Nativist Shift – The Guardian

February 12, 2011. By Daniel Denvir, The Guardian .- Judging by CPAC’s anti-immigrant consensus, conservatives are willing to take the huge risk of alienating Latino voters. It’s true. Latinos are neither a homogeneous community nor single-issue voters. But they are far more united today than they were 10 years ago; Latino voters are increasingly turned off by a Republican party they find intolerant and unwelcoming. Fresh off resounding victories in the mid-term elections, Republicans were thrilled to read the outcome of the most recent census: 12 seats shifted, largely from the Democratic Rust Belt to the Republican strongholds of the Sun Belt.

February 12, 2011. The Guardian by Daniel  Denvir. “There is not a monolithic vote within the Hispanic community,” said Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado congressman and a leader of the anti-immigrant right. He was speaking before a crowd at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual gathering of the political right that draws over 10,000. “They do not vote the way African Americans do.”

It’s true. Latinos are neither a homogeneous community nor single-issue voters. But they are far more united today than they were 10 years ago; Latino voters are increasingly turned off by a Republican party they find intolerant and unwelcoming. Fresh off resounding victories in the mid-term elections, Republicans were thrilled to read the outcome of the most recent census: 12 seats shifted, largely from the Democratic Rust Belt to the Republican strongholds of the Sun Belt. But the census also shows that the country is changing in a way that will most certainly hurt a Republican party increasingly united in opposition to immigration reform – and hurt them for the long haul. The country is becoming less and less white, particularly in Sun Belt states like Arizona.

Republicans are playing with fire, and they know it. They want to take a hard line on immigration without inviting negative electoral consequences: while CPAC presenters uniformly spoke against reform, they went out of their way to highlight the perspective of anti-immigrant Latinos, and to downplay the long-term electoral risk of angering Latino voters.

“Yeah, Republicans get 35% of the Hispanic vote, generally,” said Tancredo. “But you’ll get 35% of the Hispanic votes whether you’re the most pro-amnesty Republican or not … Even John McCain didn’t do that well. What more do they want?”

I’m guessing they want a more inclusive brand. Tancredo’s panel included Bay Buchanan, and Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist was sitting right in front of me. It was called “Will Immigration Kill the GOP?”

They answered “no”. But that answer represents wishful thinking.

Latinos, who could make up almost 30% of the country’s population by 2050, have historically voted for Democrats. But in 2000, the Bush campaign made a concerted appeal to Latinos, hoping that the community’s social conservatism and socioeconomic mobility made them sympathetic to the party platform. But the xenophobic anti-immigrant right has won out over pro-reform (and pro-cheap labour) big business Republicans. A more ideologically pure party may cost Republicans a future goldmine of Latino votes.

The big business pro-immigration reform wing of the Republican party is absent from CPAC, and they’re barely willing to show their faces on Capitol Hill. In December, nearly ever single Republican senator opposed the Dream Act, a once-upon-a-time bipartisan piece of legislation that would give citizenship to immigrants brought to the country as children who went to college or joined the military. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch helped write the Dream Act 10 years ago – but voted against it. Arizona Senator John McCain, who once supported immigration reform, changed his mind in a hurry in the face of a bruising primary challenge from congressman and anti-immigrant talkshow host JD Hayworth.

“This is not a debate,” a man from a group called “Youth for Western Civilisation said, while introducing Tom Tancredo. “At CPAC, we don’t have debates on whether healthcare should be repealed. We don’t have debates on whether abortion should be a core concern for the conservative movement. We shouldn’t have debates on this either. Because frankly, unless we get it right on this issue, none of the rest matters.”

According to a July 2010 study by LatinoMetrics (pdf), immigration tied the economy as a top issue for Latino voters; nine in 10 Latinos support immigration reform, including seven in 10 Latino Republicans. Democrats, of course, take Latinos for granted at their peril: foot-dragging on immigration reform runs the risk of alienating voters, who could stay home on election day. But the growing advantage is the Democrats’ to lose. The number of Latinos identifying as Democrats has held steady over the years at near 54%. By contrast, just 13% identified as Republicans in 2010, down from 24.5% in 2003. The number of Latinos who rated discrimination and racism as their top issue more than doubled in just a half-year’s time, to 10%.

To read the full article: The Republican Party’s Nativist Shift, The Guardian

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