Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quote of the Day

"The electorate is malleable because there's a lot of ignorance there."
--- Mary, commenting at AmSpecBlog

Exactly, which is why I argue against overthinking the election. Good example of overthinking: John McCain lost Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, three southwestern states with burgeoning Hispanic populations. The overthinkers will tell you that this was because of conservative opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants, and that therefore Republicans must endorse amnesty to "reach out" to Hispanic voters. Facts and logic, however, are on the other side of the argument:

  • John McCain was the leading Republican advocate of amnesty, and there is no evidence that this produced any net electoral advantage for him.
  • Ronald Reagan signed the 1986 amnesty, but once the amnestied illegals became citizens and began voting, they went 2-to-1 for Democrats.
  • If you look at the exit polls (for example, in Nevada) you find that not only did Hispanics vote 3-to-1 against amnesty-supporter McCain, but that he got only an 8-point majority (53%-45%) among whites.
  • McCain almost certainly lost more white votes because he supported amnesty than he gained among Hispanics.
  • Because white voters are still a majority of the electorate (e.g., 69% in Nevada), it would make more sense for Republicans to seek increased support among white voters than to try to gain Hispanic votes by pandering on amnesty.

Illegals are not citizens and can't vote. Hispanics who are legal citizens may or may not support amnesty for illegals, but it is likely that Hispanics disproportionately support Democrats for reasons that have nothing to do with immigration enforcement.

Karl Rove will always tell you that Bush, in his elections as governor of Texas, succeeded because of his support among Hispanics. What Rove never explains (and may not even realize) is that:

  • Hispanic Republicans in Texas are mostly old-settlement Tex-Mex -- people whose ancestors have lived in the U.S. for generations, in some cases even before Texas statehood. You're talking about "Bubba Rodriguez" and "Heather Lopez" types, OK? They are thoroughly assimilated, middle class, fluent in English and, notwithstanding their Hispanic surnames, are as American as apple pie. To use the Republican votes of these Tex-Mex as an argument for amnesty is absurd.
  • Bush won election and re-election in Texas at a time (1994-98) when the tone-deaf liberalism of the Clinton administration was driving millions of white middle- and working-class voters away from the Democratic Party. The real secret of Bush's success in Texas was that he increased the Republican share of the white vote. In his 2004 presidential re-election, for example, Bush got 74% of the white vote in Texas. If McCain had got 74% of the white vote in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, he would would carried those states.
  • Whatever the success of Bush in Texas, at a national level, he never got a majority of the Hispanic vote -- getting just 44% in 2004. Keep in mind that many of those Hispanic Republican voters are Puerto Ricans (born with U.S. citizenship) and Cuban-Americans (welcomed as refugees from communism since 1959) who either aren't interested in the amnesty issue or else actually oppose amnesty for the same reasons other Americans oppose amnesty.

The trends in Hispanic voting patterns since the 1986 amnesty show no net political benefit for the Republican Party as a result of that amnesty. Instead, by amnestying about 2 million illegals in 1986, policy-makers signaled a lack of seriousness about border enforcement, which encouraged more illegals to come.

It is clear that our current immigration policy is a failure, which shouldn't be a surprise, because it was authored by Ted Kennedy in 1965. But rather than advocate sound policy, the Republican overthinkers echo liberal demands for amnesty and accuse their conservative opponents of bigotry. To argue that John McCain lost the election because Republicans didn't pander enough to Hispanics -- well, as George Orwell said, "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool."


  1. Hi R.S. McCain-

    I love your blog and not just because you quoted me.

    God grant you and your loved ones health! We need you for the good fight!

    Loved your pieces on the meritocracy.

    An ex-Catholic here, who struggles with agnosticism. But nothing can make me unlove or be ungrateful to the church that was instrumental in my formation.


  2. Not disagreeing with your over all point, but your first citation about Hispanics in Texas is completely wrong.

    Hispanic Republicans in Texas are mostly old-settlement Tex-Mex -- people whose ancestors have lived in the U.S. for generations, in some cases even before Texas statehood. You're talking about "Bubba Rodriguez" and "Heather Lopez" types, OK?

    That is not true. The description you give is more akin to Hispanics in central and northern New Mexico who refuse to be identified as Mexican. Rather, they say they are descended from Spaniards that settled and acquired land there before Mexico gained independence.

    Karl Rove did indeed know about Hispanic demographics in Texas. They (at least at that time) are blue collar types that believe in individual liberty and are distrustful of national politicians, but in practice trust local politicos (see Ron Coleman).

    It was only when Bush went to Washington that he lost the support of some Texas Hispanics. When he was local (or rather Texan) he had enough appeal to Texas Hispanics that he garnered 67% of the total vote in 1998.

    As far as "Americanized" Hispanics in Texas, it is not correct to say they are just like others in their age demographics. I have found that they are much more likely to be liberal and Democrats than most other races in their age group, even, and especially, for those who only speak English and hear little or no Spanish at home.

    Bush was a phenomenon in Texas in that he was able to galvanize vital support from within the Mexican constituency at a level not seen by other GOP politicians in Texas. It is an error to dismiss this and say that Rove does not understand how this was accomplished.

    Me? I lived in Texas for a total of about 18 years in various locations (El Paso, Corpus, San Antonio, Houston) and in New Mexico for another 10 (Roswell, Portales, Clovis) and participated in campaigns for several candidates in both states.