7.01.2007

The Coming Latino Voter Response to the Failure of Immigration Reform

In After Bill’s Fall, G.O.P. May Pay in Latino Votes (NYTimes-7.1.07), reporter Jennifer Steinhauer looks at the carnage from the failure of the U.S. Senate to passage immigration reform and finds that Latinos see Republicans as more culpable.

And it's not only Democrats that are aware of the Republicans self-inflicted wound. This is how leading conservative writer and former Reagan official Linda Chavez sees it:

“There may be some short-term gain from this,” said Linda Chavez, who served in the Reagan administration and is now chairwoman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative public policy group. “But in the long term, it is disastrous for the Republican Party.”
Many Republicans agree with Linda Chavez--even if any privately. For example, John McCain, who in May told Republicans that “the Hispanic vote is turning against us in very large numbers,” is said to have expressed similar thoughts privately this week.

Finally, Latinos are certainly clear about which party will pay the larger price. Representative were these comments from Antonio Gonzalez of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a Latino-oriented research and policy organization:

“The Democrats said pro-immigrant stuff, and even if they didn’t support it, it was because they said it wasn’t good enough. The Republicans said anti-immigrant stuff and so now they are going to get killed with this.”
Does this mean that Latinos will turn their backs to all Republicans? Of course not. For example:

a.) Not all Latinos are on board with regularizing the status of undocumented workers. While they may not have appreciated the race baiting of certain Republicans--or radio screechers, they're not abandoning a party that better represents their world view.

b.) Many Latinos tend to be grateful people and those 12 Republicans that showed courage in support of the immigration proposal--even though it was flawed--will see their efforts recognized at the ballot box.

c) While immigration is a major issue for Latinos, it is not all they care about. That is, most Latinos are not single issue voters. And, therefore, Democrats will not be able to win simply by saying that their Republican opponent opposes amnesty. Democrats must articulate their own well-conceived immigration proposal and how they'll build majority support for the measure. If Democrats can't do that, Latinos will go elsewhere.

BTW: I still haven't heard how the Democrats see reconciling the interests of labor unions and those of immigrant workers. It's been papered over by it's clear that a number of Democratic politicians favor the interests of the unions.

But rest assured, Latinos--citizens and noncitizens alike-- know that they have been disrespected by a loud element within the Republican and conservative radio--and they won't soon forget it.