Charles Krauthammer is completely wrong in his recommendation for what the GOP should do next:
Imagine Marco Rubio advancing such a policy [of amnesty] on the road to 2016. It would transform the landscape. He’d win the Hispanic vote. Yes, win it. A problem fixable with a single policy initiative is not structural. It is solvable.
This is not what would happen. Krauthammer misunderstands the nature of the Republicans’ problem in winning Hispanic voters, which goes well beyond any one policy. If it is a solvable problem, it isn’t going to be solved by pursuing a failed theory of appealing to Hispanic voters primarily in terms of changing immigration policy. George W. Bush went out of his way to identify himself with a liberalized immigration policy, and even he couldn’t win the Hispanic vote. McCain’s result was even worse than Bush’s 40%. To some extent, the GOP already tested Krauthammer’s proposal and gained nothing for its effort.
Most Hispanic voters aren’t “natural” Republicans just waiting for a different Republican immigration policy to give them permission to change their voting habits. Republicans that think this are relying on a distorted perception that they think non-Republicans have of their party. Very few people outside the partisan bubble think that being “religious, Catholic, family-oriented and socially conservative” makes a “striving immigrant community” inclined to favor the Republican Party. Republicans flatter themselves that these are all markers of “natural” Republicanism, but that is something most people don’t believe unless they already identify with the party.
After all, describing people as religious, Catholic, or family-oriented can refer to different things. Each of these descriptions can be applied to people with widely varying political views and very different attitudes on questions of social and economic justice. There are many Catholics in agreement with some version of Ryanesque interpretations of Catholic social teaching, and there are quite a few that aren’t. Being religious doesn’t necessarily mean that one is in favor of Republican social policy, and even if it does suggest support for Republican positions on social issues that doesn’t automatically translate into support for the party’s agenda in other areas.
It’s fantasy to suppose that any Republican nominee can double the amount of support Romney just received four years from now. The landscape would not be transformed, and a Republican candidate running on a me-too immigration platform would probably see turnout from his core constituencies decline yet again. Whatever amnesty proposal a Republican candidate embraces, it will be perceived at best as too little, too late by those it is supposed to win over, and it will confirm that the party leadership is oblivious if not openly hostile to what its constituents prefer. It’s a political disaster waiting to happen, and quite a few Republican pundits seem only too eager to rush towards it.
Michael made this point earlier:
You can be a conservative party or a mass immigration party, not both. Further, your ideas for middle-class entitlements also threaten these voters, so why would you want to confirm to them with your immigration policy that you do not have their interests at heart?
As Krauthammer should remember, just five years ago the immigration bill provoked a huge backlash from across the spectrum that resulted in its failure in the Senate. McCain’s presidential campaign recovered from his support for that bill, but that was because he pretended to have learned from the backlash that an enforcement-first approach was the only one Republican voters would accept. While we can’t know for certain what the political environment will be over the next few years, it is very likely that a push for a similar measure would have the same effect. Elsewhere, Krauthammer insists that the “answer to Romney’s failure is not retreat,” but he is proposing exactly that when it has very little chance of benefiting his party.