Thursday, November 07, 2002
More Hispanophobia from National Review Online. I can't argue with Miller that it isn't a challenge. But I don't see how it's any different from the rising Catholic population in the last great wave of immigration. There is no reason Mexican immigrants should necessarily vote Democrat forever, or even now. There is less reason why Salvadoran, Honduran, Columbian or other Latin American immigrants should vote Democrat. The Democrats are offering nothing to these people, long-term.
The GOP is the party of small businesses, small property owners, family values and faith. That sounds like a summary of where most Hispanic immigrants to Texas are at. If the GOP can't reach them, that's a marketing problem, and they should solve it. Now. 'Cause the demographics ain't gonna change.
Yes, Hispanics tend to be poorer and less well-educated, and these suggest they are more likely to vote Democrat. And yes, the Democrats have been willing to flatter ethnic pride and grievance more effectively and convincingly than Republicans, and will continue to do so. That's why it's a challenge. But the GOP markets its brand pretty effectively to working-class Anglos. They shouldn't consider Hispanics a lost cause.
Bonilla's near-loss is indeed a wake-up call: a wake up call that the GOP needs more Bonillas. Bush understands the challenge. I don't always agree with his approach; I think he should be forthright in defending Americanism and integration instead of waffling on bi-lingualism and multi-culturalism. But be that as it may: it's way too soon to presume the GOP is doomed to lose the Hispanic vote. I expect the GOP share to rise over time, and the GOP's fortunes in Texas to track their ability to deliver good government to Texans, not to the complexion of the state.
To be fair, I don't think the GOP has the same shot at all Hispanic groups (Puerto-Ricans are probably solid Democrats forever), and I think Mexicans pose some unique challenges. Specifically: Mexican-Americans are going to be more amenable to a dual-nationality identity than any group of Americans before, for three reasons: (a) the proximity of Mexico (no prior immigrant group had a homeland so close); (b) their sheer numbers (comparable only to the Irish and German immigrations); (c) the current vogue for multi-culturalism and against immigration (an entirely contemporary factor). The struggle among Mexican-Americans to decide if they are Americans who hail originally from Mexico or whether they are dual-nationals is going to play out over the next generation. For the good of the country, we have to hope that the assimilationist side of the debate wins. In any event, this debate within the Mexican-American community is going to be a fault-line for future politics in states like Arizona, Texas, Colorado, California, etc., and the GOP has to get on the side of Americanism if only because any other side will alienate the entire rest of the GOP base. (Also, like I said, it's in the country's interest.)
If, as I would expect, Democrats take a strong position on the other side of this divide, the GOP should benefit on net even if the Democrats cement a majority among Mexican-Americans for a couple of decades. Why?
First, the Democrat position will drive more Anglos into the arms of the GOP. If the issue is hot enough, maybe even enough to offset their gains among Hispanics.
Second, the Democrat position will attract less-successful immigrants; that means the next generation will aspire to be Republican just as they aspire to be successful.
Third, the Democrat position will attract more recent immigrants; again, the longer they stay here, the more likely they will be to vote GOP. In fact, there may already be a divide developing between recent immigrants from Mexico and more established immigrants, one the GOP would do well to exploit.
Fourth, the GOP will have a position that appeals to non-Mexican Hispanic immigrants, where the Democrats will have a position that submerges them in a Mexican-dominated (and California-dominated) Latino identity. The GOP should be able to win a bigger share of Peruvian, Nicaraguan and other small-nation Latin immigrant communities than they do of Mexican-Americans. Their numbers, while much smaller than Mexican-Americans, are not insignificant.
Fifth, and finally, Democrats are going to have to start reckoning with a black-Hispanic divide. We've already seen this at work in New York and Los Angeles, and it will be a big theme of this decade and the next. The Democrats will either have to push African-Americans aside in the party to make room for Hispanics or convince Hispanics to wait in line after African-Americans for their turn at the racial-spoils trough. The GOP should be able to make enormous electoral mischief with this problem - and incidentally make incremental converts to the position that a racial-spoils system is no way to run the country of e pluribus unum.