Republicans who do not want to pass comprehensive immigration reform have been telling themselves a story: A Republican can win the White House in 2016 by just picking up the white voters who didn’t show up for Mitt Romney in 2012.
But even the mastermind of this theory, Real Clear Politics‘ Sean Trende, admits that just getting these “missing white voters” to reappear at levels not seen since 1984 isn’t enough.
“In fact, if the African-American share of the electorate drops back to its recent average of 11 percent of the electorate and the GOP wins 10 percent of the black vote rather than 6 percent, the next Republican would win narrowly if he or she can motivate these ‘missing whites,’ even without moving the Hispanic (or Asian) vote,” Trende writes.
The stated goal of supporting immigration reform for the GOP — at least according to Karl Rove, the evil genius behind the “winning” 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns and the man who helped the GOP sweep a record number of elections in 2010 — is to win at least 35 percent of the Latino vote.
Romney won around 28 percent, less than John McCain, who with 31 percent in 2008 took in a smaller share than George W. Bush’s 40 percent in 2004.
Trende’s math depends on Republicans maintaining Romney’s “success” at least with Latino voters. This probably seems easy to Republicans who recognize that Romney’s craven endorsement of “self-deportation” in the GOP primary should be the low point in the history of GOP/Latino relations.
But that was before the Democratic Senate passed an immigration reform bill that the president said he would sign. That was before that bill was sent to the House, where the Republican leadership took out their list of go-to Obama complaints and arranged them in a somewhat logical order.
The bill is too big. It’s “rushed,” “secret and underhanded.” While admitting our “immigration system is broken,” they attacked the Senate bill for trying to fix the whole system.
This may have pleased the “missing white voter” Republicans. But it sure pissed off the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic news.”
Boehner uses words like “flawed”and “rushed”to describe the Senate’s immigration bill.Does he understand its something urgent and necessary?
— JORGE RAMOS (@jorgeramosnews) July 10, 2013
— JORGE RAMOS (@jorgeramosnews) July 12, 2013
Some Republicans are imagining they will be able to get out of this mess without comprehensive reform to reverse the trend of an ever-shrinking share of the Latino vote.
They think they can do this by creating a legal-but-not-citizen class for most of the 12 million estimated undocumented workers in America, which is like thinking a couples’ massage will satisfy a long-term partner who wants to get married. They justify this by saying first we need to “secure” the border, even though the border is about as secure as it’s ever been.
“But a clever-sounding deal that legalizes immigrants as laborers but not as citizens risks disaster on both fronts: rejection by Hispanics as insufficient and ultimately insulting, and rejection by many of America’s tired, poor, huddled workers as another example of the political class’s indifference to their fate,” writes The New York Times‘ conservative columnist Ross Douthat.
Douthat believes that this strategy gives up the populist argument Republicans are making for how to get out of reform: it will depress wages, which are already depressed.
Republicans like Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) think that with wages they’ve stumbled into a winning populist issue that will improve their standing with working-class white voters.
E.J. Dionne points out that there’s a simple way to make sure reform doesn’t hurt wages: increase the minimum wage.
Even the idea that documenting undocumented workers would be responsible for lowering wages should be insulting to Latinos and anyone who is sober enough to read a Walmart name tag. There are much more pernicious forces that are conspiring to make Americans’ time and effort worth less and less. And they have nothing to do with poor people who are trying to support their families.
A recent study found that “a single 300-person Walmart Supercenter store in Wisconsin likely costs taxpayers at least $904,542 per year and could cost taxpayers up to $1,744,590 per year – about $5,815 per employee.” Much of that cost to taxpayers comes because the retail giant often doesn’t pay enough for workers to afford food, let alone health care. A majority of recipients of federal “food stamps” have jobs that do not pay them enough to rise above poverty.
Last week, Washington, D.C.’s City Council voted that Walmart would have to pay its employees “a living wage,” even though the retailer vowed it would not build the stores if such an ordinance passed. Demands on corporations to pay a fairer share may not stand up in court.
But Republicans could surely tie the passage of any immigration reform to an increase in the minimum wage knowing that such increases have never been proven to hurt the economy and doing so would actually increase the $157 billion reform is already expected to cut from the deficit over the next decade by increasing tax receipts.
Douthat is right when he says, “The party faces risks whatever it does…”
But Republicans are severely underestimating their risks both in insulting Latino voters and teasing white voters with a faux concern about wages, when there is nothing in their union-busting economic agenda that would do anything to help workers earn more.
But let’s say the GOP is successful, and led by a genuinely charismatic politician like Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) persuades white voters to rush back into the voting booths in the name of the GOP by killing reform in the name of wages. Then, as The New York Times’ Paul Krugman writes, “Ohio whites start voting like Alabama whites.”
“But what if the effect is,instead,” Krugman asks, “to persuade Hispanics to start voting like African-Americans?”
Photo: Ron Dauphin via Flickr.com