The current crisis of Central American children flowing across the border has empowered conservatives, whose more restrictionist views on the issue have taken precedence in the party. House Republicans are pushing for more deportations, and several of the party’s prospective 2016 White House contenders are moving to align themselves with the GOP’s pro-enforcement wing.
The tough rhetoric can help Republicans appeal to their core voters. But the strategy runs counter to the party’s announcement — after losing the presidential race two years ago — that its future depends largely on broadening its appeal to minority groups and that its viability as a national force in 2016 and beyond depends on making inroads with Latinos, one of the fastest-growing voting blocs.
“This is a short-term political gain for Republicans,” said Charles Spies, a former Mitt Romney campaign aide who is part of a coalition of Republicans advocating for immigration reform. “The problem, of course, comes on the national scale. . . . Without a friendly posture towards [Hispanics], we still face a massive demographic problem.”
A demographic problem of their own making. A demographic problem worsened every day by the hostile rhetoric spewed about immigration on right-wing talk radio. A demographic problem that Republicans simply cannot solve—and they know it:
Obama won more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2012 reelection, after which the Republican National Committee wrote in a blunt self-assessment: “It does not matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”
The problem is, the GOP made a deliberate choice to position itself as the party of reactionary xenophobes. When you sell your soul, all sales are final.
In Hiawatha, Iowa, Jeri Thompson, 50, attended an event featuring Paul and other GOP candidates and pronounced herself “very worried about the illegals coming in.”
Asked about the children and families apprehended at the southern border, Thompson said that “it’s not just street urchins from Central America carrying diseases in, but also criminals, thugs, gang members. No other country is dumb enough to have their borders wide open like us.”
Some in the GOP said they hope that if the party wins control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans could pass a comprehensive immigration bill with conservative principles that would be hard for Obama to veto. But those prospects remain uncertain.
In Colorado, Cheryl Bartlett, a registered nurse from Pueblo, said she agreed with Republicans on the need for tougher border controls.
“I think we should build a wall, just like they had in Berlin and Russia,” she said. “Build that wall and keep people out.”
If you have any Latino friends who happen to be members of the GOP, ask them just what the hell is keeping them in that party. Even the most anti-tax or anti-abortion Latino voter has to question their political preferences in the wake of this wrath. Why vote in a party whose base wants to kick you out?
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