Fred Barnes on how the rhetoric in the Republican party on immigration is alienating Hispanic voters who are the fastest growing segment of voters..
By dwelling, often emotionally, on the problem of illegal immigration as a paramount issue and as if nothing is being done to deal with it, Republicans are alienating Hispanic Americans, the fastest growing voting bloc in the country. What's worse is many Republicans are oblivious to this or insist that losing Hispanic voters doesn't really matter because they'll never be reliable Republican voters anyway. These Republicans buy the notion that a sizable majority of Hispanics are and always will be Democrats.
This defeatism is wrongheaded. Hispanics are not lost to Republicans, as President Bush showed by winning more than 40 percent of their votes in 2004 and half their votes in 1998 when he ran for re-election as governor of Texas. The fact is Hispanics are conservative on cultural issues, entrepreneurial on economics, and intensely patriotic. They are a winnable constituency for Republicans.
But not if Republicans continue to concentrate on bashing illegal immigrants, as the party's presidential candidates have. Just this week, Mitt Romney spent day after day zinging Rudy Guiliani for opposing deportation of illegal immigrants when he was mayor of New York. Guiliani fired back that Romney, while Massachusetts governor, had tolerated so-called sanctuary cities that protected illegals.
Two potential candidates, Newt Gingrich and Fred Thompson, have increased their emphasis on illegal immigration. Gingrich declared himself "sickened" by the failure of Bush and Congress to confront the issue "while young Americans in our cities are massacred" by illegal immigrants. He was referring to the killing of three college students in Newark, New Jersey. An illegal immigrant is among those arrested in the murders.
Gingrich said Bush and Congress shouldn't have gone on vacation this month. And, rising to rhetorical heights, he said "the war here at home" against illegal immigrants is "even more deadly than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan." Whew!
There's a distinction to be made here between opposing the immigration reform bill that died in the Senate several weeks ago and the obsessive emphasis by Republicans since then on unlawful immigration. There were legitimate reasons for seeking to defeat the bill, though I favored it. But now the heated talk about illegals has drifted into demagoguery.