Dan Balz wrote an interesting article at the Washington Post this morning, The GOP’s Immigration Conundrum. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with his thesis. Like most Washington reporters, he thinks that it is very important that the Republicans do something on immigration.
In his defense, he doesn’t think that it is a silver bullet. He said, “Passage of immigration reform won’t necessarily win the next presidential nominee significantly more Hispanic votes. But its absence as a divisive issue in the nomination contest would give Republican candidates an opportunity to talk to Hispanic voters about new ideas or issues.” That’s fine, but the broader point is that if only the Republicans would engage with Latino voters, they could win them over. There is a much more fundamental problem than policy proposals.
I am more or less a classic liberal in terms of philosophical orientation. But there is also a cultural side to it. When I think of conservatives, I imagine big chested men with guns who are desperately afraid that someone will think they are secretly gay. When I think of liberals, I imagine a diverse coalition in which I am very much welcome. So culturally, I identify with the liberals. And I think this is a big part of the problem with Republicans appealing to Latinos. It doesn’t matter what policies the Republicans might come up with, Latinos know that Republicans do not welcome them.
In addition to this, there is the issue of authenticity. During the vice-presidential debate in 2012, Biden said something that I still think is brilliant. After Ryan claimed that it was Obama who had cut Medicare, Joe Biden said, “Folks: use your common sense. Who do you trust on this?” It’s the same thing with Latinos and blacks and most other minority groups. The Republicans have long used them as scapegoats and ways to get whites to vote Republican. They are still doing it. So they use their common sense and they vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats.
Now I understand that for people like Balz, the issue is that the Republican Party needs to change. So comprehensive immigration reform is the first step in that direction. But that’s not how Republicans look at it. To them it is, “Okay, I’ll do this one thing. But that’s it!” And look at what that one thing is! The pathway to citizenship in the old proposal was almost twenty years long. But even that was too generous. So they proposed legal status without any pathway to citizenship. But even that was too generous. Latinos are not fooled by this. They can tell that any legislation the Republicans pass will be only done for the sake of politics and will only be done with the greatest of resentment about the whole thing.
It’s great if people want to hope that the Republican Party will move back from the crazy cliff and become an old fashioned conservative party. But that won’t happen any time soon. The modern Republican Party has always reminded me of the line, “I know you are an all or nothing kind of guy. And since you can’t have it all, I am giving you nothing.” The Republican Party is little more than a list of rules of what they cannot do. That in itself is okay. We all have our lines in the sand. But the Republicans have so many lines that it is unable to do anything. The only thing that will make the Republican Party change is electoral defeat. And I believe that is coming.