Is there any political disadvantage to taking a hard left turn in the United States these days? As a conservative, I would hope so, but the evidence doesn’t seem to be there.
In the aftermath of President Obama’s reelection, it immediately became the trendiest thing in the world to promote Florida Senator Marco Rubio as the new (as some wags have put it) “Great Brown Hope” of the Republican Party. He was on all the talkshows, posed for the cover of Time Magazine, and even delivered the official Republican response to this month’s State of the Union. “The Republican Savior” said Time.
The logic of all this Rubio-boosting is blunt. Mitt Romney lost among Hispanic voters, and he lost big. Only 27% of them voted for the Gov, less than George W. Bush (38% and 44%), even less than John McCain (31%). A recent Gallup poll suggests if an election were held today, the number could be as low as 24%.
As the fluently bilingual, charismatic son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio is assumed to be non-threatening to this demographic in a way previous white guys were not, maybe even holding the potential (if we really want to go nuts here) to be the Hispanic Obama (black vote: 93%). By Republican standards, Rubio is also something of a softie on immigration reform, openly supporting some manner of “pathway to legalization” (if not outright citizenship) for America’s mostly Hispanic, 15 million-or-so illegal alien population, and angrily chastising those Republicans who don’t. “It’s really hard to get people to listen to you on economic growth, on tax rates, on healthcare if they think you want to deport their grandmother,” he quipped.
It’s a compelling pitch for an obvious 2016 aspirant, but sadly it’s also one entirely based on false assumptions.
Though the GOP establishment and various conservative media-types are deeply convinced that the road to Latino love is paved with immigration reform and/or amnesty, there’s not a lot of evidence (beyond lazy instinct) that this is an issue Hispanic voters actually care much about.
We might want to look over those last few words again slowly, because it seems few Republicans have. The funny thing about illegal immigrants is that they’re not citizens. And the funny thing about non-citizens is that they can’t vote. And the funny thing about non-voters is that their opinions don’t matter at election time.
Since Latino-American citizens — by definition — don’t have to worry about deportation or Green Cards or whatever, their political consciousness is no less multifaceted and nuanced than anyone else’s. CNN found they rank the immigration issue in the same place as any other demographic group, which is to say, pretty low. Polls show they vote overwhelmingly Democrat not because they’re uniquely obsessed with perceived GOP racism or insensitivity on the border question, but rather because, well, they’re liberals.
This in turn, contradicts the other sloppy fallacy of conservative Hispandering; the stereotypical assumption that Latinos are “Republican at heart” (to quote Dick Morris) because, well, they’re all super Catholic, right? And Catholics are down on gay marriage and abortion and that’s what the GOP hates too!
Leaving aside whether or not these are the most compelling political issues of our time, the numbers just aren’t there. Latinos are actually the most pro-gay marriage demographic in America at the moment, backing it 53%, and support legalized abortion by even greater margins — 74%, according to some polls. For what it’s worth, they’re also among the biggest fans of Obamacare, hiking taxes on the rich, and the President’s economic performance in general. It’s really not a mystery why these people aren’t backing the right-wing guy.
Some conservatives get this. The idea that the GOP might be stumbling into a pointless amnesty plan that will do little more than, in Ann Coutler’s words, “create up to 20 million more Democratic voters,” is one that’s gathering credibility, particularly among the angry voices of the alt-right blogosphere, who have long been pushing the idea, sometimes dubbed the “Sailer Strategy” after alt-right grande dame Steve Sailer, that the GOP’s future lies with inreach to whites, not outreach to minorities.
But listening to an alt-right podcast the other day I was struck by the equal incoherence of this righty reaction. If I may put this delicately, the inreach strategy seems to be dominated by people who, uh, don’t care much for Latinos, and thus see white pandering as some moral end unto itself. But even when followed to its logical conclusion, this supposedly bold, politically-incorrect, unabashedly right-wing strategy brings the Republicans to the same ideological dead-end as the aggressive Hispandering they despise.
Outside of the Deep South, where Republicans already win by easy margins, there’s no evidence some sort of explicitly “white interests” hustling would yield any electoral hay for the party. Romney lost white votes by the barrelful in states like Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, and even his own Massachusetts not because he wasn’t white-friendly enough, and not even because he was too rich or big businessy (something the nominally fiscally responsible alt-righters have strangely decided is a bad thing now) but because he was a conservative and these places aren’t.
Much has been made of the fact that the President wins huge majorities of the minority vote, but minorities only get you so far in a country that’s still over 60% white. Democrats have won five of the last six presidential popular votes by losing the white vote overall but keeping around 40% of it — aka, the liberal chunk.
There’s a bit of an Ocam’s Razor going on here, but it’s easily lost amid the chronic over-thinking of professional pundits and political consultants. America has a two party system divided on ideological lines. Based on the last couple of presidential elections, the left-wing party seems to be doing quite a bit better than the right-wing one, which suggests there are more American voters sympathetic to the left-wing message. Voter skin color seems fairly incidental.
A right-wing party — especially one as righteously and confidently right-wing as the Republican Party has gotten lately — can’t really do much with a depressing diagnosis like this.
So they don’t.