Republicans and Immigration: It's All About Texas
Conservatives are wondering why high-profile champions – and likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates – such as Marco Rubio and Rand Paul are in such a hurry to consummate a Faustian bargain on comprehensive immigration reform, which most conservatives think is just fancy inside-the-beltway lingo for “amnesty.”
That’s because the explanations we’re getting from our champions and the party establishment alike on this issue don’t pass the smell test. For example, even if Karl Rove is right and amnesty will gain us 40% of the Hispanic vote nationally, then the other 60% of those 11 million illegals is a net gain of 1.5 million potential new voters for the Democrat Party. So we have nothing to gain by doing this unless the focus is really on Texas, where Republicans – and conservative Republicans to boot – have made huge gains in the last decade.
Texas is the one large, urban red state left on the Electoral College map. True, Obama swept the prized battleground states of Ohio, Virginia, and Florida again in 2012, but his average margin of victory in those three states was just 1.9 points, so those remain toss-up states heading into 2016. However, Republicans could make massive gains in those battleground states, but if they lose their grip on Texas, they will be unable to win any national elections. Texas is foundational to a GOP revival.
And when you look at the state’s changing demographics, you can see why some Tea Party favorites and Karl Rove that are in open civil war right now are singing from the same song sheet on this issue.
According to the Hoover Institution, Hispanics have accounted for 65% of Texas’ population growth since 2000, and whites account for just 4.2%. From 2000 to 2010, the Lonestar State added one million children under the age of 18, and 95% of them were Hispanic. Furthermore, Hispanics make up a majority of the 4.9 million children enrolled in Texas public schools, pre-kindergarten and early childhood education.
Start pro-rating those numbers out to 2020 and 2030, and you unlock the reason many Republicans in Washington, establishment and grassroots alike, are in a hurry to act here.
With New York, California, and Illinois solidly blue for the foreseeable future, the addition of Texas to that mix would mean Republicans would have to win 70% of the Electoral College votes in the remaining 46 states to win the presidency. That is a tall task, to say the least.
My detractors call me a purist because I actually think Republicans ought to stand for something other than not being Democrats, but I also live in a place called reality. These numbers are stone-cold reality, and they explain why someone like Rand Paul would write an immigration column for The Washington Times recently that most Democrats would agree with.
Still, there is a way to sell this to your base, and it’s not way the Republicans are going about it. Instead of Rubio doing photo-ops with three liberals and the most notorious “Republican in Name Only” in the U.S. Senate, he should have used the numbers in this column to make his case to the skeptical folks at the Heritage Foundation first. Instead of writing a bleeding-heart column in a conservative newspaper, Rand Paul should have made the case to conservatives that all we care about could be lost in our lifetimes if we lose Texas. A good rule of thumb for Republicans is that if you can’t message a policy based on what’s best for the taxpayers, then it’s not a policy Republicans should be advancing.
Instead, Republicans come across as pandering, which works about as well for us as lumping every Hispanic who comes here to escape squalor and oppression in the same group with drug dealers and gangbangers.
But while the GOP’s white population is declining, whites still make up the majority of its voters, and Mitt Romney lost the election because he lost at least seven million white voters that didn’t vote in 2008 – including fewer evangelicals, Catholics, and he did worse with Mormons than George W. Bush did in 2004. In other words, despite performing well with Independents in several key battleground states, Romney didn’t turn out his base like Obama turned out his.
I represent that base. Most of my friends are in that base, and many of them are willing to support allowing folks to pursue the American dream – provided they pay restitution for breaking the law, don’t ask for a handout in the process, haven’t become hardened criminals while they’re here, and Congress is actually serious about defending the border for a change. Heck, given the entitlement culture that is emerging in America, I think we could use an infusion of people who want a chance to earn their keep and support my moral values on issues like life and marriage.
That’s the message Texas’ Ted Cruz victoriously rode to the U.S. Senate. That’s the message that allowed Rubio to defeat the party establishment that wanted Charlie Crist instead. That’s also the message that will salvage Texas as a red state without alienating any more of a GOP base that just showed in the last election it’s done plugging its nose and voting for the lesser of two evils.
You can learn more about Steve Deace’s nationally-syndicated radio show by visiting www.stevedeace.com or following him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.