Reports from Nevada on Saturday of heavy Democratic turnout in early voting, and heavy Latino turnout in particular, pose significant challenges to Donald Trump’s ambitions of winning the state — and the presidency.
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) November 5, 2016
If Latino votes end up denying Trump the White House, Democrats would likely see the result as poetic justice, and look forward to passing immigration reform — in a form that most Republicans would consider “amnesty.” But the result could also create broader political instability.
The present immigration debate is not primarily about legal immigration — though Democrats have tried to frame it as such. Rather, the debate is about illegal immigration, and what to do with millions of illegal aliens (no one knows the precise number) living in the country.
Moreover, the Democrats’ election message to Latinos has focused on defending the interests of illegal aliens. They have also used illegal aliens at every level of their campaign, including registering U.S. citizens to vote.
In addition, Democrats have led the effort to defy existing federal immigration law, through sanctuary cities and other policies.
While new revelations on corruption and Obamacare have boosted Trump, those issues may not be of particular interest to Latino voters.
The political culture of many Latin American societies accepts a certain level of endemic corruption as a fact of life. And Obamacare has benefited many of the poorest Latinos, who are eligible for health insurance through the expansion of Medicaid. (In California, the state is petitioning the federal government to allow illegal aliens to be eligible as well.)
The idea that a major policy question like immigration law would be settled, in part, on behalf of those who are not actually Americans, and through the efforts of those who have helped them defy the law, will raise major questions about whether the result is just, even if the result is technically legitimate. Many Republicans will likely question the legitimacy of the result as well.
From the point of view of social stability, the best political solution to the immigration puzzle is to have a President Trump pass immigration reform, in a Nixon-to-China gesture that involves significant compromise by both sides.
Republicans would have their “wall,” and a guarantee that border security will come before legalization. Democrats would have their pathway to citizenship, likely guaranteeing that most of today’s illegal aliens would be tomorrow’s citizens, and likely voting Democratic as well.
It would be better (though, from a Republican perspective, bad for other reasons) for Trump to lose by a landslide, in which Latino votes were only a small part of a larger story, than to lose by a narrow margin because of the Latino vote.
The worst-case scenario is one that might unfold if the Nevada result foretells a narrow win for Hillary Clinton on the basis of Latino turnout alone, because then any immigration policy changes that follow might be seen as illegal aliens imposing their will on citizens.
The tragedy of immigration policy in the U.S. is that there is one solution that is politically acceptable to the vast majority of Americans, though imperfect. It is border security first, followed by a path to citizenship once border security has been confirmed. Republicans generally want to put this issue behind them.
Democrats have deliberately frustrated the obvious solution in order to preserve the immigration issue for presidential elections — i.e. for precisely this moment.
The counter-argument to the above is familiar— that Republicans would deserve to lose for choosing candidates in two successive elections that take hard stances against illegal immigration.
But the answer to that is what happened to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in 2008, and what is happening to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) now. Democrats attack even Republicans who are allies on immigration. They want surrender, not compromise.
The news from Nevada could thus portend trouble for Trump, and division for America.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.