Will The Immigration Debate of 2006 Do for The National GOP What Prop 187 Did for The Calfiornia GOP?
In 1994, Governor Pete Wilson got behind Proposition 187, descibed accurately here as
a ballot initiative designed to deny illegal immigrants
social services, health care, and public education. It
was introduced . . . as the Save Our State initiative. A number of other organizations were involved in bringing it to the voters. It passed with 59% of the vote, but was overturned by a federal court.
I remember being torn over how to vote on this measure. Jack Kemp opposed it, as did other "big tent" Republicans. In the final few days, in massive rallies against Prop 187, Mexican flags were everywhere. I made an emotional decision (a way of voting I hope I will never repeat) and voted for 187.
Even after the law was struck down by a pair of federal judges, the long-term impact of 187 was that the GOP (and Wilson) looked like Latino-bashers. Call it unfair, but that's what happened. Many analysts think the California GOP has never recovered.
Is the national GOP following the same path in 2006? Called As Seen brings this report from Time's Joe Klein to our attention:
There was some hope among Republican strategists, especially Karl Rove, that this formula might also work with the rapidly growing Latino vote and guarantee
a g.o.p. majority in perpetuity. "Rove had a point. My people are very conservative on social values," says Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat. "We're family oriented, a lot of small-business owners. But the Republicans have blown that opportunity now. Even the Pentecostals are sending busloads to the protests. Spanish-language radio is announcing the vote on every amendment to the Senate immigration bill. You've got a generation of young Latino citizens whose first political impression is that Republicans are people who want to deport their parents."
Now, Klein's a left-leaning writer, so we need a few grains of salt as we read his analysis. As for Congressman Gutierrez, we need a bucket of salt-- he is, after all, a Democrat and has every reason to make statements putting the Republicans in a bad light.
I just hope he's wrong.
Update: Commenter Tommy thinks it's demonstrably false that Pete Wilson's support of Prop 187 hurt the GOP here. Here's the link to the article on which Tommy relies for support. The author, Steve Sailer, also writes for the VDare blog, which I find a little scary. Take a look at VDare and decide if Sailer has more or less credibility because he's associated with it. Also, take a look at this post by Tacitus, one of the founders of RedState. If you're like me you'll squirm a little as you read about Mr. Sailer's outlook on life and race. (Thanks to commenter Harold Hutchison for that one.)
It seems to me undeniable that Latinos will be an important demographic group going forward. They're natural Republican voters: They are having large familes; they are overwhelmingly Catholic and would tend to side with Republicans on values issues; and they are hard-working and want a piece of the American dream. Republicans (and those conservatives willing to call themselves Republicans) ought to be asking themselves whether that growing segment of the electorate is coming our way or not, and whether a very hard line on what to do about illegals already here will attract Latinos or drive them away. Steve Sailer doesn't offer any evidence about that question.