This Washingon Post piece by Michael Gerson is right on target. Here's a taste, referring to the current crop of GOP presidential candidates:
One gets the impression of decent men, intimidated by the vocal anger of elements of their own party.How true. Polls continue to show most Americans (and most Republicans) would be willing to allow a path to citizenship for the illegals now in the USA. That position is so unacceptable to a vocal but activist minority among Republicans, however, that no candidate who really is serious about winning the nomination dares take it.
And here's one more:
That anger is pushing Republicans into some powerful symbols of indifference to Hispanic voters. The Univision Republican debate, scheduled for last Sunday with simultaneous translation into Spanish, was postponed when only Sen. John McCain agreed to show up. Rep. Tom Tancredo objected to the event on principle: "We should not be doing things that encourage people to stay separate in a separate language" -- which raises the question: Is saying "Viva Cuba Libre" no longer permissible for Republicans? And this snub came on the heels of conspicuous Republican absence at a forum held by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, and at the National Council of La Raza convention.
It is a strange spectacle. Conservatives are intent on building a more appealing, post-Bush Republican Party. But their most obvious change so far is to reverse remarkable Republican gains among one of the fastest-growing groups of American voters. The renovators seem more like the wrecking crew.
Latino support for GOP candidates dropped back to 30 percent in 2006. According to one poll, Latinos under age 30 now prefer a generic Democrat over a Republican for president by 42 points. A harsh, Tancredo-like image of Republicans has solidified in the mainstream Hispanic media. And all of this regression will be even more obvious in the next few months, because more than half of the Hispanic voters in America live in states that are part of the new lineup of early primaries.Ouch.
I have never seen an issue where the short-term interests of Republican presidential candidates in the primaries were more starkly at odds with the long-term interests of the party itself. At least five swing states that Bush carried in 2004 are rich in Hispanic voters -- Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Bush won Nevada by just over 20,000 votes. A substantial shift of Hispanic voters toward the Democrats in these states could make the national political map unwinnable for Republicans.
Read the whole thing. If you disagree with Gerson and with me, his piece might make you seethe. But I hope it will also make you think.