The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Is The GOP Doomed?

It’s the middle of spring, and while the Republicans have finally settled on their nominee to challenge President Obama, the general election campaign has yet to truly heat up. The Phony War, however, has begun, and strategists from both parties are poring over demographic data to determine where to allocate resources and how to shape their message. If the election is as close as polls currently indicate, these decisions could prove the difference between victory and defeat.

One part of the electorate sure to receive considerable attention this year are the “Hispanics”. [Via Meadia has never liked this term and, apparently, many of them don't like it either. It seems a little racist or condescending to identify Americans whose ancestors came from various European countries as "French" or "Irish" while those who come from this hemisphere mostly get lumped together as "Hispanics" -- or, for that matter, as Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino and other immigrants and their offspring get labeled as "Asian."]

Call them what you will, the 2010 census indicated this population increased from 35 million in 2000 to 50 million in 2010, accounting for half of the total population growth. Books like The Emerging Democratic Majority by John Judis and Ruy Teixeira have long held that Spanish speaking immigrants and their descendants are the key to a future Democratic electoral lock in the country (think California), and the prediction is not without support.

Hispanics have traditionally voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, and Mitt Romney articulated the concerns of Republican strategists when he recently said that, unless the GOP can make greater inroads among Latino voters, it could “spell doom” for his party. One of the rising stars of the Republican Party, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, similarly acknowledged the need for his party to offer a more moderate position on immigration. Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles and one of the few Hispanics in the GOP caucus, is crafting legislation designed to allow young illegal immigrants to remain in the country, but not via an expedited path to citizenship.

Meanwhile, as giddy Democrats ponder whether Arizona might be in play in November (the same Arizona that has voted for exactly one Democrat since Truman), Joel Kotkin warns that the left may be celebrating prematurely. Despite the rapid increase in the Hispanic population last decade, Kotkin argues that immigration from Mexico has in fact crested:

Rates of Hispanic immigration, particularly from Mexico, are down and are likely to continue declining. In the 1990s, 2.76 million Mexicans obtained legal permanent-resident status. That number fell by more than a million in the 2000s, to 1.7 million, according to the Department of Homeland Security. A key reason, little acknowledged by either nativists or multiculturalists, lies in the plummeting birth rate in Mexico, which is mirrored in other Latin American countries. Mexico’s birth rate has declined from 6.8 children per woman in 1970 to about 2 children per woman in 2011.

The slowdown in Hispanic immigration also means Latino Americans are increasingly likely to come from second- and third-generation families. And that, says Kotkin, will lead to greater diversity in voting patterns:

This shift could spur the faster integration of Latinos into mainstream society, leaving them less distinct from other groups of voters, like the Germans or the Irish, whose ethnicity once seemed politically determinative.

Read the whole thing.

Kotkin’s thesis echoes what Via Meadia has been saying for some time. Although we recognize the need for a legitimate debate about the specifics of our immigration policy, the fear of waves of Mexicans flooding across the Rio Grande to ruin America are simply unwarranted. Nor is an increased Hispanic population going to grant the Democrats a permanent majority. As successive generations become assimilated into American life, their ideas and political beliefs will spread out as well, just as they did with Irish and Italian immigrants before them.

Furthermore, as the realization of the changing trends in Mexican immigration begins to register with people at the grass roots, immigration is likely to be less of a hot button issue for many voters in the Republican (and Democratic) base. The polarization in the immigration debate is less about the people who are already here than about fears that they are merely the harbingers of an ever-accelerating human tsunami sweeping up from the south.

As those fears diminish, and if Kotkin is right they will, GOP politicians will have an easier time developing policy approaches that appeal both to the old base and to the new voters who, in our system, both parties will have to court.

Published on April 19, 2012 12:00 pm
  • Jim.

    Basically, immigration itself is moderating before either party’s stance on it is.

    It would be interesting if this problem never gets “solved”, just increasingly irrelevant.

  • thibaud

    Kotkin’s too optimistic about the poorly-educated immigrants from Mexico in particular. This immigrant wave is different from earlier waves, for two reasons:

    1) unlike 1910 or 1850, America in the last several decades has had an extreme surplus, not a shortage, of unskilled labor. The millions of semiliterate or illiterate immigrants from Mexico in recent decades represent the most important source of pressure on low-end wages in the US.

    2) unlike earlier waves of poor immigrants who took generations to assimilate, Mexican immigrants increasingly are susceptible to the belief that the southwest US is actually “their” territory, stolen from them by gringos.

    While this is still a minority belief, there’s evidence that it’s growing among the young, and it fuels a latent hostility and sullenness toward the majority political culture that is easily triggered by any perceived slights re things like ID cards, deporting criminals etc.

    These two issues are very new in US life – the one is a simple issue of labor economics, the other a much more complex issue of political-cultural attachment. Never have we seen these two powerful issues combined within one immigration phenomenon.

    Now, if the 2nd and 3rd generation were, as Kotkin easily predicts, assimilating and moving up in terms of both education (to erase the skills deficit, or factor #1, above) and political-cultural affinity (to erase the resentment issue, #2, above), then all would be well in due course just as it was with the Italians, Irish, Chinese etc.

    But the evidence is pretty appalling. As California’s public schools database shows, the performance of hispanic students who are not “English learners” ie 2nd or 3rd generation hispanics is just as miserable (typically 65-70% failure rate) as the performance of hispanic “English learners” ie immigrant kids. Heather MacDonald has gathered plenty of evidence to suggest the performance of the 2nd and 3rd generation, and their rates of social pathologies such as crime and unwed chidlbirth, are actually worse than for the first generation.

    In other words, the rising tide of assimilation for this particular group is a mirage. I wish it weren’t so, and it’s very frustrating for Americans who believe as I do that immigration has long been America’s secret weapon in the global economic battle, but the facts are what they are.

    California collects detailed data across the board, and the pattern is clear: we have imported a dysfunctional underclass that is swamping the low-end labor market and destroying social service provision in low and moderate income communities across the nation’s largest state.

    We are reaping the whirlwind of our idiotic, failed immigration policy and will do so for decades to come.

  • Jim.

    @thibaud-

    The problems you cite happen because they are assimilating — to the sort of Godless, semi-criminal, non-achieving, grievance-pimping, sex-worshipping culture that Leftists have been all about since the 60′s, and that the Blue Model (at its worst) aids, abets, and enables.

    If we were assimilating kids to the same sorts of aspirations and virtues that we’ve had for the centuries prior to te 60′s, the problems you quote would be vastly reduced.

    Instead, we teach kids that sex is love, and therefore OK in any form at any time; we teach that colonialism is an unmitigated evil (despite the fact that what Europeans have built here is what they want, and would never even have been envisioned by native cultures, much less achieved); we teach that if you aren’t achieving that’s clearly the fault of The Man, who should instead be seeing to your every physical need — killing their work ethic.

    I say “we”. That’s not accurate. It’s the Leftist educational establishment that has been teaching this. They need to be run out of every town in America, and tarred and feathered if they try to come back before repenting their incompetent ways.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “Call them what you will, the 2010 census indicated this population increased from 35 million in 2000 to 50 million in 2010, accounting for half of the total population growth.”

    And then you have the 2010 election, which had a historically huge change in congressional seats from the Democrats to the Republicans. Surely if these Hispanic voters were so significant they would have reduced the Republican gains from Historic, down to limited or small. I suggest that Hispanic Americans who have citizenship don’t want to compete with Illegal Aliens for jobs any more than any other citizen. It is in their best interest to vote against amnesty, and so we see Border States like New Mexico with large Hispanic populations voting for Republicans like the Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez.
    In conclusion the Hispanic demographics are not going to significantly change the voting patterns, because they haven’t changed the voting patterns. I believe Obama is not only going to lose large numbers of the Hispanic voters that he got in 2008, but the percentage of Black voters is going to drop as well both in percentage of the electorate and the percentage that vote for him.

  • Anthony

    Demographics (single member households, educated millennials, single women, and Latinos) are more short term disadvantage to GOP than potential Latino voters alone; however, the GOP could probably benefit from a less public image as severely authoritarian and conservative (rightly or wrongly credited not issue). The United States overall benefits from “vibrant parties” that appeal to Americans and nation’s interests.

  • Pincher Martin

    I’ve been reading Joel Kotkin for years. He is much like Professor Mead. Both are trenchant critics of the Blue State Model who are completely blind to the political, social, and cultural implications of demographic changes currently happening in the United States. In the parlance of human biodiversity, they are “blank slaters.” To them, nearly everyone in the world is just a misunderstood American waiting to be assimilated and put to productive use. They both believe that Hispanics, Asians, Middle Easterners, etc. are determined to fit into the U.S. political culture and society without any major hiccups, and neither man will take a serious look at any evidence to the contrary.

    Indeed, Kotkin takes it even further than Mead, so celebrating the diversity and changing demography of America as a positive force that he doesn’t even acknowledge it has any potential disruptions (except for what the nasty nativists throw in the way of progress, of course). To him, demography is destiny — at least if you look at the overall numbers. You don’t want to turn into Japan, do you? (To which the proper answer is, no but I don’t want the country to turn into Yugoslavia or Brazil, either.)

    Kotkin remind me a bit of a pollyannish, futurist hack — like Newt Gingrich’s favorite “philosopher” Alvin Toffler. Kotkin was so emphatic about the wonders of America’s expanding demographic waistline back in 2005 that he didn’t see the housing bust coming until it was right on top of him. But why would he worry about it? You don’t get paid as well to be a Debbie Downer in this society.

  • Pincher Martin

    Jacksonian Libertarian,

    “And then you have the 2010 election, which had a historically huge change in congressional seats from the Democrats to the Republicans. Surely if these Hispanic voters were so significant they would have reduced the Republican gains from Historic, down to limited or small. I suggest that Hispanic Americans who have citizenship don’t want to compete with Illegal Aliens for jobs any more than any other citizen. It is in their best interest to vote against amnesty, and so we see Border States like New Mexico with large Hispanic populations voting for Republicans like the Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez.”

    This has been true nationally so far, but it has not been true for certain localities and states where immigration has been the heaviest.

    California is the most obvious example. It was once a purple state where conservatives could get elected. No more. It is now as deep a blue state as Massachusetts once was, and there’s no sign it’s going to change any time soon.

    No exit polls were done in New Mexico for the 2010 election, but Mexican-American Brian Sandoval won the gubernatorial race in Nevada against Harry Reid’s son, not by winning Hispanic votes (he barely beat Sharron Angle in that category), but by winning white votes (where he outpolled Angle by ten points).

    Recent polling for Rubio as VP is also showing his limitations as some sort of Hispanic closer for the GOP. Daniel Larison over at the Amercian Conservative has been all over this topic for some time. Here’s his most recent blog entry on the topic.

    It’s very surprising to me that Professor Mead would believe for one second that Rubio’s proposed Dream Act legislation would significantly help the GOP’s political prospects, instead of merely helping Rubio’s own long-term prospects by maintaining face in the Latino community. Rubio is taking a tremendous amount of heat from the Latino media.

    BTW, how much did Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and Condi Rice help the GOP with black voters?

  • John Fisher

    We should consider the possibility that illegal immigration is down because the Mexican side of the border has become too dangerous for immigrants to approach.

  • Hammered at Tosca

    @John Fisher– Yes, kind of like Narco-Pol Pots…

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Just maybe the Great Recession is a factor here too. I agree that Heather MacDonald’s work on this issue cannot be ignored. Latin American immigration may drive another nail into the coffin of the Blue model welfare state, but not for the reasons we might approve. Let’s see how Germany does?

    Me fear is that we are drifting towards a racially and ethnically stratified class society which is incompatible with — or at least a major challenge to — the American ideal of human equality, one in which the elites are disconnected from the everyday realities of the working majority, itself badly fractured on racial lines. It will be a field day for political knaves unless we can figure out a way to get the unum back in pluribus.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    BTW, I propose affirmative action for all in the Ivy League so that we can have a governing elite that is representative of the full ethnic and geographical diversity of America — right down to the rural vs. urban level.

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    We do need a national elite, we are going to have one whether we like it or not, and it is going to be educated in the Ivy League (along with a few other elite colleges and universities whose names we all know).

    The essential thing in our democracy is that it be composed of the best and brightest of every ethnicity and part of the country. The Ivies will have to make that decision themselves though Congress could nudge them by making federal money dependent on either no affirmative action at all or affirmative action for all. Those are the only two non-discriminative alternatives and only one of them is compatible with a truly democratic, egalitarian society.

  • Toni

    Your headline should have been declarative. “The GOP Isn’t Doomed.”

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    Legacy admissions will have to go in the Ivies. They may think they are private institutions who can do as they please. But they depend on federal money and tax exemptions. Legacies are just another name for inherited privilege, the very idea our country was founded against.

  • L

    By 2025, a near majority of voters in this country will be unassimilated Hispanics. America’s founding documents are written in a language they will think of as foreign. America’s founding documents are based on ideas they will find alien. There’s a reason no documents like the Declaration of Independence or the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution exist in Spanish. Respect for private property, ordered individual liberty, democracy, rule of law and free enterprise are not part of Hispanic culture. I don’t think it matters whether the GOP is doomed. Very soon, America will no longer be part of Anglospheric culture. America will be Mexico. America is doomed.

  • Jim.

    @Luke Lea-

    The way to get the unum back in the pluribus is to go back to the old LIFE magazine style of pushing assimilation towards a positve culture.

    Of course at that point the MultiCult will, knee-jerk, start screaming “hate hate hate hate” without any cogitation about what that word means, or shouting “freedom freedom freedom” in an equally brain-dead manner.

    Without a commitment to assimilation to ideals consistent with our traditions, history, and yes our Christian religion, “e pluribus unum” is dead.

  • thibaud

    @ L #13 – America isn’t doomed, but without question, our socioeconomic structure and cultural foundations will change significantly. Not “shift” a little, nor will there be an earthquake, just an acceleration of a slide that is already obvious to anyone who travels an hour outside of the glistening bubble of Silicon Valley. When you get out toward the Central Valley, you’re in another country: 20% unemployment, bankrupt municipalities, farms and businesses going under and, wherever you look, all the signs of hardscrabble tin-roof style third world poverty that you see in rural Mexico. It’s just migrated north of the border. And it dominates California outside of a few coastal counties.

    Fully 55% of California public schoolchildren are classified by the state as “economically disadvantaged.”

    Ironic that income equality is increasing in Brazil, at the same time that America’s socioeconomics have moved substantially Brazil-ward. A thin oligarchy atop a shrinking, harried middle class and a soon-to-be majority underclass.