Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fenced In

During the heat of the debate on illegal immigration in 2006 and 2007, conservatives asked what was wrong with John McCain, George Bush and other Republicans who were so obviously doing the wrong thing for America by supporting amnesty proposals. The answer will become obvious if McCain loses on Tuesday.

I'd be surprised if John McCain wins even 30 percent of the Hispanic vote, through no fault of his own. What a difference four years makes. In 2004, President Bush won 4 in 10 Hispanic votes, and Democrats worried that their long-time dominance among Hispanics was slipping away. But thanks to harsh Republican rhetoric on immigration, Hispanics have since cooled to Republicans, badly damaging McCain's chances to win Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.

It's as simple as that. With the country evenly split over the past couple of elections, swinging 10 to 15 percent of the Hispanic vote to the Democrats could seal the deal.

There is much irony here. McCain will be punished even though he was a champion of comprehensive immigration reform. And while the immigration issue will cost McCain some Hispanic votes, it is unlikely to gain Republicans any advantage among other voters. The issue has largely evaporated as a major concern in the general election -- it didn't even come up during the presidential debates.
While illegal immigration diminishes in it's intensity, the political impact of the debate increases.

It's no wonder. Despite hyperbole to the contrary, illegal immigration is actually down significantly from its peak -- which occurred in 2000. The illegal-immigrant population grew about 800,000 persons a year from 2000 to 2005, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates. The numbers have since declined to an average of 500,000 net new illegal immigrants each year. While stepped-up enforcement has played a role, the economic downturn has probably been the chief factor reducing the flow.

This will be a tragic lesson on the power of pander politics. Democrats have been deliberately wrong on immigration in order to win. The Republican candidates who tried to match them are stuck in no-man's land.

LINDA CHAVEZ

Chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity; member of the Reagan administration

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sarah Palin, kick ass until Tuesday! You're our last hope!!!

-Joe from Brighton