My great grandfather came to the U.S. from Ireland when he was a boy. His arrival led to his children, grandchildren and even his great-grandchildren making contributions to this great country.
And it wasn’t always easy. Many people saw the influx of Irish immigrants to the Northeast as a threat. My grandfather often told me about looking for jobs as a young man but only finding “No Irish Need Apply” signs.
Latinos now find themselves in the same situation in the Southwest. Making it possible for Latinos to become citizens would create millions of new contributors to the health, wealth and wellbeing of a nation that desperately needs new blood.
Last year, Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus released the results of a RNC study on the reasons for the party’s failure to capitalize on voter discontent and reclaim the Senate and the White House. Like most autopsies the results were pretty ugly. The post mortem reported than Americans saw the GOP as “narrow minded” and full of “stuffy old men.”
The post mortem demonstrated the need to revive the party by reaching out to voters who had written off the party of tea formerly known as the GOP. The RNC report identified the prominent members of the ascendant Democratic majority, women, Latinos and young people as targets for outreach. Since then the tea party has done everything it can to piss off the voters that the RNC report recommended for outreach.
My U.S. News opinion colleagues and I have written thousands of words recently about recent GOP efforts to alienate female voters. Young people overwhelmingly favor efforts to further economic justice and legalize marriage equality. But all conservatives have done is vilify both ideas.
But the biggest mistake conservatives have made is that they have gone out of their way to drive Latinos further away from the party. Two groups that supported President Obama’s re-election overwhelmingly, Latinos and Asians are growing so fast that the Census Bureau studies indicated whites will become a minority group by 2050, which is only 36 years away. Unless Republicans find a way to attract Latino voters, it will soon be time to say, “Hasta la vista, baby,” to the Grand Old Party.
Election polls indicated that the two issues that drove Latinos to Democratic candidates were the party’s support for immigration and health care reform. Since the election, House Republicans have blocked immigration reform and voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act so many times that I’ve lost count.
Conservatives such as Sean Hannity and Charles Krauthammer saw the returns and the light and switched their positions to support immigration reform. Soon after the election, the speaker of the House, John Boehner, said that immigration reform would be a top priority for his party. The Senate, with Republican support, actually passed an immigration reform bill that included tougher border security and a path to citizenship for immigrants who met stringent conditions. The House hasn’t done a damn thing
Two weeks ago – more than a year after the election and the RNC report – House speaker John Boehner finally released a Republican proposal for immigration reform. It was really a plan to increase border security even though the rate of undocumented immigration is a lot lower under President Obama than it was under George W. Bush. The plan also contained a provision for citizenship that would become effective only after hell froze over.
But even that weak reform plan was too much for the fire breathers in the tea party caucus. Only a week later the speaker killed the proposal in its crib. One Republican representative reacted to the bill’s demise by saying his party would instead focus its efforts on courting Hispanic voters. Good luck with that. It would have made a lot more sense for the tea party to enact a reform law and then court Latino voters. But the right continues to be its own worst enemy.
Latinos are the emerging electoral bloc to be
reckoned with. Years ago, the late Jim Croce advised his fans, “You don’t tug on
Superman’s cape/You don’t spit into the wind.” RNC Chairman Priebus should
require every Republican to have the song on their IPods. But what’s the point –
they wouldn’t listen anyway.