Because of the heavy-handed and at times hate-filled opposition to immigration reform, the Republicans have nullified any gains they made in recent years with Hispanic voters.
For zealots, like Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a Republican running for president, illegals deserve punishment first and foremost. Tancredo must have forgotten that his forebears came from a distant place.
Lou Dobbs, the CNN commentator whose so-called news program usually features a rant against immigration, slants his show to present immigrants' apparent dark sides. Dobbs is relentless.
This is not an easy issue, nor is there an easy solution. But folks like Tancredo and Dobbs have hardly been assets to the GOP cause. A recent poll shows that Hispanics prefer Democrats to Republicans by 51 to 21 percent. That 21 percent figure is a freefall from the 40 percent total the Republicans managed to hold in the election cycles spanning the years 1996 to 2004.
Even the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the oracle for deep-eyed conservatives, says that the Tancredos and Dobbses are hurting Republicans next year and beyond.
The growing Hispanic vote in the Sun Belt states could be crucial in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona. All are likely in play next year. President Bush carried Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona twice. The GOP presidential nominee may not be as fortunate in 2008.
Democrats are watching this debate with more than a passing interest. The party's growth in the aforementioned states has been noteworthy.
The public protests against the reform measure in Congress were aimed largely at GOP hotheads. Hispanic leaders promised revenge at the polls, though their vote turnout has not been outstanding in the past.
But as long as Tancredo, Dobbs, and like-minded folk stir up their troops, the Democrats stand to gain.
For once, I agree with the Wall Street Journal editorial board.