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After nearly a decade of obsession with and pandering to the Hispanic vote, the leaders of both major political parties are finally being told an unpleasant truth—the Hispanic vote is overrated.
Last week William Frey, one of the country’s leading demographers and a major expert on immigration, unbosomed this lesson in an interview with the Washington Times. “The Hispanic vote is going to be a lot less important than people think,” he says. Hispanic voters’ role in ’04 seen overstated [ By Joseph Curl , Washington Times, September 21, 2004]
Whether it is or isn’t is a more important question than which party or candidate can or should pander to it the most. The belief that the Hispanic vote is critical to political victory was the main reason the Republican Party abandoned immigration control after the 1996 election. Its candidate that year, Bob Dole, won a mere 21 percent of the Hispanic bloc nationally, and the Open Borders crowd immediately blamed Republican support for immigration control as the reason.
That was dubious then and even more dubious now, but the GOP under Newt Gingrich dropped immigration control like a live hand grenade. Party strategists started yattering about how “the Hispanic strategy” would replace the “Southern strategy” as the road to party victory.
In fact, though Mr. Bush’s Hispanic support was a bit better than Mr. Dole’s, Al Gore walked off with an overwhelming 65 percent of Hispanics.
That has not stopped Republicans from continuing to pander. This year we have had Mr. Bush’s amnesty plan for illegal aliens and yet more yattering in Spanish.
But what Mr. Frey is telling them is that it doesn’t matter anyway.
It’s true that thanks to mass immigration the Hispanic electorate has swelled to some 7 million voters, but the numbers need to be qualified.
Mr. Frey notes that
“One-third of Hispanics are below voting age, and another quarter are not citizens. Thus, for every 100 Hispanics, only 40 are eligible to vote, 23 are likely to register, and just 18 are likely to cast ballots. For blacks the comparable number is 37, and for whites, nearly 50.”
In some states, like New Mexico, Mr. Frey acknowledges that Hispanic voters may be critical. Hispanics make up 29 percent of the state’s total population and may well swing it in November. But in other states like Arizona and Nevada, they’re simply not that important.
“In both of those states, a disproportionate number of those Hispanics are not registered or not voting,” Mr. Frey says. Hispanics make up only an estimated 12 percent of Arizona’s voters and 10 percent of Nevada’s.
White voters make up 86 percent of all voters in the most competitive states, and “This election is going to be won in the Midwest, largely white, battleground states.”
If that’s true, does it carry implications for Republican political strategy?
To put it bluntly: Yes.
If the Hispanic vote were really as critical to national political success as the myth claims, immigration control would indeed be a political loser (assuming all Hispanics favor immigration, which is by no means entirely true).
No serious politician would support reducing immigration or controlling the borders if those positions meant defeat, and that’s precisely what the Open Borders crowd harped on in the past.
But if the Hispanic vote is not so important and the white vote is, then the party’s strategy needs to adjust to that reality. It needs to think hard about how to win and keep the white vote—far more than it does now.
In 2000, George W. Bush won the white vote—but only by 54 percent. In 1972 and 1984 Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan won a whopping 67 and 64 percent respectively—support that translated into a national landslide. In the 1990s, weaker candidates like George Bush Sr. and Mr. Dole carried only 40 and 46 percent of whites—which translated into defeat.
The boondoggle that the current President Bush created with his foolish amnesty plan for illegals ought to tell him all he needs to know about the politics of immigration.
If he wants to win the election, he needs to forget the Hispanics and worry about the white voters who put him in office in the first place.