Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Republicans Risk Alienating Hispanics in 2016

Donald Trump has broken the somewhat unspoken rule - racism and bigotry is supposed to be fanned through dog whistle messages and never spoken of outright.  Trump's extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric has swept away the GOP smoke screen used time and time again to pander to white supremacists and nativists without driving away moderates and, most importantly, without totally alienating Hispanic voters.  Now, with Trump exciting the ugliest - and in most cases, stupidest - elements of the GOP base, the rest of the self-prostituting would be GOP 2016 presidential candidates have joined the anti-immigrant chorus.  A piece in the New York Times looks at the GOP's ongoing alienation of Hispanic voters.  Here are excerpts:

Republicans thought they had learned a lesson after 2012: Turning off Latino voters ensures defeat in the general election.

But as the disruptive presidential candidacy of Donald J. Trump continues to gain support, his hard line on immigration has driven rivals to match his biting anti-immigrant language and positions long considered extreme. It risks another general election cycle in which Hispanics view the party as unfriendly no matter who the nominee is, Republican strategists warned.

This week, several of Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals, including Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, echoed his call to end automatic citizenship for the American-born children of undocumented immigrants, repealing a constitutional right dating from the Civil War era.

And Mr. Trump’s plan for mass deportations — “They have to go,” he said — which is supported by a sizable minority of Republican voters nationwide, has encouraged rivals to similarly push the edges on immigration.

National Republican strategists warn that catering to the most hard-line voters on immigration in the nominating contest will hurt the party in the general election, as it did the 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, who endorsed “self-deportation” for illegal immigrants and attracted historically low Latino support.

“If Republicans want to be competitive in the general election, they have to distance themselves from Trump on both illegal and legal immigration,” said Alfonso Aguilar, an official in George W. Bush’s administration and the executive director of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, a conservative group. “His proposal on birthright citizenship is very insulting to Latinos, and every day, this is the top story on Spanish language media. Right now, if the other candidates don’t respond to Trump, Latinos will buy the argument that Republicans agree with him.”

Demographics suggest Republicans have an even bigger challenge with Latinos in 2016 than in previous elections. The number of Latino voters has been growing rapidly. The population of Latinos eligible to vote by 2016 is expected to increase by 18 percent over 2012 to about 28 million people, more than 11 percent of voters nationwide. . . . .

Trump, who is not only denouncing illegal immigrants in nativist language but seeking severe limits on legal immigration. And his calls to deport illegal immigrants are resonating with many voters. . . . Perhaps the most difficult issue for the Republican Party is Mr. Trump’s call to deport not only all illegal immigrants, but also young people who came to this country as children and have received protections though executive actions by Mr. Obama.

“We have to keep the families together, but they have to go,” Mr. Trump said on “Meet the Press” in an interview, broadcast on Sunday, aboard his jet at the Des Moines airport.

[T]hat position is out of step with three-fourths of Americans — including 76 percent of independents — who believe illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country if certain conditions are met, . . . 

No matter who emerges as the Republican nominee, experts in Hispanic voting say many will remember the harsh anti-immigrant tone of the primaries. 

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