AEI’s Arthur Brooks: GOP can win Hispanic voters


Perhaps you’ve heard all the doom and gloom about how immigration reform will guarantee Republicans can never win another future election?

Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is out with a Wall Street Journal column seeking to debunk that theory.

Here’s an excerpt:

“[I]t is not true that an increasing Hispanic population means an increasing vote share for Democrats. Second, it is not true that a conservative message will fail to appeal to Hispanics.


According to the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey in 2010, Hispanics vote at far lower frequencies than other racial and ethnic groups. For example, 52% of eligible Hispanics (that is, registered adults who are citizens) voted in the 2008 presidential election, versus 78% of non-Hispanic whites and 79% of blacks. This survey is consistent with many others.


What do we know about the Hispanics who don’t vote? Among other things, they are the ones most likely to call themselves ‘political conservatives.'”

Brooks goes on to talk about how Republicans could persuade these politically conservative Hispanics to actually vote.

Read the whole thing here.

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A few thoughts…

I don’t think it has been widely noted, but it is interesting that (arguably) the two most distinguished think tanks on the right — The Heritage Foundation and AEI — appear to be on opposite ends of this great debate. AEI has been much quieter about it, of course, but it is still worth noting. (This is not to say that everyone at AEI agrees, but Brooks is the president. And who says everyone at Heritage agrees with their institutional position?)

And Brooks isn’t alone, either. Consider AEI’s blogger James Pethokoukis, who recently pushed back at The Heritage Foundation’s controversial report, which argued immigration reform would cost $6.3 trillion. “The study,” Pethokoukis wrote, “fails to capture indirect but important economic impacts of immigration such as increasing economic activity or positively affecting American employment.”

“It’s impossible to draw a reasonable conclusion based only on the Heritage study,” Pethokoukis ultimately concluded.

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If think tanks are like the rest of us, in that they must fill a niche, this seems to make sense. Heritage seems interested in moving from an academic brand to a more activist “grassroots” image. Meanwhile, one imagines there are tons of rich conservative and libertarian donors, who religiously read the Wall Street Journal, and who might now be more comfortable donating to a think tank espousing Brooks’ immigration views than Heritage president Jim DeMint’s more populist views.

This is not to say these two think tanks have diverged for strategic purposes. Heritage has been advocating this anti-immigration reform position since at least 2007, and Arthur Brooks has long argued that immigration is the most entrepreneurial act in which a person could engage.

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In any event, here we have AEI president Arthur Brooks — who is also a social scientist — arguing that Republicans merely need to do a better job of turning out conservative-leaning Hispanics.

But what’s the best way to make sure that never happens? You guessed it: Let them continue think the stereotypes about Republicans are true. In fact, reinforce it.

You know that saying, “Nobody cares what you know till they know how much you care?” Well, a corollary to that is this: Nobody cares if your policies are best for them if they think you hate them.

And for those who worry about the doom and gloom scenario, consider this: Partisan politics shouldn’t the the driving force behind policy decisions. But, to the extent Republicans do worry about their electoral future, the status quo hardly seems sustainable.

After all, Romney lost 71 percent of the vote. If that continues, at some point, the math really will catch up to them.

In some cases, doing nothing is riskier strategy.

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