The Republican Party has already undergone a self-described autopsy and a post-mortem. Now, some of the political strategists who have guided the party through its long decline have come up with a plan to revive the corpse.
Resurgent Republic, a Republican strategy group led by former party chairman Ed Gillespie and pollster Whit Ayres, is urging the GOP to get behind amnesty, a dramatic expansion of legal immigration, and the importation of more foreign workers, regardless of high unemployment. Not surprisingly, Gillespie, Ayres, and others associated with Resurgent Republic have close ties to the business wing of the Republican Party, which has traditionally favored large-scale immigration as a hedge against rising wages for workers.
To promote its agenda, Resurgent Republic conducted focus groups of Republican voters in Iowa and South Carolina and concluded, in a slickly produced report, that these voters are prepared to embrace a somewhat watered-down version of the immigration reform plan being offered by President Obama and congressional Democrats.
The report, “Immigration Reform Through the Lens of Republican Primary Voters,” grabbed a few headlines, but in reading through the findings, the old computer science adage “garbage in, garbage out” comes to mind. First, the challenge faced by the Republican Party is not its ability to win over Republican voters. There is general consensus after the past two election cycles that the GOP will need to expand its base if it hopes to win national elections.
Second, Resurgent Republic’s research did not provide its focus subjects with the full range of options for dealing with the 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S. The menu options on the table were a “pathway to citizenship” — which the report admits is “largely undefined” — versus the straw-man alternative of “universally deporting undocumented immigrants.” Notably absent is the more realistic option of vigorous workplace enforcement combined with systematic elimination of nonemergency benefits and services, which has been proven to convince many illegal aliens to leave on their own.
Third, and perhaps most important, Resurgent Republic concedes the obvious: Nothing in these questionable findings about Republican primary voters should be “viewed as a one-step panacea guaranteeing Republicans inroads among Hispanic voters.” There is no evidence that Hispanic voters, a reliable Democratic constituency, are suddenly going to flock to the GOP just because the party belatedly endorses amnesty for illegal aliens.
Indeed, immigration policy does not rank high on the list priorities for Hispanic voters. The usual bread-and-butter issues eclipse Hispanic voters’ concerns about immigration policy. In fact, a focus group of Hispanic voters conducted on behalf of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in Tampa, Florida, found that these voters see illegal immigration as threat to their own economic interests. Moreover, asked to choose between the option of maximizing the number of Hispanics in the United States or minimizing the impact of illegal immigration on their daily lives, Hispanic voters favor the latter.
Therein lies the Republicans’ best hope of attracting enough Hispanic voters to make the GOP competitive in national elections. The Democrats have clearly cast their lot with the illegal aliens based on a reasonable expectation that, down the line, this largely poorly skilled, poorly educated cohort will be attracted by the party’s generosity when it comes to government services and benefits.
The Democrats’ stance leaves a political vacuum that needs to be filled. Hispanic voters are far more likely to be impressed by an immigration plan designed to reduce illegal immigration and minimize the impact of illegal immigration on their jobs, their tax dollars, their access to already strained government services, and the schools their children attend, than by a lukewarm version of what the Democrats are offering.
Resurgent Republic’s carefully manipulated findings may please the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business interests seeking to import more low-skilled, low-paid labor. Amnesty is unlikely, however, to attract many Hispanic voters to the GOP. Moreover, over time it would almost certainly help the Democratic Party by adding millions of low-income voters when current illegal aliens come to the end of the undefined pathway and actually do become citizens.
More importantly, immigration reform that includes amnesty, more guest workers, and still-higher levels of immigration is not what Americans want. The leadership of people like Gillespie and Ayres has already resulted in the Republican Party performing a post-mortem on itself. It is hard to imagine that the American middle class is eager to follow the same path to the coroner’s office.
Dan Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).