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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Have Republicans Already Lost the 2016 Election?

Paul Waldman's argument here is impeccable, and articulates something I've been thinking lately:
It may not seem like it, but this week has seen the most significant development yet in the immigration debate’s role in the 2016 election. I’d go even farther -- it’s possible that the entire presidential election just got decided... [O]n immigration... [Republicans] need to talk tough to appeal to their base in the primaries, but doing so risks alienating the Hispanic voters they’ll need in the general election... After Donald Trump released his immigration plan, which includes an end to birthright citizenship -- stating that if you were born in the United States but your parents were undocumented, you don’t get to be a citizen -- some of his competitors jumped up to say that they agreed... Remember all the agonizing Republicans did about how they had to reach out to Hispanic voters? They never figured out how to do it, and now they’re running in the opposite direction... Here is the list of Republican candidates who have at least suggested openness to ending birthright citizenship, which would mean repealing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution: Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Rick Santorum. That’s nearly half the GOP field, and more may be added to the list... [N]o matter who gets elected in 2016, birthright citizenship is not going to be eliminated. The bar is so high for amending the Constitution that it’s impossible to imagine any amendment this controversial getting ratified, which is as it should be. But the political impact is going to be very real, whether or not the idea goes anywhere in practical terms. The simple fact is that if Republicans don’t improve their performance among Hispanic voters, they cannot win the White House. Period. This discussion about birthright citizenship sends an incredibly clear message to Hispanic voters, a message of naked hostility to them and people like them. I promise you that next fall, there are going to be ads like this running all over the country, and especially on Spanish-language media:
“My name is Lisa Hernandez. I was born in California, grew up there. I was valedictorian of my high school class, graduated from Yale, and now I’m in medical school; I’m going to be a pediatrician. But now Scott Walker and the Republicans say that because my mom is undocumented, that I’m not a real American and I shouldn’t be a citizen. I’m living the American Dream, but they want to take it away from me and people like me. Well I’ve got a message for you, Governor Walker. I’m every bit as American as your children. This country isn’t about who your parents were, it’s about everybody having a chance to work hard, achieve, and contribute to our future. It seems like some people forgot that.”
When a hundred ads like that one are blanketing the airwaves, the Republicans can say, “Wait, I support legal immigration!” all they want, but it won’t matter. Hispanic voters will have heard once again -- and louder than ever before -- that the GOP doesn’t like them and doesn’t want them... [A]ccording to exit polls Mitt Romney got 27 percent of Hispanic votes in 2012, while John McCain got 31 percent in 2008. Under a more likely scenario, with an electorate that votes something like in 2012 but with African-American turnout reduced, the Republican would need 47 percent of the Hispanic vote. In their worst-case scenario for Republicans -- an electorate that votes identically to the way it did in 2012, but adjusted for changes in population -- the Republican would need a stunning 52 percent of Hispanic votes. So to sum up: even in the best possible situation when it comes to turnout and the vote choices of the rest of the electorate, the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 is going to have to pull off an absolutely heroic performance among Hispanic voters if he’s going to win. That seemed awfully unlikely a week ago. How likely does it seem today?
I said much the same thing about Romney nearly a year before that election, and then as now the real worry I had was that Democrats win the White House in a way that gives them coattails to have some purchase on Congress, without which Republican obstructionism will amount to neo-nullification whatever mandate American majorities offer the Democrats to fight austerity, climate-change, racism, gun-violence, forced-pregnancy zealotry, and neocon warmongering.

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