Now it seems that conservatives will once again be asked to throw away their principles for illusory political gains. Bush will no doubt explain to congressional Republicans that they must vote for the immigration bill without taking any time to study or analyze it because otherwise they will forever lose the large and rapidly growing Hispanic vote.
According to a Census Bureau report released last week, Hispanics are now the largest minority group in America. There are 44.3 million of them compared to 40.2 million blacks and 14.9 million Asians. Furthermore, the number of Hispanics is growing faster. Between 2005 and 2006, their population grew 3.4 percent. Meanwhile, the non-Hispanic white population grew just 0.3 percent. Consequently, Hispanics accounted for almost half the total U.S. population growth during this period—1.4 million out of a total population increase of 2.9 million.
Perhaps if there were some reason to believe that Hispanics would be so grateful for this immigration bill that they will vote heavily Republican for years to come, then it might be worth supporting purely out of political expediency. But there is no reason whatsoever to believe that this will be the case, since the Democratic Congress will at least get equal credit for passage.
It’s worth remembering that despite Bush’s support for an immigration bill last year congressional Republicans only got 30 percent of the Hispanic vote versus 69 percent for Democrats. This was a sharp decline from the 44 percent of the Hispanic vote Bush got in 2004. Thus whatever gratitude Hispanics might have for him because of his support for immigration reform, it is not going to transfer to other Republicans.
This looks like the Medicare debacle all over again to me. Bush is going to put the screws to principled conservatives to ram a piece of repugnant legislation through Congress in order to gain votes that are never going to emerge. Hispanics are going to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats whether this bill passes or doesn’t. And to the extent that it enlarges the Hispanic voting population, Republicans will be cutting their own throats.
Even before the deal on immigration was reached, I was forecasting a Republican loss for the White House in 2008. Passage of the immigration bill means that it will be many years indeed before Republicans retake Congress.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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