Immigration is another issue that poses a threat to a GOP victory in November. Going back to 1972 when President Nixon engaged in aggressive outreach to Hispanics, Republicans have shown they can win a large chunk of the Hispanic vote, which is growing at a faster rate than the non-Hispanic vote. Both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush won over 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. But the immigration debate threatens to put Hispanics solidly in the Democratic column, perhaps for generations.
Arizona Republicans put the issue back on the front pages by passing state legislation to try to drive out illegal immigrants. The legislation was so poorly drafted and ill considered that it had to be substantively amended within days of becoming law. Some 70 percent of Arizona voters initially supported the law, but those poll numbers have dropped precipitously in just two weeks. Only 52 percent now say they favor the new law. The irony is that illegal immigration is down to levels last seen in 1975 and the border is more secure than it has ever been. What's more, most Americans favor legal immigration reform, including large majorities of Republicans. But if Hispanics angry at Republican rhetoric on immigration turn out in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and elsewhere, they could be the decisive vote against Republican candidates in tight races.
So what can Republicans do to solidify their chances to win control of Congress? The most important thing is to quit relying solely on voter anger against the Democrats and come up with a positive agenda that Americans voters can support. In 1994, Republicans were facing a much tougher battle to take back control of Congress, and they did it by forging a Contract with America. It's time Republicans starting thinking positively again. As the mood of the country improves, Republicans can't be seen simply as naysayers. They need to tell voters what they're for, not just what they're against.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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