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“Blind To The Past And The Future”: Republicans Are Ignorant Of The Lessons Of History And Impervious To The Wisdom Of Experience

As a new effort at comprehensive immigration reform inches its way forward in the Senate, dissent from many conservatives is revealing their true contempt for, and fear of, the possibility that demographic groups who look different from their base will accrue power.

The questions are: Is providing a pathway to citizenship (or at least permanent residency) for the 11 million people in this country illegally an act of humanity and practicality? Or is it an electoral imperative to which opposition ultimately guarantees political suicide?

The answer probably is “yes” to both, although many Republicans seem to think the opposite.

President George W. Bush, a supporter of a pathway to citizenship, spoke to The Huffington Post about the current efforts for comprehensive immigration reform, saying, “I think the atmosphere, unlike when I tried it, is better, maybe for the wrong reason.”

Bush continued: “The right reason is it’s important to reform a broken system. I’m not sure a right reason is that in so doing we win votes. I mean when you do the right thing, I think you win votes, as opposed to doing something that’s the right thing to win votes. Maybe there’s no difference there. It seems like there is to me though.”

But that distinction — humanitarianism over opportunism — is as lost on as many of Bush’s fellow Republicans today as when he was in office. They don’t even accept the logic of long-term electoral viability over extinction.

The most outlandish example of conservative rhetoric in its truly offensive glory on this subject came in an interview last week with Phyllis Schlafly, a prominent conservative activist, on the news site PolicyMic. In it she said:

“I don’t see any evidence that Hispanics resonate with Republican values. They have no experience or knowledge of the whole idea of limited government and keeping government out of our private lives. They come from a country where the government has to decide everything. I don’t know where you get the idea that the Mexicans coming in resonate with Republican values. They’re running an illegitimacy rate that is extremely high. I think it’s the highest of any ethnic group. We welcome people who want to be Americans. And then you hear many of them talk about wanting Mexico to reclaim several of our Southwestern states, because they think Mexico should really own some of those states. Well, that’s unacceptable. We don’t want people like that.”

There are so many stereotypes and fallacies in that statement that it’s not even worth unpacking, but it is a great illustration of some deep-rooted conservative views.

The one thing I will take the time to contest is the notion that even if Republicans changed their rhetoric and tactics, they wouldn’t gain traction with Hispanics (not all of whom are Mexican, by the way, Ms. Schlafly).

According to exit poll data, from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, Republicans made significant headway in closing the gap between the number of Hispanics who voted for Democratic candidates to the House of Representatives and those who voted for Republicans, shrinking a 50-point Democratic advantage in 1982 to just 12 points in 2004.

But then came Bush’s attempt at comprehensive immigration reform and the enormous pushback it got from Congressional Republicans. Just before Christmas in 2005, the Republican-led House passed an enforcement-only immigration bill that sparked huge protests.

In the 2006 elections, the Democratic advantage among Hispanic voters for House races shot back up to 48 points. That year, Democrats recaptured the House and the Senate, and took control of a majority of governorships.

Republicans, seemingly ignorant of the lessons of history and impervious to the wisdom of experience, are hellbent on revisiting 2005. While the Democratic advantage among Hispanics in presidential races is large and growing, the Democratic advantage in House elections has slowly begun to shrink again. And Hispanics, seemingly excited by the movement on immigration reform and optimistic about its prospects, have developed sharply more favorable opinions of Congress. A full 56 percent of Hispanics hold Congress in high esteem, up from 35 percent in November 2011, according to an ABC News/Washington Post Poll.

So what do some Republican lawmakers want to do to the only segment of the population in which a majority now has a favorable opinion of Congress? Spurn them and dash their hopes.

Brilliant, if you want to cement Democratic preference among Hispanics in perpetuity.

By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 1, 2013

June 3, 2013 - Posted by | Immigration Reform | , , , , , , ,

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