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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Edsall: How Immigration Division in GOP Helps Dems

From Thomas B. Edsall’s NYT Opinionator post, “Marco Rubio’s Un-American Dream“:

The dilemma of the Republican Party as it struggles to pick its way through the immigration minefield and build Hispanic support is further complicated by the fact that polling data suggests that the most fruitful source of new voters for the party’s candidates is not Hispanics, but the white working class. It is already a Republican constituency, but the discontent of these voters with the Obama administration has been growing sharply.
…Ruy Teixeira, who specializes in analyzing political-demographic trends, has written perhaps the best description of the weaknesses of the white Republican strategy: the core target, the white working class, is “declining precipitously as a share of voters, down from 54 to 36 percent between 1988 and 2012.” At the same time, young white voters make up “the most liberal generation in the overall electorate by a considerable margin.”

Edsall adds that “For many Republican politicians, shifts in Hispanic voting have little relevance to their individual re-election prospects, and the importance of Latinos in presidential contests is a secondary concern.” Further,

The real issue facing the Republican Party in presidential elections is that it needs new blood. Mitt Romney lost to Obama by a 3.85 percentage point margin, 51.06 to 47.21 — that’s 5 million votes. The party can try to boost its backing among whites, a steadily declining share of the electorate, or it can try to boost margins among Hispanics. The truth is that a winning Republican candidate will probably have to do both.
Projections of the impact of immigration reform range from Jeb Bush — “immigrants are particularly important to help create more taxpayers to fund the safety net for the large, retiring baby boomer generation” — to the Heritage Foundation’s argument that immigration reform “would cost taxpayers $6.3 trillion in new spending on entitlements and social programs.”
…A pro-immigration-reform candidate along the lines of Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio will have to figure out how to balance the conflicting interests and values of a white and Hispanic coalition, just as the Democrats from 1968 onward have struggled to maintain — and win with — a biracial coalition, white and black….

All of which underscores the importance of Democrats reiterating their identity, loudly and clearly, as the party of both fair immigration reform and economic justice and opportunity for all working families. In doing so they will continue to make inroads with younger white working-class voters, solidify support among Latinos and highlight the Republicans’ inability to build consensus, even in their own party.

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