Tag Archives: 2012 US elections

Charles Krauthammer supports amnesty

My, my, this is getting better and better. Charles Krauthammer is one of the brightest stars in the firmament of conservative punditry. His only advice to the Republicans about how to change in response to the 2012 election is on immigration. And he goes further than I recall a mainstream conservative pundit going before. From “The way forward”:

They lose and immediately the chorus begins. Republicans must change or die. A rump party of white America, it must adapt to evolving demographics or forever be the minority.

The only part of this that is even partially true regards Hispanics. They should be a natural Republican constituency: striving immigrant community, religious, Catholic, family-oriented and socially conservative (on abortion, for example).

The principal reason they go Democratic is the issue of illegal immigrants. In securing the Republican nomination, Mitt Romneymade the strategic error of (unnecessarily) going to the right of Rick Perry. Romney could never successfully tack back.

For the party in general, however, the problem is hardly structural. It requires but a single policy change: Border fence plus amnesty. Yes, amnesty. Use the word. Shock and awe — full legal normalization (just short of citizenship) in return for full border enforcement.

I’ve always been of the “enforcement first” school, with the subsequent promise of legalization. I still think it’s the better policy. But many Hispanics fear that there will be nothing beyond enforcement. So, promise amnesty right up front. Secure the border with guaranteed legalization to follow on the day the four border-state governors affirm that illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle.

Imagine Marco Rubio advancing such a policy on the road to 2016. It would transform the landscape. He’d win the Hispanic vote. Yes, win it. A problem fixable with a single policy initiative is not structural. It is solvable.

Hallelujah! Or to use a word with similar connotations of glorious praise and relief: Amnesty! Krauthammer goes on to argue that Republicans should not moderate their views on other issues or become more liberal generally. Music to my ears. I hadn’t expected to agree with a Charles Krauthammer column so much. I hadn’t expected to vote Republican again for decades. “Shock and awe,” indeed.

For the record, I don’t support a border fence, and I don’t think it will “work,” in the sense of stopping illegal immigration. But as I wrote a few years ago:

Last May, Peggy Noonan wrote, in a call for tighter borders, that “no one believes in the wisdom of government, but they do believe it has a certain brute power.” Of all the unwise, brutal measures advocated by immigration restrictionists, a border fence is the only one that is not an existential threat to our heritage of freedom. Tamper-proof biometric ID cards are right out of a futuristic dystopian novel. And while most Americans prefer to go after illegal immigrants’ employers, thanks to the laws of supply and demand, the effect of this policy would be to drive immigrant workers a bit further into the legal underground, thus lowering their wages, boosting the pay-offs for employers willing to accept the increased risk of hiring them, and inducing a creeping criminalization of entrepreneurship in America. And I am at a loss to identify the morally relevant differences between mass deportation (which is sometimes whispered about) and things that usually happen in places like Yugoslavia and Sudan. A border fence is the Berlin Wall, but it’s not a police state, or the gulag, or ethnic cleansing.

Though illegal immigrants, including visa over-stayers, come from all over the world, most of them are from Mexico, having crossed the US-Mexico frontier, which is arguably the only place on earth where the First World shares a long land border with the Third World. The “problem” — which is really an advantage — of mass immigration from Mexico, could not happen in an island country like Britain. Britain can therefore be a free country, while at the same time having much less illegal immigration than the US does. Building a border fence is an attempt to make US geography more like Britain’s.

This move is unfortunate because to date, the accidents of geography have been a far wiser and more human legislator than Congress has. Mexican migration has helped to keep down US inflation, and contributed to the strong housing market of the past few years, while creating a stream of remittances, boosting the Mexican economy. It has also led to improved relations between the US and Mexico.

Hmm, I might have overreached a bit. But my main point was the sentence in boldface: a border fence is by far the least worst of all the enforcement measures that have been proposed. Border fence for amnesty would be a great deal. It’s interesting, too, that Krauthammer thinks Republicans could win the Hispanic vote– “Yes, win it”– by backing amnesty, though he hedges his bets by adding “just short of citizenship” to his amnesty proposal. I guess I have to approve of that. My personal sympathies might lie with amnesty plus a path to full citizenship, but Krauthammer’s proposal could ease the way for future keyhole solutions. It would be a big improvement over the status quo, and make me proud to be American.

UPDATE: Eugene Robinson writes:

Look at Colorado. In 2008, Latinos were 13 percent of the electorate; just over 60 percent voted for Obama. On Tuesday, Latinos made up 14 percent of Colorado voters — and, according to exit polls, three-fourths of them supported the president. Think this might have something to do with Romney’s “self-deportation” immigration policy? I do.

Nationwide, roughly three of every 10 voters Tuesday were minorities. African-Americans chose Obama by 93 percent, Latinos by 71 percent, and Asian-Americans, the nation’s fastest-growing minority, by 73 percent.

It seems to be nearly unanimous.

UPDATE II: “Hannity’s immigration evolution draws praise from conservative Latino groups”:

Sean Hannity’s announcement that he has “evolved” on immigration is drawing praise from a conservative Latino organization.

Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, on Friday applauded Hannity for telling his radio listeners he now supports a pathway to citizenship for those in the United States without criminal records.

“Sean Hannity has taken a bold step and conservatives are behind him. It is time to allow the market — rather than a bureaucratic federal government — to determine our immigration policy,” Aguilar said, according to a press release.

“The tidal wave of support for real reform is growing,” Aguilar said.

“There is a growing momentum within the conservative movement to embrace a market-based immigration plan that is in line with Ronald Reagan, who said it best:  ‘No regulation or law should be allowed if it results in crops rotting in the fields for lack of harvesters,’” Aguilar noted.

In the wake of the GOP’s failure to attract the Latino vote in the 2012 election, Hannity on Thursday said the United States needs to “get rid of the immigration issue altogether.”

“I think you control the border first,” he said. “You create a pathway for those people that are here — you don’t say you’ve got to go home. And that is a position that I’ve evolved on. Because, you know what, it’s got to be resolved.”

He didn’t say a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers only. Excellent.

Immigration and the 2012 election

So of course I would love to interpret Romney’s loss as a popular rebuke of the most nativist candidate in recent memory, who made Kris Kobach a campaign advisor, got the endorsement of Jan Brewer, advocated “self-deportation,” and so on. But I am clearly biased, and I’m no political analyst. So let me see if anyone else thinks Romney lost, partly, for his position on immigration.

Tom Bevan and Carl Cannon list 21 reasons why Obama beat Romney. One of them:

2. Amigos de Obama: Early in the Republican primary season, Romney proffered “self-deportation” as a partial policy prescription for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in this country. Romney’s rhetoric was aimed at Rick Perry, who had signed legislation granting in-state college tuition to young people brought to Texas as children.

This line of argumentation hurt Perry, but Newt Gingrich criticized Romney for it, as did the president. Obama, by contrast, embraced the DREAM Act, which would grant a path to citizenship for young immigrants, even those in the country illegally, who enlisted in the armed forces or attended college.

After Romney was nominated, the president signed an executive order barring the deportation of illegal minors. It was mostly symbolic (and perhaps not even legal), but it was politically savvy, and Latino voters noticed. Nationally, Obama received a whopping 69 percent of the Hispanic vote — an even higher percentage than in 2008 — and, with it, the swing states of Florida, Colorado, and Nevada.

Even more ominous for Republicans: George W. Bush won 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004; McCain won 31 percent in 2008; Romney garnered only 27 percent this year, even as their share of the electorate has grown from 8 to 10 percent.

That Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Obama might not be due to the immigration issue; it could reflect other issues, such as Latino support for Obamacare, or just general left-leaning. But the fact that Romney’s share of the Hispanic vote is so much less than Bush got in 2004 when he was championing immigration reform, and somewhat less than McCain’s even though McCain got a smaller share of the vote in general, is suggestive. Obviously, if Romney’s immigration position gained white votes while losing Hispanic votes, his immigration position might have been a net advantage. But none of the pundits seem to be saying that.

Here’s Jacob Weisberg in the FT:

The Republican strategy of making the election a referendum on Mr Obama’s handling of the economy was perfectly sound. The problem was that the Republican Party couldn’t pass the credibility test itself. For many voters disenchanted with Mr Obama, it still was not safe to vote for his opponent.

This failure began with the spectacle of the extended primary season, which was dominated by candidates with views far outside the political mainstream…

Mr Romney is not a right-wing extremist, but to win the nomination, he had to feign being one, recasting himself as “severely conservative” and eschewing the reasonableness that made him a successful, moderate governor of Massachusetts, the country’s most liberal state. He had to pass muster with his party’s right-wing base on taxes, immigration, climate change, abortion and gay rights. Many of his statements on these issues were patently insincere, but that was hardly reassuring. Mr Romney’s very insincerity and flexibility made it improbable that he would stand up to the GOP’s hyper-partisan congressional wing in office any more than he had during the primaries…

For women, Latinos, and young voters tempted to abandon Mr Obama, the old Mr Romney might have been a plausible alternative. The new Mr Romney, fettered by a feverish GOP was too risky a choice. (my emphases)

Immigration gets a mention, but Weisberg doesn’t seem to attach a lot of importance to it. By contrast, Fred Barnes stresses it:

There’s one piece of advice Republicans need to heed. They must quit alienating Hispanics by loose talk about immigrants. In presidential elections, they’ve fallen from a 40% share of the Hispanic vote in 2004, to 31% in 2008, to 27% this year. It becomes increasingly difficult to win national elections when at the same time the Hispanic vote is growing, the Republican share is shrinking.

Had Mr. Romney won half the Hispanic vote, he’d probably be president-elect day. As it was, billions of dollars were spent, millions of people enthralled, and the politics of Washington and the nation dominated—all by a presidential campaign that led to nowhere. The survivor in chief was the status quo.

Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel don’t mention immigration, though they do say: “The country is changing too fast. Most people have the sense that America is  different demographically from what it was 20 years ago. But unless they’ve been  reading the latest census data, they have no real idea. The changes are that  profound.” This is a recurring theme in the post-election commentary, e.g., in George Will’s take:

Perhaps Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election on Sept. 22, 2011, when, alarmed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entry into the Republican nomination race, he rushed to Perry’s right regarding immigration, attacking the Dream Act. He would go on to talk about forcing illegal immigrants into “self-deportation.” It is surprising that only about 70 percent of Hispanics opposed Romney…

In 2012 —  the year after the first year in which a majority of babies born in America were minorities — Hispanics were for the first time a double-digit (10 percent) portion of the turnout. Republicans have four years to figure out how to leaven their contracting base with millions more members of America’s largest and fastest-growing minority…

Republicans can take some solace from the popular vote. But unless they respond to accelerating demographic changes — and Obama, by pressing immigration reform, can give Republicans a reef on which they can wreck themselves — the 58th presidential election may be like the 57th, only more so. Continue reading “Immigration and the 2012 election” »

Whoever he is, the next US President will be wrong on immigration

Josh Barro of Bloomberg has a good piece on 5 terrible policies which both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney endorsed in last night’s US presidential debate. My only complaint about Barro’s article: its obvious failure to mention immigration policy. The immigration status quo, not just in the US but in virtually every modern nation-state, is regressive, degenerate, and immoral. Maybe this universality makes it unremarkable in the US, but keeping the borders closed certainly qualifies as one of the “Worst Ideas Romney and Obama Agree On,” per Barro’s headline. Continue reading “Whoever he is, the next US President will be wrong on immigration” »