The question that has smoldered in the Republican mind for the last couple of years is not who will be the presidential nominee of the party in 2000, but rather, will George W. Bush win the Hispanic vote? Since some time in 1998, it has been an unquestioned assumption of many, if not most. Republicans—at least those who count inside the Beltway and the inner sanctum of the party—that Governor Bush will be the nominee, that he will win the election, and that—unlike Bob Dole or any other Republican candidate in history—he will carry a majority of Hispanics.

As often happens with Republican thought processes, these beliefs have been less the result of logical cogitation based on firm factual evidence than of what the party faithful would like to be true. The belief that Mr. Bush will win the Hispanic vote is closely connected to the passionate enthusiasm of most libertarians and neoconservatives for virtually uncontrolled immigration and their equally passionate hatred of anyone who suggests restricting immigration. If Mr. Bush can win Hispanics, you see, then permitting and even encouraging the massive Hispanic invasion of the United States during the last 30 years has not been an act of political suicide for the GOP and the soft-right gurus who advocated it but a stroke of political sagacity; Republican candidates who based their campaigns on appeals to Hispanics would have mobilized a new political base that the older right never had. It would also mean that the Republican failure to win more Hispanics, at least in recent years, was not due to any leftish leanings of the good folk from south of the border but to misguided efforts by some Republicans to restrict immigration. Governor Bush, the argument concludes, has remained conspicuously aloof from immigration restriction, and his reward is the massive Hispanic support that he will surely enjoy.

For once, what Republicans would like to be true may actually be true. Mr. Bush may really win Hispanic votes, but if he does, it will be because he has assiduously courted and pandered to them, at the expense of conservative principles and strategies that have been central to the identity—and the political success—of the Republican Party since the 1970’s. But it is by no means assured that he will win an Hispanic majority at all, and much of the conservative ballyhoo about his ability to do so is based on nothing more than myth.

The main myth about Mr. Bush and the Hispanic vote is that in his 1998 reelection campaign as governor of Texas, he won a majority of Hispanics. The myth has been bruited about in conservative circles for two years, and at the end of last year broke into print in the Washington Times. On December 20, Donald Lambro, chief political reporter for the paper, wrote that Mr. Bush “pulled in more than 50 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas in his 1998 re-election.” Two weeks later, on January 4, the paper’s other chief political reporter, Ralph Z. Hallow, wrote that Mr. Bush had carried “an unprecedented 49 percent of their [Hispanic] vote in his re-election as governor.” The two reported vote counts are clearly contradictory, but the truth is that one of them is certainly, and the other may be, inaccurate.

Writing in the Weekly Standard on March 1, 1999, California pro-immigration activist Ron Unz reported that Mr. Bush “recently captured nearly half the Mexican-American vote in his landslide re-election victory.” National Review reported in its issue of March 8, 1999, that a “new look at November exit polls suggests Bush didn’t carry 49 percent of [the] Hispanic vote as supporters claim, but 39 percent.” That figure seems to have caught on with some analysts; the San Francisco Chronicle, in an article carried by the Washington Times on September 1, credited Mr. Bush with “winning nearly 40 percent” of the Hispanic vote in 1998. The authoritative Almanac of American Politics, 2000 reports that, while exit polls at the time of the election showed Governor Bush taking some 49 percent of the Hispanic vote, subsequent polls “showed him winning 39% of Hispanics statewide.” The Almanac claims it was “an impressive showing,” since Texas Hispanics have been Democrats for decades. But it might not be quite as impressive as a first glance suggests. Bush’s opponent ran a weak race, and the governor himself concentrated on winning Hispanics, not only avoiding support for immigration restriction but also all but endorsing bilingual education, which even pro-immigration neoconservatives like Unz and Linda Chavez oppose.

Assuming he really won 39 percent rather than the “more than 50 percent” with which conservative folklore and Mr. Lambro credit him, that puts him within range of Ronald Reagan’s and Richard Nixon’s performances among Hispanic voters nationally. According to exit polls published by the New York Times soon after the 1996 election, Nixon in 1972 won 35 percent of Hispanics nationally and Reagan carried 33 percent in 1980 and 37 percent in 1984.

Bob Dole’s miserable showing of 21 percent Hispanic support in 1996 kicked off the Republican flight from immigration reform. Writers like Unz, Chavez, and the Wall Street Journal‘s Paul Gigot have blamed Dole’s poor Hispanic returns on Republican support for California’s Proposition 187, which sought to deny illegal aliens public welfare. But the argument is really not very persuasive, for several reasons. In the first place, Mr. Dole had very little record himself on immigration issues one way or another, and after winning the nomination he immediately repudiated the party’s platform plank on immigration control. His running mate. Jack Kemp, was strongly pro-immigration and had actually earned Republican wrath for opposing Prop. 187 at the last, crucial minute in l994. There was virtually nothing in the 1996 Republican ticket that suggested support for immigration restriction or risked alienating Hispanic voters (assuming that immigration restriction does alienate Hispanic voters; in fact, polls have shown that Hispanics are generally almost as supportive of restriction as non-Hispanics).

But the clincher in the counter-argument that Prop. 187 had virtually nothing to do with Dole’s slippage among Hispanics is that in 1992—two years before Prop. 187 was on the ballot—President Bush won only some 25 percent of the Hispanic vote. Both candidates’ showings were probably due not so much to the actual record of the candidates on immigration issues as to the generally lackluster campaigns that the candidates mounted. President Bush and Senator Dole lost Hispanics for the same reason they lost most other voters —they were simply bad candidates.

But another likely reason for the decline of Hispanic support for Republicans is the consolidation in recent years of an Hispanic bloc, mobilized by leftwing organizations like the Mexican- American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and similar groups. Such leftwing lobbies gain power from immigration and want it continued and even increased, and they are increasingly radical and anti-white in their rhetoric and political-racial appeals. The Clinton administration, and particularly Al Gore, have worked closely with these lobbies for the explicit purpose of mobilizing votes for left-liberal Democrats.

But the emergence of a radical Hispanic bloc does not mean that the votes it delivers can’t be dropped on the Republican doorstep as well. Indeed, Hispanic activists would be foolish to emulate the black “civil rights” power structure by locking themselves into a single party. Their goal should be to make both parties as dependent on them and their bloc as possible, and Governor Bush’s own record on Hispanics as well as the response of some Hispanic leaders to him suggests that may be happening.

The governor makes much of campaigning in Spanish and using Spanish language ads, as well as boasting of his earlier record of opposing immigration restrictions, supporting bilingual education, and staging photo ops with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and Mexican governors across the Texas border. The Texas governor has also opposed using U.S. troops to protect the border from illegal immigration and has refused to take action against the Texas border town of El Cenizo, which last year enacted an ordinance forbidding cooperation with state and federal immigration authorities. The town’s law is an open violation of federal law and an open declaration that it will not enforce border security against illegal entries. To date. Governor Bush has done and said nothing either to bring this town into line with Texas and federal law or to indicate what action, as president, he would take against it.

As for immigration itself, earlier this year the governor announced that he not only opposes efforts to curb it but believes “we ought to increase legal immigration for our country’s advantage. The hightech world we are now dominating is dependent on educated folks, but we’re short . . . of workers.” Repeating his opposition to using troops on the border, he told editors of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in January, “Forget it. Mexico’s our neighbor and friend.” Mr. Bush’s remarks, like those of most adherents of the “universal nation” ideology, ignore the fact that most Mexican immigrants are not highly “educated folks” and that Mexico, so far from being our “friend,” is an empire of gangsters, drug-pushers, and murderers who encourage emigration to rid their country of deadbeats, criminals, and troublemakers they would otherwise have to lock up or kill. The governor told the newspaper “we ought to get rid of illegal immigration, illegal drugs, illegal contraband,” but he said absolutely nothing about how “we” can do so or what he would do as president to accomplish those goals.

It therefore should not be too surprising that Mexican-American leaders generally like George W. Bush, and Mr. Lambro in his Washington Times article quoted favorable remarks about the governor made by officials of LULAC and the Hispanic racist organization, the National Council of La Raza. As long as Republicans abandon immigration control, refuse to use military force to protect the nation against the Mexican invasion, purport that Mexico is really “our friend” (the Wall Street Journal last year reported that Mr. Bush had asked a Mexican newspaper to refer to him as “Mexico’s best friend across the border”), support bilingual education, and condone the refusal of Hispanics to assimilate by addressing them in Spanish rather than English, there’s no reason why Hispanic bloc leaders can’t support Republicans as much as they do Democrats.

What the Stupid Party has begun to discover is the simple political principle, known to demagogues since the last days of the Roman Republic, that if you feed the voters what they want, they’ll probably give you their votes. Having learned that principle by giving up immigration control in order to win the support of a radical left-wing ethnic bloc, the party is now applying it not only to the political positions it takes but also to the actual candidates it fields. Rep. Bob Dornan’s famous line—shortly before he lost to a candidate who emphasized her Hispanic name and background-that “I want to see America stay a nation of immigrants, and if we lose our Northern European stock—your coloring and mine, blue eyes and fair hair—tough!” has been taken almost literally by the top strategist for the California GOP, State Sen. Jim Brulte. Last year, Mr. Brulte exulted that “My leadership PAC will give no more money to Anglo males in Republican primaries. Every dollar I can raise is going to nominate Latinos and Asian Americans and women. We have to expand our outreach.” More recently, the Washington Times quoted Lance Tarrance, a pollster for the GOP, as saying, “We have now moved from the Southern strategy we pursued for the last three decades, since Richard Nixon, to a Hispanic strategy for the next three decades.” It does not occur to stupidos like Mr. Brulte and Mr. Tarrance that they are also abandoning the very ethnic, regional, and social core of their own party, as well as the beliefs that distinguished it from the parties of the hard left.

Nor does it occur to them, or the libertarian-neoconservative apologists for uncontrolled immigration who feed them their lines, that their political strategy of appealing to the Hispanic bloc contradicts and undermines the entire neoconservative argument for immigration. That argument has always been that immigrants would assimilate and would not form political and cultural enclaves that contribute to the Balkanization of America, as immigration restrictionists have generally predicted. In fact, by campaigning in Spanish, supporting bilingual education, appealing to ethnic-racial bloc organizations like LULAC and La Raza, refusing to enforce even laws against illegal immigration, and snuggling close to Mexico’s government of criminals and t}’rants, political leaders like George W. Bush and his emulators are admitting that assimilation has not taken place, that Mexican-Americans do retain their linguistic, cultural, and political allegiances, and that only by our adaptation to them rather than facilitating their adaptation to American society can their votes be won. Maybe Mr. Bush will ride the myth of his appeal to Hispanic voters into the White House. But if he does, it will be at the expense of the American nation he will pretend to lead.