“Immigration is our strength!” Or so neoconservatives and mainstream Republicans have argued for 20 years. Hispanic immigration, especially. Mexican immigrants, neoconservative wisdom has it, are hardworking, entrepreneurial, religious, and dedicated to family values. Not only are they model American citizens waiting to happen; they are natural Republican voters to be encouraged, developed, and sent marching off to victory at the polls! In fact, these scores of millions of Julios and Rosas, Jésuses and Concepcións, Teodoros and Doroteas are the perfect stealth weapon by which to hoist those pandering Democrats on their own petard. The New Emerging Republican Majority, as overseen by a Spanish-speaking president from Tejas, would have a distinctly Aztec component. If, that is, Republican politicians were to refrain from “immigrant-bashing,” accept the immigrant invasion from south of the border (and elsewhere) as an unstoppable and essentially benign force of nature, and amnesty each and every invader who succeeded in hauling his carcass north of the Rio Grande.
Nativists and other naysayers insisted the scenario would not play out as written. Hispanics, they warned, despite certain conservative social instincts, being members of a minority race and belonging to a low socioeconomic class, are the natural prey of the Democratic machine. Now, a recent poll by the Washington Post, and another sponsored by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation, suggest that the naysayers were right all along, and the happy-talkers wrong as usual. (Remember, the people who claimed that the hordes of ragtag, poverty-stricken Indios from Mexico amount to just so many of W.S. Gilbert’s “little conservatives” are the same people who were insisting, a year and a half ago, that the American remake of Iraq would be a “cakewalk.”)
The Post poll indicates that taxes, the federal budget deficit, education, terrorism, and the Iraq war loom as larger concerns among Hispanic voters than immigration does. This is bad news for President Bush, Karl Rove, and the party they lead and misdirect because it suggests that, come November, the President will not be the beneficiary of gratitude paid in the form of votes for the amnesty plan he launched to much fanfare last January. Indeed, as Samuel Francis has written, “The only people for more immigration are the Open Borders crowd. Immigration, let alone amnesty, doesn’t even register with Hispanic voters.” What do register are concerns historically addressed and assuaged by the Democratic Party, whose traditional constituencies—Mexicans, social liberals (fleeing liberal California), menial workers in the West’s booming playground resorts—have gained increased presence, since 2000, in the Southwestern states, which George W. Bush ought to be able to account his loyal home base. The Wall Street Journal has acknowledged the electoral danger (without apology and without noting that, for a generation, it has been a home to immigrationist writers and editors such as Paul Gigot, Linda Chavez, and the late Robert Bartley), while remarking that, in the ten presidential elections between 1952 and 1988, just two Western states—Washington and Hawaii—voted Democratic on more than two occasions. The Republican Party needs the West; and this President, especially, needs the Southwest. Urged by neoconservative advisors, he may well prove himself too clever by half by losing it and falling flat on his face on the long cakewalk back to the Oval Office.
Should that be George W. Bush’s unhappy fate, the neoconservatives will be as unrepentant in respect of their failed Mexican strategy as they have been in regard to their disastrous policies in the Middle East. What would they have to repent of, after all? As William Kristol coyly suggested last summer, they could as easily rechristen themselves “neoliberals” and seek place, preferment, and power in a Kerry administration. In addition to which, Bush win or Bush lose, they have already largely accomplished the fundamental goal of their immigration policy, left prudently unstated before John Podhoretz—in a fit of exultant defiance last spring—let it all hang out: to transform the face of the Republican Party, and that of the American nation itself.