Shortly after Barack Obama’s decisive win in 2012, the GOP introspection on their loss led many politicos to conclude that the GOP needed to do more outreach to minority voters, especially Latino voters. Even FAUX News’ Sean Hannity Flipped On Immigration Reform, Now Supports Pathway To Citizenship.
This was followed by The Republican Autopsy Report in March 2013, in which the R.N.C. report called for abandonment of the party’s anti-immigration stance, flatly declaring that “we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
By July of 2013, a bipartisan coalition in the Senate had overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Senate Immigration Reform Bill Passes With Strong Majority.
And then everything came to a crashing halt in the GOP controlled House. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn explains today, Why House Republicans Alienate Hispanics: They Don’t Need Them:
Political analysts keep urging the Republican Party to do more to appeal to Hispanic voters. Yet the party’s congressional leaders show little sign of doing so, blocking an immigration overhaul and harshly criticizing President Obama for his plan to defer deportation for undocumented migrants.
There’s a simple reason that congressional Republicans are willing to risk alienating Hispanics: They don’t need their votes, at least not this year.
Republicans would probably hold the House — and still have a real chance to retake the Senate — if they lost every single Hispanic voter in the country, according to an analysis by The Upshot.
Such a thing would never happen, of course, but the fact that the Republicans may not need a single Hispanic vote in 2014 says a good deal about American politics today.
The fact that the Republican House majority does not depend on Hispanic voters helps explain why immigration reform has not become law, even though national Republican strategists believe the party needs additional support among Hispanic voters to compete in presidential elections. It’s true that Republicans would stand little, if any, chance of winning the presidency in 2016 if they lost every Hispanic voter. If anything, the Republicans probably need to make gains among Hispanic voters to compete in states like Florida and Nevada.
But Congressional elections are different. Although the young, urban and racially diverse Democratic coalition has won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, that coalition has not delivered House control to the Democrats. Gerrymandering isn’t the only cause, either. It’s the way the population is distributed.
Even a situation in which every Latino voter in America chose the Democratic candidate would mainly allow Democrats to fare better in the heavily Hispanic districts where the party already wins. This is already occurring, to a lesser degree. Over the last decade, Democratic gains among young and nonwhite voters have allowed Democrats to win a majority of the House vote without flipping enough districts to earn a majority of seats.
The Upshot analysis found that if not one of the eight million Hispanic voters supported the Republican candidate, Republicans would lose about a dozen House seats, especially in Florida and California. The loss of those seats would make the Republican House majority more vulnerable if Democrats made gains elsewhere in future years. But given the Republicans’ current strength across rural areas and in conservative suburbs, the loss of every Hispanic every voter would not be enough to cost them the 17 seats that would flip House control.
Those heavily Democratic districts are concentrated in metropolitan areas, while much of the country’s geographical area tilts Republican — and is still heavily non-Hispanic white. In districts held by House Republicans, Hispanics represent only 6.7 percent of eligible voters and an even smaller share of the electorate.
Hispanic voters will most likely make up less than 4 percent of voters in 18 of the 23 Republican-held congressional districts deemed potentially competitive by the Cook Political Report. Very few, if any, of these districts will be close enough for the loss of a fraction of Hispanic voters to make a difference.
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[I]f the Republicans could have survived losing every Hispanic voter in 2012, their chances would be still better in 2014, when Hispanic turnout will be lower than it was two years ago. Most analysts also expect the Republicans to pick up a handful of seats this year, giving them a bigger cushion to withstand would-be losses from Hispanic voters.
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Perhaps most remarkable is that we’re even entertaining this notion. In reality, the Republicans will win millions of Hispanic votes this November. But the House Republican majority does not depend on those votes. Indeed, it could even withstand losses far beyond reason.
To win the White House in 2016 or any future year, the Republicans will need a substantial number of Hispanic votes. But the fact that the party doesn’t need many of those votes to hold the House makes the Republican effort to appeal to Hispanic voters far more challenging. The Republican Congress has few, if any, immediate incentives to reach a compromise on immigration reform or otherwise reach out to Hispanics.
For individual Republicans in Congress, supporting such measure would verge on the irrational. It would leave them vulnerable to primary challenges and offer little or no benefit in the general election.
Ed Kilgore at the Political Animal Blog comments, The Steve King House GOP Majority:
In any event, Cohn’s analysis makes it a lot easier to understand why House Republicans shrug at the party analysts telling them the GOP is toast if it continues to actively antagonize the fastest growing segment of the electorate. It’s not their problem, personally. And their own districts make it a lot easier to take the lead of Steve King and Michele Bachmann on what to do with those pesky brown people and proudly stand up as the White Man’s Party.
Nate Cohn’s analysis appears based upon likely voters/actual voters in 2012. What is missing from this analysis is the huge number of Americans who are not registered to vote and who do not vote, which includes large populations of minority voters, including Latinos, who tend to vote heavily Democratic. If this non-voting population of the U.S. ever became politically engaged and participated in elections — as is the civic duty of every American citizen — The White Man’s Party (GOP) would be swept out of office.
Elections are not decided by those who vote. Elections are decided by those who do not vote. Sadly, in America, this is a majority of U.S. citizens.
Paul Waldman at The Prospect has an interesting read on what our elections might look like if the U.S. had compulsory voting like other advanced countries. What Would Elections Be Like If Everyone Voted?