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November 09, 2012

Conservatives Seem To Be Coming Around on Immigration

Posted in: 2012 election

After the Democrats’ strong performance in this election, many are claiming that the Republican Party will be forced to moderate, but for the most part I don’t buy it. I remember similar statements after the 2008 election and the GOP won big in 2010 despite tacking even farther to the right. It will take more than one election to convince a whole party to make big changes and the GOP frankly lacks prominent moderates to drive a transformation.

There is one issue though where it seems conservatives have learned a lesson from this election and that is on immigration. It is now clear to them that the big Hispanic vote in 2008 for Obama was not a one time thing but part of a real and lasting trend. Obama actually did better with Hispanics this year than in 2008. Conservatives have awoken to the fact that Hispanics are here, they vote in large numbers, and they better get used to it.

George Will basically blamed Mitt Romney’s loss on his hardcore anti-immigration stance saying.

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.

Charles Krauthammer says immigration is the only issue Republicans really need to change their position on following the election.

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 Romney made the strategic error of (unnecessarily) going to the right of Rick Perry. Romney could never successfully tack back.

Even Sean Hannity says it is time for him and the rest of the GOP to accept the political reality on immigration. From the LA Times:

 Radio and television hotspur Sean Hannity — who for years has spit the word “amnesty” like an epithet — declared Thursday that he has “evolved” and now supports creating a “pathway” to citizenship for those already in the country illegally.

“It’s simple to me to fix it,” Hannity said. “I think you control the border first. 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.

Unlike most other issues, there actually are several prominent Republicans who have the credibility to push for this policy change, such as Macro Rubio and Jeb Bush.

Fairly or unfairly, many prominent conservatives seem to be putting much of the blame for Romney’s loss on his immigration position. While I doubt we will be seeing much movement to the center from Republicans in the coming years on most issues, immigration could be the exception.

Photo By lindsay_bremner under Creative Commons license.

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