For at least four years, the conventional wisdom has said that if Republicans keep up the tough talk on illegal immigration, they will lose Hispanic voters entirely to the Democratic Party. An “autopsy” report prepared after the 2012 election advised the GOP to turn a corner on immigration and pursue reform legislation that would grant some form of deportation protection to the roughly 11 million illegals currently living in the U.S.
Under that umbrella of logic, one would naturally expect Donald Trump – who has proposed mass deportations and has vowed to build a glorious wall along the Mexican border – to be widely reviled by Hispanic voters.
But that’s not the case.
According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, Trump is actually doing better with Hispanics than the last two Republican nominees. True, he’s behind Hillary Clinton 50-33 with that demographic, but his numbers are an improvement on those of John McCain and Mitt Romney.
How could that possibly be? Not only is Trump running on the strongest anti-illegal immigration platform we’ve seen from a Republican nominee in generations, but he’s been portrayed as a hateful racist against Hispanics. A white supremacist! A guy who called all Mexicans rapists and murderers! Surely there’s something wrong with the polling data…
Or, perhaps, Hispanics aren’t the collectivist voting bloc that so many experts seem to believe.
Republicans do themselves a grave disservice when they betray conservatism and sound American policy to go running after one demographic or another. This is the Democratic Party playbook, and, to their credit, they are much better at running the plays than the GOP. Why? Because they don’t sit the fence. They just come right out and say it: We’re going to stop deporting illegal immigrants. Period.
Republicans, on the other hand, have been trying to kick this issue down the road, hoping desperately that reporters will quit asking them about it. This strategy infuriates conservatives who want strong border security and does nothing to attract amnesty-lovers on the left.
Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of Hispanic-Americans who understand all-too-well what unrestrained illegal immigration is doing to the economy. They don’t get their talking points from La Raza; they base their beliefs on their own paychecks. Many of them came to this country through an arduous, legal process, and they resent Mexicans who simply jumped the fence. Their allegiances lie with their families and their country – not with their ethnic heritage.
Republicans have allowed the other side to control the immigration debate for years. Trump has proven that there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place. That there’s nothing racist about wanting to secure America’s borders. And that there’s much more political capital in pursuing strong, forceful policies than there is in hiding from your own beliefs.
But whether they’ll actually learn anything or not…well, that’s a different question.