Righting Themselves On Immigration

GOP big shots are voicing support for moderation on immigration: there are Boehner, Hannity, KrauthammerHaley Barbour , and smoke signals from Cantor’s camp. Adam Ozimek welcomes this development:

I think [Republicans] would make a lot of progress just by distancing themselves from the position of kicking out 10 million immigrants and towards one of amnesty. I think the net result will be that republicans capture more voters, and they just look relatively neutral on immigration rather than very negative. This is because the rhetoric required to conjure up an argument for kicking 10 million people out of the country is far worse and far more indifferent to the welfare of immigrants than what is needed to argue for low levels of annual immigration and a closed border. While I do think most arguments to keep immigration low or negative in this country require either false or immoral arguments, they are of a completely different magnitude than the arguments for kicking out 10 million people. Republican may never win the game of “who will welcome more Hispanic immigrants?”, but they can at least stop competing in the game of “who is more indifferent to their welfare?” during the primary season.

Larison doubts Republicans can win over Hispanics:

Most Hispanic voters aren’t “natural” Republicans just waiting for a different Republican immigration policy to give them permission to change their voting habits. Republicans that think this are relying on a distorted perception that they think non-Republicans have of their party. Very few people outside the partisan bubble think that being “religious, Catholic, family-oriented and socially conservative” makes a “striving immigrant community” inclined to favor the Republican Party. Republicans flatter themselves that these are all markers of “natural” Republicanism, but that is something most people don’t believe unless they already identify with the party. After all, describing people as religious, Catholic, or family-oriented can refer to different things.

Heather McDonald has more along those lines:

I spoke last year with John Echeveste, founder of the oldest Latino marketing firm in southern California, about Hispanic politics. “What Republicans mean by ‘family values’ and what Hispanics mean are two completely different things,” he said. “We are a very compassionate people, we care about other people and understand that government has a role to play in helping people.”

Michael Brendan Dougerty thinks the GOP base won’t tolerate change:

The working-class white vote that created the modern Republican majority is precisely the subset of voters that feels most threatened by mass immigration, culturally and economically. They revolted when Bush tried to force it on them. They will revolt again. 

Ed Kilgore agrees:

The important point here is that conservatives didn’t go down the road they most recently took on immigration policy because they thought it was a guaranteed vote-winner (they had the experience of the California Republican Party to show them otherwise), and they aren’t going to be able to toss it in the nearest trash can in order to boost their Latino vote 10% or so … Just wait. There will be a backlash against this “sellout” that will be ugly enough that those proposing it may wish they just hadn’t brought it up publicly.