For over a decade, the GOP Establishment’s consultant class has been peddling an electoral myth that is premised on the need for Republicans to support open borders. Republicans have accepted as Mosaic Law the notion that if they fail to embrace the amnesty agenda, they will be doomed forever and will never win another national election.
Buoyed by this almost universally accepted premise, Republicans spent an entire decade refusing to go on offense for American sovereignty. Conservative supporters of sovereignty have contended for years that the exact opposite — victory — would occur if Republicans embrace strong borders.
Tuesday night’s results stand as vindication for those of us who have struggled with the Republican establishment on this issue for years.
Much like the ubiquitous belief in climate change the last decade among the societal elite, the group-think on the politics of illegal immigration was built upon a number of false premises:
- The assumption that Hispanic voters (11 percent of the electorate) cast their ballot primarily based upon the immigration issue.
- The assumption that those Hispanic voters who support liberals on immigration would otherwise support Republicans on other issues.
- The assumption that playing follow-the-leader with Democrats on immigration would result in making inroads with some of those mythical voters, instead of driving up “gratitude” turnout for Obama even more than before.
- The assumption that the other 90-some percent of the electorate doesn’t exist and that fighting against illegal immigration is not a net positive with this share of the electorate. And, specifically, that it’d ratchet up turnout among blue-collar whites.
- The assumption that passing amnesty would not lead to the creation of millions of new Democrat voters, all the while disenchanting a number of Republicans, Independents, and Reagan Democrats who oppose open borders.
In comes Donald Trump’s campaign on every single immigration policy and messaging that the consultant world unanimously considered an electoral death wish. His opponent, on the other hand, campaigned on the most radical open-borders agenda ever and moved heaven and earth to galvanize Hispanic voters and make them believe that Trump was essentially a member of the KKK. Yet, not only did Trump win, he won with the exact same demographics that all of us in the pro-sovereignty community predicted.
The pro-sovereignty message turned out Reagan Democrats and blue-collar white voters in historic numbers in critical states. At the same time, Trump did not lose the minority of Hispanic voters who have traditionally supported Republicans anyway. Even though Latinos comprised a slightly higher share of the electorate nationally (11 percent as opposed to 10 percent in 2012), Trump actually improved slightly on Romney’s margin from 27 percent to 29 percent.
Meanwhile, Hillary’s share dropped from the 71 percent that Obama garnered four years ago to 65 percent. Clearly, a number of Hispanics either voted for a third-party candidate or left the box blank, which tells you that they are swayed more by the quality of the candidate or their broader message than by immigration. If immigration had been the dominant issue, Hillary would have won more Latino voters than anyone in history.
What this demonstrates is that Hispanics, like most other ethnic groups, will always vote overwhelmingly Democratic, but not because of immigration. Hence, the two-thirds who always vote Democrat will continue to do so even for a Jeb Bush Republican, and the 25-30 percent who vote Republican will stick with the party even with (or, in some cases, because of) a border-hawk Republican. Even if one can speculate that an open-borders Republican would peel off a few more Hispanic voters, that gain pales in comparison to the windfall among white voters for a pro-sovereignty candidate.
What Arizona’s exit polls really show
What about Arizona, you might ask? Why did Trump dramatically underperform and only win by four points in a state Romney carried by nine? Wasn’t it the fact that he got slaughtered by a massive surge of Hispanic voters?
This, too, is one of the biggest myths being peddled by the media. There was no massive surge of Hispanic voters, and in fact, Trump performed slightly better than Romney in the border state. In 2012, Latinos accounted for 18 percent of the electorate in Arizona; Obama won them by a margin of 74 percent to 25 percent. In 2016, they comprised only 15 percent of the state’s electorate; Hillary won them by 61 percent to 31 percent.
In other words, the pie of Latino voters actually shrunk and Democrats netted just 30 points over a pro-sovereignty Republican as compared to their 49-point haul four years ago against a Republican who refused to talk about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program even as Obama implemented it in middle of the election. And remember, Hillary actually made a strong play for Arizona and spent a lot of money trying to paint it blue.
Nevada was the same story. Latinos comprised 18 percent of the electorate, down 1 point from four years ago. Yet, whereas Romney lost Latinos by a whopping 71 percent-24 percent majority, Trump lost by a smaller 60 percent-29 percent margin. That’s why Trump performed almost five points better overall in the state.
So why did Trump lose Arizona by five points overall in the relative to 2012? It had nothing to do with immigration. He lost a lot of white college educated voters, especially women, in the wealthy suburbs. Whereas Romney won the white vote by 34 points, Trump won by just 14 points. Trump won white women by just 7 percent; Romney carried them by 30 points and erased the entire gender gap. This point is also born out in the data point of Independent voters. Romney won Independents in Arizona by seven points, whereas Trump just barely tied with Hillary.
The reason Trump bled a lot of college-educated white suburban voters is because of his personality and baggage, not because of immigration. Clearly, if we had the immigration message of Trump embodied through the character of a guy like his running mate Mike Pence (or if Trump proves himself over the next four years), he can win back college-educated whites while retaining the high level of support from the white working class.
During the Gang of Eight fight, I remember emailing one of the prominent national political scientists and asking him if he agreed that the entire argument that Mitt Romney lost because he was too tough on immigration was a crock.
He told me that the problem with Romney was not that he said “self-deport” in the primary — rather that in the general election he refused to go on offense. “The day after Obama signed DREAM-lite, Romney should have appeared in Youngstown, Ohio, asking why we were going to support illegal immigrants in public colleges at the expense of American kids trying to get ahead,” said this top election analyst.
The verdict is in: Amnesty is a big loser, while sovereignty is a winner. It’s time Republicans embrace this opportunity rather than undermine it.